page updated on Feb. 17, 2015

FYI:  Mr. Frangipane is not a member of ChristianGoth.com,

Truth Is a Person

Love Me Where You're At

Come and See

Possessing the Fullness of Christ

Righteous Judgement

The Staff of God

The Morning Star

Repairers of the Breach

The Coming Baptism of Light

One Message

On Earth as It Is in Heaven!

An Israelite Indeed

Find God!

          The Unshakable Kingdom

When Kings Go Out to Battle

 

The Earth Is Full of God's Glory, Part 1

 

The Earth Is Full of God's Glory, Part 2
 

The Earth Is Full of God's Glory, Part 3

Identified with Sinners

Two Sets of Books

The Gathering Together of the Saints

"I Do Not Remember"

One Man

Army of Worshipers an excellent message for the times we live in

Becoming a People of Mercy 

 Beware of the Stronghold of Cold Love  

When the Crop Permits

An Unguarded Heart


Everyone Who Seeks Finds

The Three Battlegrounds

Unoffendable, Part 2

 

Love Just One
 

Righteous Judgment

Love Me Where You're At

Your Appointment Still Awaits You


 

 

 

Unoffendable
By Francis Frangipane
 

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).

God has a new heart for us that cannot be offended -- an "unoffendable" heart. Beloved, possessing an unoffendable heart is not an option or a luxury; it is not a little thing. An offended heart is in danger of becoming a "heart of stone."

Consider: Jesus warns that as we near the end of the age a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith. Listen carefully to His warning:

"Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. . . . And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:10-12 KJV).

"Many" will "be offended." The result? The love of "many" will grow cold. My prayer is that we will hear His words with holy fear.

The Danger of Harboring Offense
When we allow an offense to ferment in our hearts, it causes serious spiritual consequences. In the above verse Jesus named three dangerous results: betrayal, hatred and cold love. When we are offended by someone, even someone we care for, we must go to them. If we do not talk to them, we will begin to talk about them. We betray that relationship by whispering maliciously behind their back to others, exposing their weaknesses and sins. We may mask our betrayal by saying we are just looking for advice or counsel, but when we look back, we see we have spoken negatively to far too many people. Our real goal was not to get spiritual help for ourselves but to seek revenge toward the one who offended us. How is such action not a manifestation of hatred? For an offended soul, cold love, betrayal and hatred are a walk into darkness.

People don’t stumble over boulders; they stumble over stones -- relatively small things. It may be that the personality of someone in authority bothers us, and soon we are offended. Or a friend or family member fails to meet our expectations, and we take an offense into our soul. Beloved, if we will "endure to the end" (Matt. 24:13), we will have to confront the things that bother us.

When Jesus warns that we need endurance, He is saying that it is easier to begin the race than finish it. Between now and the day you die, there will be major times of offense that you will need to overcome. You might be in such a time right now. Do not minimize the danger of harboring an offense!

No one plans on falling away; no one ever says, "Today, I think I’ll try to develop a hardened heart of stone." Such things enter our souls through stealth. It is only naiveté that assumes it couldn’t happen to us. I know many people who consistently become offended about one thing or another. Instead of dealing with the offenses, praying about them and turning the issue over to God, they carry the offense in their soul until its weight disables their walk with God. You may be doing fine today, but I guarantee you, tomorrow something will happen that will inevitably disappoint or wound you; some injustice will strike you, demanding you retaliate in the flesh. Will you find more love, and hence, continue your growth toward Christlikeness? Or will you allow that offense to consume your spiritual life?

Lord, forgive me for being so easily offended and for carrying offenses. Father, my heart is foolish and weak. Grant me the unoffendable heart of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 


 

A Society of Redeemers
By Francis Frangipane
 

There exists a certain degree of hypocrisy among us. What I mean is, without qualms, we condemn the world for not being Christian, yet without remorse we accept we are not Christlike.

I am not saying we shouldn't cry out against evil; sin exists and we must reprove it. However, at some point we must recognize there is more to our destiny than judging sin. God is looking for the perfection of mercy within us. "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13), and to follow Christ is to walk the path of mercy toward full redemption.

Recall the words of Paul. He tells us to "have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). He goes on to explain that Christ existed in the form of God, yet He emptied Himself, took the form of a man, and died for our sins. In other words, He saw the need, but instead of condemning man, He died for man. Paul says we are to have this same attitude in us.

I do not want to be a typical American Christian. I am hungry for more. I want to "grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head [of the church], even Christ" (Eph. 4:15). Our call is to attain "the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (v. 13).

Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). As Christ was sent into the world to pay the price for sin, so in following Him we become a society of redeemers. When wounded, we forgive; when forced to go one mile, we go two. We bless those who curse us and turn the other cheek to those who strike us. As Christ hung on the cross at Calvary and prayed, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34), so we stand before God, and on behalf of our sinful world, we pray the mercy prayer as well.

I am convinced that the more Christlike the church becomes, the greater will be the backing of Heaven. The more we become a society of redeemers, the more hope we have to see our nation turned back to God.

 

An Unveiled Face
By Francis Frangipane
 

We will not find the glory of God by copying techniques or studying books. His presence cannot be entered by following manuals, but by learning to follow Immanuel.

In our immaturity, the church has sought to be known for many things. We have sought to be known for our uniqueness and particular emphasis. Some have sought to be known for speaking in tongues; others desired recognition through their buildings or evangelistic programs. Still others have publicized unique combinations of church government or a regular agenda of special speakers.

To Be Known for Knowing Him
This desire for human recognition and significance has created many church traditions that are unbiblical. They have not only separated us from each other, they have separated us from God. Today's disciples, however, will be known for just one thing: They will be known for truly knowing Jesus. His presence -- not just doctrines about Him but His very Spirit and likeness -- will uninhibitedly accompany those who follow the Lamb.

Because their focus is upon Him and Him alone, God will ultimately accompany their lives with great power. They will lay hands upon the sick, and instantaneous healings will be common. These miracles will be but a minor reward to a life that majors on loving Jesus.

Our salvation is not based upon what we do but upon who Jesus becomes to us. Christ alone is our righteousness, our virtue, and our strength! As we minister, it has to be in Jesus' power, or we are actually wasting time. Our confidence has to be in Him and not in our own ability. We must be settled in the knowledge that, while all things are possible for those who believe, apart from Him we can do nothing.

The Sacred Presence
Our noble quest is to awaken from the sleep of our cultural traditions; it is to seek and find the living presence of God. To each of us, the Almighty has a heavenly calling, an upward call into spiritual fulfillment.

Our hope is not based on speculation or unreasonable expectations. It comes to us directly from the Word of God:

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

This is the glorious hope of our calling: we each gaze upon Christ with an "unveiled face." Paul said, "We all . . . behold . . . the glory of the Lord." The plan of God includes you and me, not just apostles and prophets, visionaries and saints. The opportunity --the holy privilege-- is to remove the veil that separates us from God's presence. Our inheritance is to behold His glory.

The old covenant speaks of two veils. One was the thick curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies within the temple. In the Holy Place, daily sacrifices were offered in ritual obedience to God; but in the Holy of Holies dwelt His sacred presence. Into this small room, the high priest entered but once a year on the Day of Atonement. It was a fearsome experience.

When Jesus died, this veil was rent in two from top to bottom. It signified the new openness that had been secured by Christ into the Holy Presence. The fact that it was torn from top to bottom tells us that Christ's sacrifice purchased us complete redemption. The urgency of the rending -- that it tore at the exact moment of Christ's death -- speaks to us of the Father's passion to receive us back into His family (Matt. 27:51).

However, there was another veil that Moses used to put over his face when he left the presence of God. This was done at the request of a nation who could not bear to look upon God's glory, fading as it was from Moses' face. The need for this veil was also removed in Christ. No longer would God have one man who dwelt in the sacred place while the nation lived separate. The new covenant has made us a community of glory -- "But we all, with unveiled face behold . . . the glory of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).

But what exactly is a veil? It is something that hides what would otherwise be visible. As mentioned, our religious traditions that do not accommodate the presence of God can become a veil. How terrible that the very things we are doing for God might be the obstacles that are keeping us from Him!

"Their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ" (2 Cor. 3:14).

How can we discern when our traditions have become a veil between us and God's presence? Indeed, how can we break out of the false or cultural traditions that we have been taught to venerate and honor? The answer lies in the measure of our love for God's Word and the softness of our heart toward His voice. As we yield to His voice, our return to God begins.

"But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16). Right now, you are alone with God. The simple act of turning toward the Lord removes the veil.

The Scriptures tell us that no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. Say it: "Jesus, You are my Lord."

Turn your heart toward Him. Do not be afraid. Remember, the rending of the veil in the temple was His idea; He desires you to come near. The moment you turn your heart, "the veil is taken away."

Lord Jesus, forgive me for my many traditions. Especially, Lord, forgive me for living separate from Your voice. I take off the veil. I turn my heart to Your living presence.

 

WHAT DOES JESUS SAY?


Great Gain
We must relearn how to think. We must learn how to pause before we speak - give ourselves a moment to enter the secret place of God's presence - and then listen to what Jesus has to say. For He is the source of our discernment. In listening, we create the opportunity to hear the Lord's voice; postured before Him we can receive answers, wisdom and insights that we otherwise would not discern.

Indeed, using the gift of discernment, we can counter the advance of the enemy and reverse the gains he might have otherwise obtained. Consider the gospel story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). As experts in the Mosaic Law, the Pharisees knew well that the woman had sinned. Wishing to publicly discredit Jesus, they brought her to Him hoping, perhaps, to prove Him a heretic:

"Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" --John 8:4-5

This is the big question: What does Jesus say? Everything we will learn about discernment is found in knowing the answer to this question. There will be pressure to answer. It's likely that turmoil may surround us. Yet we must stay sheltered in the calm of God. The woman is obviously guilty; witnesses have condemned her, as does the Law of Moses. Stones are waiting in the hands of her accusers. But if we will actually possess true discernment we must stop, listen, and actually hear: What does Jesus say?

Christ recognizes her sin. However, His thoughts were higher than that of the Pharisees. He saw this situation as a means to bring redemption to the woman, repentance to the Pharisees, and glory to His heavenly Father. Stooping down, He wrote on the ground. Then, as the Pharisees persisted with their accusations, He stood and said, "He who is without sin … let him be the first to throw a stone" (John 8:7).

The hardened hearts of the Pharisees were so deeply pierced that, "one by one, beginning with the older ones," they departed (v. 9). Scripture does not tell us what Jesus wrote (some say He wrote one of the Ten Commandments or perhaps some other Scripture). What He wrote is unknown. However, in the Lord's response He made it clear: in His kingdom, the merciful and the pure in heart decide when, and if, stones will be thrown.

The issue I seek to underscore is not that Jesus drew on the ground but that, in the heightened turmoil of the moment, Jesus drew upon the Father. He remained calm. He waited, listening in His heart to hear the voice of His Father.

This is the pattern for true discernment: we disown the limits of our opinions and reactions, and we learn to wait and listen to the Lord.

As the Voice Comes to Me
Jesus expands this discipline of focused waiting. Consider His comment in John 5:

"I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord - but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision]." --John 5:30 AMP

Jesus said, "As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision." This small statement unveils such a large truth!

When we accept Christ into our hearts, He does not enter simply as a doctrine. No, He enters us as a living voice. His Spirit brings conviction and direction; He speaks through dreams, visions, revelation, and understanding of the Scriptures. He illuminates our hearts, speaking to us of repentance and the renewal of our soul. He lifts us, reminding us of the faithful promises of God.

Yet this voice - the sacred voice of God - refuses to compete with the clamor of our fleshly minds. This is God, King and Creator of the universe. He requires the honor of our full attention! He will not yell as though we were disobedient children and He a frantic mother. He will not chase us. He waits.

Yes, there are times when He may resist us, gently pushing against our prideful efforts. He will wait until we stop our harmful activity. Our problem is not that God won't come to us; it's that our anxious souls fail to give Him time to speak.

Remember, His thoughts are "higher than" our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). He would speak to us, but our opinions monopolize the conversation. Our ideas and preprogrammed reactions rush out of our mouths and into the world of men. We hurry by the narrow path that leads to His presence. He is left out of the conversation; He wants in.

Jesus taught, "Take care what you listen to" (Mark 4:24). Do we truly know how to listen? Discernment is the art of listening to Him who does not speak audibly and perceiving Him who is otherwise invisible. And the one great question that leads to all we need to know is this: What does Jesus say?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Adapted from a chapter in Francis Frangipane's newest eBook titled Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ; now available at
www.arrowbookstore.com.

A Better Way
 

A man might be a nominal Christian, mostly unaffected by spiritual things, until one day he reads the Bible and the Holy Spirit ignites in him a fire. If that person remains steadfast in his inspiration, he will increasingly pattern his life after Jesus Christ - that is, he will become more loving, more forgiving, and more ready to give his life for the redemption of others. Spiritual gifts will accompany his life as He becomes Christlike. As Jesus said, "The works that I do, he will do also" (John 14:12).

However, if a nominal Muslim begins to read a Koran, if he continues his daily reading and feels an increasing zeal toward obeying the precepts of Mohammed, if he continues on, this man will ultimately desire to possess true Islam – that is, total submission to Allah. The works Mohammed did the follower will also do. The zealot will police his community, seeking to preserve obedience to Islam. He will seek to convert unbelievers by all means, including violence and terror, and he will consider it his duty to kill those who resist the spread of Islam. If one carries true Islam in his or her soul, but does not use violence, they will at the very least sympathize with those that do.

Thus, the radicalization of at least some Muslims is inevitable, for the normal growth of an unrestrained zealot will eventually conform him to the founder of his religion. This means that as long as there are people reading the Koran there will be a small percentage who pledge their lives to Islam’s spread even by use of violence. We who live in the predominantly non-Muslim world will have to cope with the violence of these "true believers."

It also means that the moderate Muslims must realize, unless they desire war with their non-Muslim neighbors, they will have to expose and denounce the radicalized Muslim, especially in communities where Muslims and non-Muslims live together.

Are you Muslim? Do you want the radical extremist to represent you and your people? If not, then you must find ways to direct the radical Muslim into a spiritual jihad against the sins of his soul rather than a violent jihad against the people of a community.

Are you Christian? You must guard against prejudging all Muslims, for many people turned to Islam as a reaction to the sinfulness of the West. In a real way, they were seeking Christ and stability and the church failed them. But in this present atmosphere, they are doubting the choice they made to follow Islam. Therefore, we must reveal Christ and the love He has for all men if we hope to win Muslims.

And finally, as Christians, we must forgive and pray for Muslims. My wife and I pray daily for Muslims, that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the Muslim world and that Jesus would be revealed to them, including the most radical who are ready to kill.

The radical Islamist will only be won by the radical Christ follower. We must show them a better way.

The River of God's Pleasure
By Francis Frangipane
 

The Clamor of Many Voices
As the days unfold toward Christ’s return, a multitude of voices will clamor for our attention. Additionally signs and wonders, judgments and upheaval will also burst into the collective consciousness of man, demanding our focus. Our world will experience the increase of sin and lawlessness, which will further deplete the love of many Christians (Matt. 24:12). If we are true seekers of the Most High, we must beware the contagious nature of an embittered heart. We cannot allow ourselves to be infected by, or conformed to, the attitudes of angry, loveless Christians.

These are the "difficult times" (2 Tim. 3:1) Paul warns about. Yes, our world is full of artificially sweetened, salt-free Christians who are trodden underfoot by men. We must not assume it cannot happen to us. Yet it is in this very environment that our Father has purposed to reveal Christ in us. Even now our destiny is courting our preparation. Let us press toward full transformation!

Created for God’s Pleasure
What does it mean to become Christlike? It means we choose to live for one purpose: to give pleasure to God. To accomplish this, we must be intimately acquainted with that in which His soul delights.

Jesus always chose to give God pleasure, even in the midst of conflict and cruelty. Thus when injustice wounds us, we must redeem our experiences with mercy. Let us make the Sermon on the Mount our standard of conduct. Let us discover those ways that will reveal Christ through us and thus bring pleasure to God.

As it is written, "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created" (Rev. 4:11).

The key to lasting happiness and true fulfillment in this world is not found in self-gratification but in bringing gratification to the heart of God. And while the Lord desires that we enjoy His many gifts, He wants us to know that we are not only created by Him but for Him as well.

A Lay Worker for God
To His neighbors Jesus was just a carpenter’s son. Yet to God Jesus was the one pearl of great price. Indeed, before His public ministry began---before there were any miracles or multitudes---yes, as a carpenter, Jesus’s devotion to God flooded the Father’s heart with pleasure. At the core of His existence, Christ’s motive was always to do only those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29).

It was His desire to please the Father that caused Jesus to perfectly fulfill the Law, and it was to please the Father that He went to the cross. It was not raw zeal for His culture or religion that compelled this carpenter to a sinless life. It was something higher and far more extraordinary: the law of love for God. His passion to give pleasure to the Father was all consuming.

Could Jesus have heard more wondrous words than the praise spoken by the heavenly Father at the Jordan? At the sound of the Father’s voice the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and the river of God’s pleasure flowed outward to His Son. In words unheard by any human being, the Father spoke: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased" (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

Remember, Jesus was still a lay person during this encounter. He had not yet entered public ministry. I am awed as I consider this reality: it was Jesus’s life as a tradesman, a "blue-collar worker," that increased the Father’s bliss! He did not need miracles and multitudes, or great insights, to touch the Father’s heart. He had not yet fasted for forty days. While accomplishing common, everyday tasks, Jesus flooded God’s soul with delight!

Likewise those who truly seek God are dedicated to bringing pleasure to their heavenly Father, even in the common tasks of everyday life. Jesus’s ability to please God while working a "secular" job tells us God is seeking something from us that is more hidden, more precious, than the things esteemed outwardly by man.

In other words, God delights in that man or woman who serves Him with joy, even when no one is there to observe or impress. In God’s eyes, the origin of true ministry is not found in what we do for Him but in what kind of people we become to Him.

No God-Seeker Is Insignificant to the Father
You who seek the Lord ponder this wondrous privilege: we can bring pleasure to God! In a world where sin and injustice actually pain the heart of God, with our love and steadfast faith, as we seek God daily, we can please the Father!

To set our goal to reveal Christ is to arouse God’s pleasure at its highest level. No one, nor any thing, brings pleasure to the Father as does seeing His Son, even beholding the Spirit of Jesus Christ revealed in us. Each time we submit to Jesus, giving Him access to this world, we please God. Every time Christ forgives or loves or blesses through us, the heart of God finds pleasure in our lives.

In every one of life’s varied and challenging situations, let us seek to know how we may reveal Christ. For in the love between the Father and His Son the river of God’s pleasure flows.

O God, the thought that my life may bring pleasure to You is so high, I can barely believe it. Lord, look upon me as Your workmanship; create in me that which will most glorify You. Make my life an aroma of thanksgiving that ever brings pleasure to Your heart.

This message was adapted from a chapter in Pastor Frangipane's book, The Days of His Presence, published by Charisma House.

Taking Every Thought Captive to Christ
 

While we may find comfort in being Christians, being a Christian has not made us perfect. There are still many strongholds within us. Therefore, let us identify some of these spiritual fortresses. Rare is the Christian who is not limited by at least one of the following strongholds: unbelief, cold love, fear, pride, unforgiveness, lust, greed, or any combination of these, as well as the possibility of many others.

Because we excuse ourselves so readily, it is difficult to discern the areas of oppression in our lives. After all, these are our thoughts, attitudes and perceptions; we justify and defend our thoughts with the same degree of intensity with which we justify and defend ourselves. As it is written, "As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7 KJV). In other words, the essence of who we are exists in our thought-life. Therefore, before any deliverance can truly be accomplished, we must honestly recognize and confess our need. We must stop pretending everything is all right. We must humble ourselves and seek help. Indeed, as previously mentioned, the first stronghold that God must remove is pride. For until one is willing to admit that he needs deliverance, he will never be free from strongholds.

In order to recognize what is wrong in us, we must perceive God's standard of right. David in the height of ecstasy and Job in the pit of misery, as well as all who have pondered life, faced the same question: What is man? The writer of Hebrews also asks this question, but the answer he receives lifts us up to see the face of God, and "We . . . see . . . Jesus" (Heb. 2:9). From the Father's view, the mystery of man's identity is unveiled in the life of Jesus Christ. Christ is the "firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). He is firstborn of a heavenly genesis; He is the Father's plan for mankind. When we consider the mystery of humanity, we find our answer in beholding Jesus Christ. He is not only our Savior; He is also the indwelling One who conforms us to Himself (Heb. 2:10; Rom. 8:29).

Let us also realize that only Jesus can be Jesus. As we yield to Him in increasing degrees of surrender, as we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, He brings forth life that is not simply like His own, but is His very life! Christ Himself living within us fulfills God's eternal purpose, which is to make man in His image. It is the presence of the Lord Jesus coming forth in us that makes the weapons of our warfare mighty, empowering our words with authority as we pull down strongholds.

Therefore, you must learn to look objectively at any thoughts or attitudes that fail to conform to the likeness and teachings of Jesus. Those thoughts must be captured and wrong attitudes crucified. We must make way in us for the coming of the Lord. We must allow the increase of His presence to be so absorbed into our spirits that we not only believe in Him, we believe like Him. His love, thoughts and desires flow out from within us as naturally as fruit from a vine.

Consequently, when we seek to identify and destroy demonic strongholds, the second fortress that must be annihilated is the stronghold of unbelief. It is this scheme of thinking, which tells us attaining Christlikeness is impossible, that holds all further spiritual growth hostage. This lie and the chains it places upon our hearts must be broken from our lives, for Christlikeness is not only possible, it is our destiny.

Accordingly, let us take this moment to pray. Let the Holy Spirit rise and flood your heart. If you suffer from the stronghold of unbelief which says you will never be like Christ, that deception can begin to break right now.

Lord Jesus, I submit to You. I declare, according to the Word of God, that because of Your power to subject all things unto Yourself, the weapons of my warfare are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-4). I repent for using the lie, "I will never be like Jesus," as an excuse to sin and compromise my convictions. In Jesus' name, I renounce my flawed, sinful old nature and by the grace of God and the power of Your Spirit I pull down the stronghold of unbelief that exists in my mind. Because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I am a new creation. And I believe that I will go from glory to glory, being continually transformed into Christ's image as I walk with Him in His grace.

Prayer Warriors

By Francis Frangipane

In our rapidly changing times, people are desperate to know the future. Barely do we adjust to the last changes when totally new realities explode into our world.

In answer to the common fears spawned by change, society has been inundated by a plethora of occult and demonic sources -- fortune-tellers, astrologers, psychic hotlines -- all pretending to be able to peek into the mystery of tomorrow. Indeed, how many otherwise intelligent individuals glimpse, at least occasionally, at their "astrological signs" and try to get an edge on knowing the future!

Why anyone would consult someone who cannot predict his or her own future is beyond me. These fortune-tellers almost always live in poverty. Their ability to predict the future should at least work for themselves, should it not? They could invest in the stock market or pick the right lottery numbers. They cannot even predict or better their own fortunes, yet people go to them for discernment.

Tremendous Power in a Christian!
Christians must realize that God condemns this demonic, fleshly probing into the unknown. He has called intercessors not to wonder about the future, but to create it through the knowledge of His Living Word and prayer! Our Father gives us access to the future right now. You ask, "How do we know what to pray" The Lord Jesus told us plainly, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10 KJV).

We can look at the conditions of the world and faint or look at the possibilities of God and take faith. To bring revival is to pray for the reality of God's kingdom to be made manifest on earth. Jesus was not offering His disciples a millennial prayer focus, for that rule of God's kingdom is coming whether we want it to or not! No, Christ calls us to pray for God's kingdom to manifest itself in our world today.

How will tomorrow look if God answers the prayer Christ gave us? Read the gospels. What we see in the life and power of Jesus Christ is a faith picture of God's kingdom. Jesus said that we can have that same full manifestation. In fact, He actually commanded us to pray for Heaven's release!

The Prayer Womb
The reality that God has planned will always manifest first in the prayer life of His intercessors. When you hear from God and then pray His Word, you are having an impact on the as-yet-unformed essence of life with the Spirit of God Himself! This is why God calls us not only to know His Word, but also to pray it. We must go from intellectualizing God's Word to being impregnated by it.

I know that many churches have special areas where intercessors can pray or people can meditate. Maybe we ought to change the name of such places from "prayer room" to "prayer womb." Everything good and holy that we see manifested in people, in churches and in life is first conceived and then birthed in the womb of prayer.

We have answers to prayer all around us. The place you are living in is an answer to prayer. When you asked God to lead you to the church you should attend, your current church became God’s answer to your prayer. Similarly, your attendance and participation are answers to the prayers of your pastors and intercessors.

Paul wrote, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might" (Eph. 1:18-19).

If you are a Christian, a power accompanies your life that is greater than great: the "surpassing greatness of His power." It is not human power but the actual "strength of His might." God demonstrated this "power toward us who believe" first "in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:19-20).

In other words, the power of God’s might is His resurrection power. What does resurrection mean? It means that things that look dead, smell dead and act dead can be touched by God and raised to life!

Now think about it: The resurrection power God has given us is the same potency He demonstrated when He raised Jesus out of the grave. Right now, because the strength of God Almighty is attached to our prayer lives, we can look on things that are absolutely dead and pray forth eternal life!

Our mission is to bring resurrection life to situations that are dead. If the devil challenges your prayer, remind him that you are seated with Christ "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:21). Christ's authority is final. But not only did the Father put "all things in subjection under His feet," He also "gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23).

Notice how the Lord uses anatomical metaphors to explain the downlink of authority: Christ is the "head" of a "body" that has all things put under its "feet." This is a most profound understanding of our role: What the Head, Christ, has attained, the feet of the church walk out. In other words, God has positioned the church as the living bridge between the terrible conditions on earth and the wonderful solutions from Heaven!

As we truly, passionately and accurately submit to Christ in prayer, the kingdom of Heaven steadily enters our now prayed-for world. The key, of course, is to know Christ's Word, for our authority does not originate from ourselves, but from the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). What we have is revelation and submission. But as we submit to the Word and persevere in prayer, the future is changed and conformed to God's will.

The devil knows that if he can keep our prayer lives silent, he keeps God’s hand distant.

If We Do Not Lose Heart
 

The prophet Daniel warns of a time when Satan will "wear down the saints of the Highest One" (Dan. 7:25). How this occurs in the final hours of the age remains to be seen, but this battle is already occurring today. The final effect of what seems like never-ending delays is that believers are worn out.

Do you know anyone who is weary with his or her battle? Are you yourself weary? I know many who seem trapped in situations that should have been remedied months and even years ago, but the battle continues against them. Situations and people, often empowered by demonic resistance, stand in opposition to the forward progress of God’s people. As a result of constant demonic opposition, many Christians gradually accept a quiet, but weighty, oppression on their souls.

This battle to wear out the saints may be rooted in conflicts with children or spouses; perhaps it is some unresolved issue or division within their churches. It may be a work conflict or health battle, yet on and on it goes. Like a skilled and masterful thief, the enemy daily steals the joy, strength and passion of Christians, and many do not even realize what they have lost or how much.

The scale is actually larger than our personal struggles. Consider the various conflicts in the world. Some have continued for generations. We can understand why, even in the midst of great worship and praise by the redeemed, there is a place under the altar in Heaven where the saints continue to ask, "How long, O Lord?" (Rev. 6:10). Fifty-eight times in the Bible, from beginning to end, the phrase how long is echoed by those who grew weary with waiting.

Sometimes the delays are God-ordained to perfect faith and character. On the other hand, there are also occasions when Satan seeks to resist the fulfillment of God’s plans until we grow weary and quit. Satan is the dragon whose goal is to "drag-on" the battle with draining, wearying delays. He persists until we wear out, give up and quit praying.

Additionally, as situations stretch beyond reasonably expected conclusions, weariness of soul can also exacerbate the original situation, leading to fleshly reactions or just overreactions, which also need resolution. We lose patience, eventually seeking relief rather than victory. This compromises the standards of God and conscience.

Perseverance
There is a reason the book of Revelation mentions the word perseverance seven times. Over and over again we see those who persevered and overcame. It is one thing to have vision, another to have godly motives, but neither will carry us to our objectives by itself. We must also persevere.

The root of the word persevere is the word severe. We must face the fact that en route to victory our trials may get severe. Likewise, it is with severe faith---severe or extreme steadfastness---that we inherit the promises of God (Heb. 10:36). James tells us: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Endurance. Perseverance. Steadfastness. These are the qualities that breed character, that transform the doctrine of Christlikeness into a way of life. "Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect." The key to true maturity, to a life "lacking in nothing," is perseverance.

Character before Breakthrough
We mentioned Daniel earlier as a prophet who warned about Satan’s ploy to wear down the saints. God gave him a vision of the end of the age. Here is what he wrote: "I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them" (Dan. 7:21). This is the nature of the battle. There are times we feel war storming against our souls, overpowering us. But the prophet said the sense of overpowering continued only "until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom" (v. 22).

There is a principle here that, once understood, will lead to victory in our battles. If we endure, if we climb higher into God, if we refuse to lose our trust in God, a time will come when the Ancient of Days enters our circumstances. Looking at our newly developed character, which has grown strong through perseverance, He will pass judgment in favor of our cause. God looks at our character, forged in the fire of overpowering delays and battle, and says, "Good, this is what I was waiting for."

Whatever your battle, whether you are praying for your country or standing for your children, whether your cry is for the lost or for the end of some local or personal conflict, remember: it is not enough to sow the right seeds or even have the right soil. We will only reap “if we do not lose heart" (Gal. 6:9 NKJV).

 

The Bright Lamp of Holiness
By Francis Frangipane
 

When true holiness exists in a Christian’s life, it produces a luminosity, a glow around that individual. Infants and little children, because their spirits are yet pure and undefiled and because they are so close to the actual presence of God, emanate this light as well. Their light is visible because their hearts are transparent and truthful. For us, the way to the bright lamp of holiness is this same way of transparency and truth. It is the way to the pure gold of the kingdom of God.

When Your Eye is Single
From the moment Christ enters within us, we are holy, set apart unto God. This kind of holiness is the same sanctification that made the utensils in the temple holy: holy because they were used in service to the Lord. They had no virtue in themselves; their material substance did not change. Christianity, in general, is holy in that sense. But the holiness we are seeking is the fulfillment of having been set apart. We are seeking a holiness that mirrors, through us, the presence of God in Heaven. We are seeking both His nature and His quality of life.

Since true holiness produces in us the actual life of the Holy Spirit, we must be sure we know who the Spirit is. The Spirit of God is love, not religion. God is life, not rituals. The Holy Spirit does more in us than simply enable us to "speak in tongues" or witness. The Spirit leads us into the presence of Jesus. Herein is our holiness received: in our union and fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Again, the holiness we are seeking is not a legislative or legalistic set of rules; it is Christ’s very own quality of life. The Holy Spirit works in us not merely a new desire to love, but He imparts to us Christ’s very own love. We develop more than just a general faith in Jesus; we actually begin believing like Jesus, with His quality of faith. It is God in us that makes us holy. Let it stagger us. Let it rock us off our comfortable little perches until, with great trembling and great joy, with deep worship and holy fear, we approach the divine reality who has, for His own will and purpose, called us to Himself.

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). The Spirit of God dwells in us. In this light, let us ask ourselves again the age-old question, "What is man?" We know how we appear to other men, but if God truly is within us, how do we appear to angels or devils? What light marks us in the spirit world, what illumination surrounds us, what glory declares to the invisible realm, "Behold and beware, here walks a child of God!" Think of it: the Spirit of the Creator, who purposed in the beginning to make man in His image, is in you . . . now.

Holiness is a Body Full of Light
There are limitations. There are conditions. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve light and darkness, sin and righteousness, self and God. Light is within you, but so also is darkness. Our world is a world in darkness. Our ancestors were sons of darkness. Our carnal minds yet remain theaters of darkness. In a world of choices, we must choose light. That is why Jesus taught that we must be single-minded if we would become fully mature sons of light. He said, "The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness" (Luke 11:34, KJV).

If you are focused in your will and heart toward God, your body is full of light, and you are giving full expression to the glory of God within you. But if you are double-minded, if you are dwelling on sinful or evil thoughts, your light is proportionally diminished until your very body is full of darkness. Jesus went on to warn, "Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness" (v. 35, KJV).

If you do nothing about your salvation, fail to seek God, or choose to disobey Him, you are in darkness. Do not console yourself with an aimless hope that someday, somehow, you will get better. Arm yourself with determination! For if the light in you is in darkness, how terrible is that darkness. Son of light, you must hate darkness! Darkness is the substance of hell; it is the world without God.

But our hope is light, not darkness. Your feet are walking the path of the just, the path that grows brighter and brighter unto the full day. "If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it shall be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays" (Luke 11:36). This verse gives a very clear picture of what holiness looks like in its maturity: our bodies are radiant with glory even as a lamp shines at full brightness. What a tremendous hope---that we can be so wholly illumined with the presence of God that there is "no dark part" within us. A garment of light and glory awaits the spiritually mature, the holy ones of God, a garment similar to what Jesus wore on the Mount of Transfiguration. A splendor not just put on in eternity but one worn here, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation"; here, where we "appear as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:14–15).

"You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8). Now you are a child of light. These are not merely figures of speech. The glory of God is within and around you; it is a spiritual reality! But what of the darkness that is yet within you? Paul continued, "Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. . . . But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light" (Eph. 5:11, 13).

Do not hide your darkness; expose it. Do not sympathetically make excuses for it; confess it. Hate it. Renounce it. For as long as darkness remains in darkness, it rules you. But when you bring darkness out into the light, it becomes light. When you take your secret sins and boldly come unto the throne of God’s grace and confess them, He cleanses you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If you sin again, repent again---and again, until the habit of sin is broken within you.

Like the prospectors of old, you must stake your claim high in the kingdom of God, being ready to defend your rights to the "pure gold" of Heaven (Rev. 3:18). And as you pitch your tent at the throne of grace, something eternal will begin to glow in you, like hot coals on a furnace floor. And as you persist with the Almighty, the sacred fire of His presence will consume the wood, hay and stubble of your former ways. Power such as Jesus had will reside in your innermost being. Angels will stand in awe, for your gold will be refined, your garments light and your life holy.

The Lord Whose Sword is Drawn
By Francis Frangipane
 

Of all the names that the heavenly Father could have given His Son, it is most significant that He chose the name "Jesus," for Jesus is the Greek form of "Joshua." Joshua, you recall, was the Hebrew general who led God's people into war. To be prepared for greater victories, we need a greater revelation of Jesus Christ; we need to see Him as He will be revealed in the last moments of this age: a Holy Warrior, dressed for battle.

Will You Recognize Jesus When He Comes?
"Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?'" (Josh. 5:13).

There is something about the time just prior to a move of God that causes many to wonder if the Lord is for them or against them. He seems confrontational---too intense, too "different" from the One we have learned to trust. Yet during these last few years, this is exactly the situation in the Lord's relationship with the church. The Lord has stood before us with His sword drawn. He is calling us to follow Him in war.

Perhaps you have been through a time where the tip of Christ's sword seemed aimed straight at your heart. Let me reassure you, God is for you. In fact, it is His expressed purpose to release this same "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17), through your words and prayers. But before the Lord's sword will come through your mouth, it must first pass through your heart.

Do not withdraw or be terrified at this new unveiling of the Son of God, for He is, in fact, fitting you for battle. By the time you are fully trained, you will be a fearless warrior in His army. Yet we must be realistic about our current state: most of us have been pampered and undisciplined. We have not understood the day of warfare that looms before us. Nor are we prepared for the final raging of Satan as his time shortens (Rev. 12:12).

Isaiah tells us that "the Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies" (Isa. 42:13). We have known the Lord as our Savior and our Shepherd. These revelations of our beloved Master are no less true because a new aspect of His nature is revealed. It is simply that this new dimension is so startlingly different from how we have known Him. Be of good cheer, this frightening Warrior King, with His sword drawn, with the shout of war upon His lips, is the same blessed Savior who died on the cross for our sins.

Yet in truth, we cannot soften the shock of this great unveiling of Christ. Our immediate dismay shall be in no way less dramatic than that which was revealed to Joshua on the plains of Jericho. Our concepts will be shaken and fears confronted.

Looking again at Joshua, truly he had already known the Lord in a wonderful, intimate way in the wilderness tabernacle. But here standing before him was a new revelation of the Lord. The Son of God Himself had come as Captain of the Host to lead His people into war.

Ultimately, these refugees from Egypt and their wilderness children would defeat many nations stronger and more numerous than themselves (Deut. 9:1). They would do the impossible through the power of the Lord.

Though initially Joshua was taken aback, both Joshua and the people with him were more prepared for this battle than they realized. Their time in the wilderness had conditioned them for war.

Likewise, the wilderness for you has not been a time of punishment but a season of preparation and of learning obedience. You have watched in fear the decline and spiritual death of church leaders who repeatedly disobeyed the Lord. But you have not stumbled over their disobedience; you have learned from it. Today you walk in the fear of God and are not blinded by the sin of presumption.

Before Jesus returns, those who have passed the wilderness tests will receive another revelation: Christ will be revealed to them as Captain of the Host. They will be ready to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

"And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?' The captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.' And Joshua did so" (Josh. 5:14-15).

This new unveiling of the Lord is holy. Overnight the Lord brought down atheistic communism in the former Soviet Union. Since then, hundreds of millions of people from many nations have found salvation in the Son of God. God is touching many nations. Let us not gainsay nor criticize what we may not fully understand. We are beginning to perceive the Lord as He truly is and as He will be released in the last days. He is the Lord of Hosts.

The promise of the Lord, which we read earlier, is that He "will go forth like a warrior. . . . He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies" (Isa. 42:13). Within the ranks of the advancing church, Jesus is raising a war cry. Can you hear His shout in the intercession? There is new authority being raised up, a new generation whose voice thunders with the cry of prophetic prayer. Through the church, Christ Himself is prevailing against His enemies. Indeed, the gates of hell shall not stand against the church Jesus is building (Matt. 16:18). The hour has come for us "to grow in all aspects into Him who is [our] head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15), the Warrior King!

"Come and See"
By Francis Frangipane
 

John and Andrew began their spiritual commitment to God's will as disciples of John the Baptist. In fact, they had actually been standing near the prophet when Jesus walked by. As the Baptizer saw Jesus, he cried out, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" and from that moment the two disciples began to follow Jesus (John 1:35-37).

This was an insightful account. It is John's handwritten testimony of how he came to the Son of God. Yet, John has deeper truths to reveal beyond this historic portrayal. He is also going to reveal what we should each ultimately seek when we come to Christ.

Let's pick up the narrative. The two disciples, having heard and believed John's messianic proclamation about Jesus, are now walking, perhaps hurriedly, to catch up to Jesus. They are within conversation range.

Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. --John 1:38-39 KJV

There are many reasons one comes to Christ. We may seek Him for health issues or to possess the keys to prosperity. Perhaps we need deliverance or are burdened with the cares of a loved one. Yet, as the Lord asked John and Andrew, so He asks each of us: What are you seeking in life? What goals compel us? When we approach the final season of our lives, will the things we have achieved be transferable into eternal accounts? Or will we have spent our time and energies on that which is void of true life?

Jesus asks, "What are you seeking?" It is a very important question. The Lord desires that we take inventory of our passions and objectives, and then chart our course toward heavenly values. You see, many say they love Jesus. What they mean is that, in time, they hope to get around to loving Jesus. Right now, however, they barely know Him and almost never spend time seeking Him.

The proof that we love Him is that we keep His commandments (John 14:15). What must He think when so many who say they love Him are, in fact, not loving Him but actually having an affair with this world? May God have mercy.

Yet, this is not your situation. In spite of your flaws and weaknesses, you sincerely desire to possess more of God. You have emerged from your past trials, determined to walk closer to the Lord. Indeed, Christ sees this holy desire and, to Him, it is the most precious part of you.

The Lord's heart is also moved toward those who follow Him, though they may walk limping. To those wounded by injustice or the effects of sin, the Lord's promise remains faithful: "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish." Surely, He will bring to victory the justice due you (Isa. 42:3; Matt. 12:20).

Like John and Andrew, we, too, "behold the Lamb of God." Just as He asked them, so He asks us, "What are you seeking?"

The Dwelling Place of Christ
In response to Jesus' probing question, the disciples' answer may seem strange. For they did not ask Him for greater power or one of His many spiritual gifts. Instead, they asked Jesus something more personal, and intimate: "Where dwellest Thou?"

I'd like us to consider the poignancy of their answer. They wanted to know where Jesus lived. There are times when a question transcends the simple boundaries of intellectual curiosity and actually reveals one's quest in life. Such is now the case: they are seeking to live with Jesus. They are searching for the dwelling place of God.

Our Father wants us to ask for spiritual gifts and special blessings of health and financial prosperity. To desire these things is not wrong; it is just not enough. Inside the heart of a God-seeker is a quest for more. We are in search of the "dwelling places" of God. In truth, our hearts have been divinely programmed. There are within us "the highways to Zion" (Ps. 84).

Our destination is nothing less than oneness with Christ. All fruitfulness comes from living in spiritual union with Jesus. In contrast, whatever we offer as service to God that is not the result of our union with Christ, that labor is in vain; it is a weak comfort. For apart from Him, we can do nothing.

John tells us in his first epistle that those who say they abide in Him ought to walk "in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Abiding in Jesus leads to walking like Jesus.

Beloved, there is yet much more to learn and discover concerning our Lord! We must beware of spiritual complacency. Recall the prayer of Moses: At the end of his life - after being used by God to confront and defeat the gods of Egypt, after dwelling in the Lord's glory and beholding miracle after miracle for forty years - Moses prayed, "You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand" (Deut. 3:24).

You have begun? No matter how much we attain, no matter what revelations of God's glory are ours, we have only begun to see His glory.

The disciples answered astutely, "Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?" May this become our prayer as well: Where do You live, O Son of God? Where is Your dwelling place? To all who feel similarly, Christ says to us what He promised them: "Come and see."

Dear Master, I turn to You now. You are my life's greatest goal. I desire to live with You, to abide in the wonder of a life united with You.

The War Over Reality
By Francis Frangipane
 

The Principle of Displacement
"Then war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels going forth to battle with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no room found for them in heaven any longer" (Rev. 12:7-8 AMP). Notice the phrase, "there was no room . . . for them in heaven." The war against principalities involves displacement: Christ filling the spiritual territories once held by Satan.

This war in Heaven is difficult for us to comprehend. How do angels and demons, beings who do not die from wounds, wage war? With what do they do battle? And how do they conquer one another? Without exceeding the bounds of our knowledge, we can safely say this: All spiritual warfare is waged over one essential question: Who will control reality on earth, Heaven or hell?

When it comes to angelic and demonic warfare, the battle rests not in physical weaponry but in the power of agreement between mankind and the spirit realm. We read in Ephesians 6 (NKJV) that "principalities" and "powers" occupy the "heavenly places" (v. 12). But we read in Ephesians 1:10 that it is the Father’s expressed purpose to sum up all things in Christ, "things in the heavens and things on the earth." Ephesians 3:10 reveals God’s glorious plan, that "through the church" God has purposed to make known His manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers "in the heavenly places." You see, as the body of Christ on earth agrees with its Head in Heaven, the Spirit of Christ Himself displaces the powers of darkness in the heavenly places.

In other words, when the church on earth is aggressive in its agreement with the will and Word of God, then the presence of God increases in the spiritual realm, proportionally displacing the influence of hell on earth. Shortly thereafter, manifesting in the world of men, we see revivals, healings and miracles. But when the church is passive, indifferent or carnal, the powers of hell increase their rule over the affairs of men: marriages break up, crime increases, and wantonness becomes unbridled. We must see that our prayers, attitudes, and agreement with God are an integral part of establishing the reality of the kingdom of God on earth!

The Devil Is a Master Illusionist
Satan is unmasked in Scripture as "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). His realm of operation is the spirit world that immediately surrounds and blankets the consciousness of mankind. This realm is known as the "heavenly places" in the Bible (Eph. 6:12). From this spiritual realm Satan works to corrupt and control the mind of man through illusions built from mankind’s carnal desires and fears. But the power of the lie is not merely the speaking of falsehoods, nor is it that this world is an illusion. The lie of the enemy appears most powerfully when men believe that this world, as it is, is the only world we can live in. The truth is, of course, that God is establishing His kingdom, and ultimately, every other reality will submit to and be ruled by that kingdom! (See Heb. 12:26-28; Rev. 11:15.)

The weapon God has given us to combat the lies of the enemy is the Word of God, which the Scriptures refer to as the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). Jesus said His words "are spirit and are life" (John 6:63), which is to say that the substance or meaning in Christ’s words represents an actual reality: the living Spirit of the kingdom of God.

We should also recognize that the ancient Greeks, in whose language the New Testament was written, had no word for "reality." To them "truth" and "reality" were the same essence. If we seek to experience the true work of the Holy Spirit, we should understand that the Spirit has been sent to establish the reality of God’s kingdom in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Thus, as we become one with the Spirit of Truth, and as we fully embrace the Word of Truth, we are brought into the reality of God Himself!

This point is essential: in our war over who controls man’s world, the singular weapon God has given the church is His Spirit-empowered Word. The living Word of the Spirit is the truth.

Paul taught that spiritual warfare deals specifically with the "pulling down of strongholds." But what are those strongholds? They are lies the devil has sown into our thought-processes which, as we accepted and believed them, became reality to us. We do not fall in sin as much as we are seduced by it; every sin is cloaked in some measure of deception. But as these lies are uncovered and destroyed, as our thought-processes are freed from illusions, we will discover the blamelessness, perfection, and truth of Christ in us, the hope of glory (see Col. 1:27).

To be successful in life, therefore, we must know the Word of God. For all things come into being through the Word. Yes, it is the Word made alive in our hearts, germinated by our faith, that wins the war over reality.

On Earth as it is in Heaven!
 

We recite it in private and pray it in unison; we have even sung it in reverence on select Sunday mornings. It's been a familiar prayer at somber cultural events. Yet I wonder if we really grasp what was in Jesus' heart when He taught His disciples the Lord's Prayer?

The disciples asked Him, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). In response, the Lord gave them a prayer, not just to help them cope but something that was militant in nature. This was more than a prayer-it was a proclamation.

For centuries the holy realities of the Lord's prayer have been obscured by traditions of religious unbelief, as though ritualistically repeating this prayer would provide access to Heaven when the supplicant died. The deception was that somehow all Jesus was speaking of was off in eternity, as though this prayer was disbarred from affecting conditions on earth. In recent years, however, truth is again filling the words of this heavenly anthem: "Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done!"

These are emphatic statements. They ought to be punctuated with exclamation marks. This prayer is Heaven's "Pledge of Allegiance."

This prayer is a faith-decree that God's will, through our living union with Christ, should be accomplished today on earth. Where is the room for compromise in those words? Jesus is saying that, with miraculous power, abounding joy and unwavering mercy, God's will is destined to be fulfilled on earth just "as it is in heaven"!

We call this the Lord's Prayer, yet more appropriately, it might be called the Disciple's Prayer or the Kingdom Prayer, for it is something Jesus gave to ignite fire in the hearts of His followers. Indeed, this prayer is revolutionary.

We have been too polite with God. I do not mean we should be disrespectful or irreverent; I am saying the Lord's prayer is not a weak, pleading prayer. Yes, there is a time for pleading with God, but this is prophetic prayer. There is not a please anywhere in it.

We already know it is the "Father's good pleasure" to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32 NKJV). Jesus is not instructing us to beg for a blessing or two; He is commanding us to call for God's kingdom to rule on earth, in our very lives and circumstances.

This is a prayer of authority. The Son of God wants us to pray like we were created to bring Heaven to earth. Our prayer simply aligns us with what is already God's great pleasure to give us.

Of course, it is vital we embrace repentance for our sins and the sins of our forefathers. But this is the prayer of those fully committed to the vision of God! It embodies the expanse of what Jesus came to establish. Although men and women are both called to proclaim the words of this decree, this is decidedly a masculine prayer. These are fighting words.

Remember, this form of prayer is not my idea; it's Christ's. He told faltering, fumbling, often sinful disciples to pray like they were mature, victorious warriors. He didn't say this prayer should be prayed only when they had become perfect. No. He was saying this is how we should pray right now, even while we are imperfect. Yes, we humble ourselves; yes, we confess our sins. Yet, we must learn to pray with unsheathed spiritual authority, with heroic faith, and with the fire of divine possibilities burning in our souls.

Beloved, a time is coming when God's people will have reached the depth of their repentance. Knees bent and worn from the weight of prolonged kneeling will slowly creek upward. Heads will lift, and then hands. Like the rumbling of a volcano no longer dormant, the cry "Thy kingdom come" will begin to gather and then rise from within the inner spirit of the redeemed.

Yes, even now, the armies of God in Heaven are beginning to unite with the armies of God on earth. Lightening-like power is beginning to fill the backbone of the redeemed. From every nation, a holy people shall stand upright before the Most High. In their mouths will be the words taught them by the Son of God Himself: "Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"

Repentance and the Way God Calls Holy
By Francis Frangipane
 

Many are calling for prayer for our nation. To that message I would like to add a call to repentance as well. Indeed, 2 Chronicles 7:14 not only calls us to pray but to follow through by humbling ourselves, aggressively turning away from evil. In that spirit, we then seek God's face. There is far too much compromise among us. We need a breakthrough into brokenness. A move of God is coming, but it will only be as deep as our repentance prepares us.

The purpose of this message is to take us beyond simply feeling sorry we sinned. God wants to bring us into an attitude of repentance that persistently returns to Him until the fruit of righteousness comes forth in our lives.

The Bible tells us that prior to the beginning of Christ's ministry, "there came a man, sent from God, whose name was John" (John 1:6). John the Baptist was sent from God. His baptism of repentance was not the last event of the old covenant to be completed; it was the first event, the ground breaker, of the new covenant. John was sent by God as a forerunner to Christ's ministry. His unique purpose was to immerse Israel into an attitude of repentance (Acts 19:4). He was called to go before Christ. His task was to "prepare" and "make ready the way of the Lord" (Mark 1:2-3).

Some measure of repentance always precedes the coming forth of the living Christ in a person's life. To "prepare" and "make ready" is the purpose of repentance. Let us be sure we understand: John's repentance did not merely make men sorry, it made men ready.

True repentance is to turn over the soil of the heart for a new planting of righteousness or directives from God. It is a vital aspect in the overall sphere of spiritual maturity. To truly change your mind takes time and effort. John's command to the Jews was to "bear fruit in keeping with your repentance" (Matt. 3:8).

Let us also realize that repentance is not over until fruit is brought forth. In effect, John was saying, "Cease not your turning away from pride until you delight in lowliness. Continue repenting of selfishness until love is natural to you. Do not stop mourning your impurities until you are pure." He demanded men keep with repentance until fruit was manifested. And if you will be holy, you will continue in repentance until you are holy.

The apostle John tells us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Do not hide from your sins; confess them. God's grace and the sacrifice of His Son are enough to cover and forgive any and every sin, but we must ask for forgiveness. We must humble ourselves and, from the heart, submit again to God. Be honest about your sin and He will cleanse you of it.

An exhortation: persist in your repentance, never doubting the generosity of God's mercy. If God commands us to forgive unconditionally those who sin against us (Matt. 18:21-22), know that God does not require of us more than He demands of Himself. If you sin 490 times in one day, after each time cry to Him for forgiveness. He will both forgive you and cleanse you of sin's effect.

During one period in my life I repeatedly stumbled over the same problem. Grieved and doubting in my heart, I cried out, "Lord! how long will you put up with me?" In a flash of grace and truth He answered, "Until I have perfected you."

The Scriptures tell us, "Reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Prov. 6:23 KJV). This is not burdensome except to those who refuse correction. The way of reproof is the way of life! Jesus said, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19). It is not God's wrath that speaks to us of repentance; it is His lovingkindness. We have been promised, "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). As long as we desire to be like Him, His rebuke will be a door into His presence.

If, however, you recoil at the word repentance, it is because you do not want to change. You need this message. When the thought of repentance is not shrouded in gloomy images of sackcloth and tears, when correction inspires rejoicing and shouts of praise to God's grace, know that your spirit has truly become pure. It is at this point you are walking the way God calls holy.

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This Day We Fight!
by Francis Frangipane.

The Effects of a Passive Spirit
Scripture contains many examples of David’s valor. As a young man, for instance, while others trembled, David was ready and eager to face Goliath. David is an example of one whom God chose, whose passions for God sustained him for most of his life.

Yet David also provides an example for us of what happens to good people when a passive spirit triumphs. For there was an occasion when David did not pursue his enemies, and the consequences were grave. It happened because he allowed a passive spirit to subdue his will.

"Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem" (2 Sam. 11:1).

During a time of war, the king accepted a passive spirit into his soul. Soon we find this great warrior king almost helpless to resist the unfolding spiritual attack.

"Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance" (2 Sam. 11:2).

The woman was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. From the moment David accepted the influence of that passive spirit, his resistance was weakened; a paralysis of conscience occurred. Scripture says that "when evening came David arose from his bed." Perhaps it was customary to rest in the afternoon, but it strikes me as inconsistent for David to nap while his men fought. It is possible that this nap was not a response to a bodily need but an expression of the slumber that gripped his soul. He was in bed until "evening."

This heaviness of soul resting on David was actually part of a larger, synchronized spiritual attack. The other part of that battle was the quiet, inner prompting that stirred Bathsheba to bathe in a place where David could see her. Finally, David, unable to resist, and in defiance of his noble qualities, "sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her" (2 Sam. 11:4).

Dear friend, remember: This terrible moral failure was not driven by David’s lust or flagrant rebellion to God. A passive spirit introduced David to his sin! The problem was simply that, in a time when the kings went forth to war, David stayed at home.

We ourselves are in a time of war. The Spirit of God is calling us to fight for our souls as well as our families, cities and nations. Indeed, God’s Word reveals that "the Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies" (Isa. 42:13).

Is that holy fight in you? Is there a war cry in your spirit? If you are born again, that cry is within you, even if it has been muted by lethargy.

We will never succeed as overcomers without carrying in our spirits the war cry of God. We must stop resisting the call to prayer; we must embrace the reality of spiritual warfare; and we must fight with the weapons of warfare that God has given us, both for our own progress and also on behalf of those we love.

Conversely, the moment you surrender your will to a passive attitude, you should anticipate that a temptation appropriate to your weakness will soon follow. It may not be Bathsheba; it may be pornography on the Internet. Or it may be a coworker who begins to look attractive at a time when you and your spouse are struggling. Whatever the area of weakness in your life, Satan will seek to exploit that area. It will likely not be a bold frontal assault. He will approach you quietly, in whispers, relaxing your spiritual guard. What disarmed you was a passive spirit. If the enemy succeeds in this first stage of his assault, you will soon find yourself wrapped up in something that can devastate you and your loved ones.

Door of Hope
By Francis Frangipane
 

We tend to boast in the power of faith while minimizing the value of hope. Yet, "faith is the substance of the things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1 KJV). Without first having a living hope in God, our faith is meaningless. Indeed, the first stage of transformation is the awakening of hope.

Yet, even after we come to Christ, we still fail. Often a downward spiral occurs when sin opens the door to condemnation, and condemnation smothers the voice of hope. Consider the story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. The Lord was about to prosper Israel with the wealth of the Canaanites, but only if the spoils of their first battle at Jericho were completely dedicated to God. However, one man, Achan, defied the Lord's edict. He took silver, gold, and a garment from Shinar, and then he hid the spoils in his tent. As a result of his sin, thirty-six Israelites died in their next battle---defeated and humiliated by the tiny city of Ai.

After the Lord exposed Achan as the perpetrator, Joshua took him, along with his family and possessions, and brought them all to a valley. There Israel's leader said, "'Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.' And all Israel stoned them with stones. . . . Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day" (Josh. 7:25-26).

The word Achor meant "troubling." It represented the trouble and pain one person’s sin exacted on many others. Certainly the most terrible thing Achan experienced was that his sin caused his wife and children to die with him. As they huddled together awaiting this horrible judgment, the guilt and regret flooding Achan's mind must have been insufferable.

Personal Failure
In time, the valley of Achor came to symbolize the worst of punishments. It was a place of death and desolation. Today, of course, we do not stone those whose sin or irresponsibility has caused others grief. Still, sin has consequences, and though we may not be physically stoned for our failure, the effects of public condemnation can be just as crushing to the human spirit. The fact is, too many of us have known a personal valley of Achor where our moral negligence or ill-advised actions caused another's suffering.

Perhaps you committed adultery, and your spouse and children are devastated. It might be that your anxious or careless driving caused an accident, resulting in great suffering or possibly even another person's death. Or maybe your lack of Christian example has caused your children to turn from God. The possible ways of falling are endless, but the result is nearly always the same: it is as though a curse rests on your life.

Not only does your own heart condemn you, but there are also others who know your failure, whose chorus of criticisms convince you of your hopeless nature. Public censure, cold looks and judgmental attitudes have the same effect on your soul as Achan's stoning had on his flesh, only what dies in you is hope. Where once you could look with anticipation toward the future, now heartache and regret block your view.

Only virtue, made pure and strong by true repentance, can displace the burden of self-condemnation. Thus, the only correct response to wrong actions and their consequences is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, the enemy has many Christians trapped in unbelief and self-condemnation. They know what they did was wrong and they hate it, but they cannot unburden themselves of the guilt. Remember, our Redeemer came to proclaim liberty to those who are "prisoners" (see Isa. 61:1). Is He speaking only of those who are incarcerated in jails? No, His mission is for all of us who are prisoners of our past failures. God wants us to learn from our mistakes, not be held captive to them. Jesus came to deliver and restore those whose dreams lie buried in the valley of Achor.

Personal Tragedy
The burdens we carry may have nothing to do with moral failure. They might have come from any number of life's calamities.

One of the worst ordeals for the soul is the death of a loved one. Such a loss can leave us excessively burdened and trapped in the past. The story of Abraham's father, Terah, gives us an insightful picture of a man who could not depart from the loss of a loved one.

Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor and Haran. The Bible tells us, "Haran died in the presence of his father" (Gen. 11:28). To lose your son can produce terrible heartache; to have him die in your arms can be utterly devastating.

In time, Terah took his family and left Ur of the Chaldeans in search of a new destiny in Canaan. En route, however, Terah had to pass through a city with the same name as his deceased son, Haran. Instead of continuing on to Canaan, the Scripture says Terah "went as far as Haran, and settled there" (v. 31).

Longing for a deceased loved one is normal. However, life's tragedies also have a way of obligating us to a false loyalty that prohibits the release of our pain. Without notice, a face in an airport or a song on the radio floods our hearts, and suddenly we are overcome by sorrow. How quickly we reenter the place of our grief; how easy it is to settle there!

"And Terah died in Haran" (v. 32). Not only did Terah settle in Haran, but he also died there. The wording is both prophetic and significant. Perhaps it was a false sense of guilt that held him hostage: If only I had done such and such my son would not have died! Whatever the reason, Terah was never able to live beyond Haran's death.

We must also see that, as painful as the loss of a loved one is, we cannot permit the wounds of our past to nullify what God has for us in our future. Even if we enter limping, we must not settle for something outside our destiny. God's grace is here now. With His help, we must choose to journey on to Canaan or we too will die in Haran.

A Time For Healing
These two things, personal failure and personal tragedy, can place cruel burdens of oppression and guilt upon our souls. God's response to our need is that, in addition to forgiving our sins, He has laid on Christ "the guilt of us all" (Isa. 53:6 NAB). Whether our guilt is justified or not, it must be lifted from our shoulders and placed on Christ.

Today a renewal is occurring in various parts of the world; God is restoring joy to His people. Many whom the Lord has touched were weighed down---just like you might be---with either moral failure or tragedy. In the very place where our deferred hopes produced heart sickness, Christ is here "to bind up the brokenhearted" (Isa. 61:1). Where once sorrow and heaviness reigned, He gives a "garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting" (v. 3).

No longer will church attendance be a penance for your failures. From now on you shall enter His gates with thanksgiving. Indeed, to every Christian struggling with an unbearable burden, the Lord says, You are still My bride.

Indeed, speaking of this very valley of troubling, the Lord has promised: "I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth" (Hosea 2:14-15).

The fruitfulness of God's blessing from this day forward shall increase in your life. And there in "the valley of Achor"---the scene of your deepest wounds or worst failures---the Lord has placed for you a "door of hope." His goal is nothing less than to restore to you the song of the Lord, that you might sing again "as in the days of [your] youth."
 

Your Children Will Return
By Joy Frangipane Marion
 

No one can tell me that fathers and daughters can't have close relationships, or even become best friends. People are almost envious of the love my dad and I share. The only time we argue is about who loves who the most. But our relationship was not always this warm. There was a time when I felt I had lost my ability to love my father. I was a teenage Christian in a public high school. My Christian background made me different. I was new, craving acceptance. My father's rules seemed to be the source of my rejections.

Fueled by my insecurities, in my eyes my dad became the root of my problems. While I set an adequate standard and struggled to live by it, he was strict. I was angry because he refused to back down from the standard he knew was right. He refused to appeal to my ignorance in order to keep my acceptance.

Things were going from bad to worse during those years. We hit bottom the day I looked him square in the eyes and told him that I hated him. They were harsh words, but it was a hard time. I didn't really hate him. I hated me. I felt I wasn't bad enough to be accepted by my friends and not good enough to be accepted at home. When these feelings take over your life, you search for something---anything---to blame. I chose my father. He carried the blunt of my pain. He even became my enemy.

In my heart I knew I didn't hate him. I was angry and confused. I felt he wasn't concerned with how I felt. It seemed he had made no room for compromise with my situation. He risked losing my love to save my soul.

It was a hard time for us both. He suffered the pain of rejection as I did. He suffered the hurt and the loss, but from a different angle. His fear of the Lord withstood his fear of pain. He loved me, but he had a higher obligation than my favor and my approval. I'm sure at times he wondered if he was doing the right thing. There must of been times when he felt like his prayers were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back at his feet.

At times I'm sure he considered lowering his standards. It would have made things so much easier than wrestling with the power of an independent, strong-willed child. These considerations may have come, but he never gave in to them. He stood firm and prayed harder.

The "prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16 KJV). Many times he cried out to the Lord in anguish and in frustration. "What have I done wrong?" My father has a wonderful ministry to God in prayer. I think I had something to do with the character God worked in him during those days. Before he ever prayed for cities and nations he was on his face praying for me.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). That verse was a promise that he would hold on to. "Your sons and daughters will prophesy" was another promise he stood upon (Joel 2:28). He had given me to the Lord, set a godly standard and held God to His word.

At the same time, I was wrestling with my salvation. My desire to be accepted by my non-Christian friends at school warred against my desire to be with the Lord. James speaks of a double-minded person being unstable in all of their ways (James 1:8). I was completely unstable. I walked on a line between Heaven and hell. I wanted the best of both worlds and was satisfied in neither.

Although I had been brought up in the church, the world had taken its toll on me. My eyes had been blinded to the sin in my own life, further separating me from God and parents. It was so hard for me to see my way out.

When a child is brought up in a Christian home, regardless of what may happen, there is a seed that has been planted in their heart that continues to grow. It's an amazing seed because it can grow in the dark without water; it can even bloom in adversity. The reason we can never outrun God is because He is that seed growing within us. Once you have tasted the presence of the Lord, nothing satisfies you like He can. Sometimes those who seem to be running the hardest from God are doing so because He is so close to them.

On the outside my witness was weak and I was in bondage to my unsaved friends. But inside my heart cried for oneness with the Lord. I hated my double-mindedness as much as my father did. My whole life I wanted strong Christian friends to save the world with me. I wanted the support, I just never had it. I did the best I could, but I lost my sensitivity to sin, and the more I was with non-Christian people the more deceived I became.

Paul warns us to not be deceived: "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousnes?" (2 Cor. 6:14). I didn't realize the impact my unsaved friends had on me. The more I was with them the more I conformed to them. When I look back, I know, unless my parents had been praying for me, I would have been on my way to hell.

Sin has a way of moving in and taking control. But "love is as strong as death" and "many waters cannot quench love" (Song of Sol. 8:6,7); "love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). And prayer is the highest power through which love is released. I had to relearn how to love. My love had become completely self-centered and conditional. I had failed to realize that my father and my Lord loved me unconditionally. I had only to try. I had only to bridge the communication gap to understand that God had loved me before I was even aware of His standards. And my dad loved me for me alone, not for something I had to become.

My relationship with my father is wonderful, and that's the truth. God has proven faithful in the working of both our lives. The Lord has bridged the gap and filled it with love. It took me leaving my environment and being planted with Christian people who faithfully loved me. It also took my will to change, but it did happen.

Listen, please don't give up on your teenagers. Don't sacrifice God's standards of righteousness to appeal to their carnal nature. They can't respect you for it and God won't honor it. Your children were not consecrated to Satan; they were dedicated to the Lord. He has had His hand on them and He will not forget them. He has heard your prayers and He is faithful to your cries. He is your God.

Prayer works. I'm living proof of it. I look back now and see how many times nothing but the miraculous dedication of loving parents took me out of hopeless situations. The Lord will not forsake His children. He will not turn His back on them. We are never too far from His reach. Believe the promises of the Lord. He is not a liar. He honors a steadfast heart. Hold on. Your children will come back to the Lord.
 

 

For Dreams to Come True
By Francis Frangipane
 

Just because we walk and talk does not mean we are truly awake. Zechariah was not sleeping when an angel roused him "as a man who is awakened from his sleep" (Zech. 4:1). Perhaps we too need to be shaken from our slumber to possess the promises of God!

Amazingly, in spite of all the signs, wonders, and warnings announcing that we are truly in the last days, Jesus said there will also be a mysterious drowsiness that we must discern and overcome. Indeed, immediately after highlighting the various evidences of the end (Matt. 24), He compares the church to virgins who "all got drowsy and began to sleep" (Matt. 25:5).

Virgins sleeping at the end of the age? It seems incomprehensible with the coming "wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below" (Acts 2:19), not to mention the powerful, worldwide herald of the gospel of God's kingdom. Yet this phenomenon of spiritual slumber, of losing our God-seeking hunger, is something we must guard against.

When this slumbering spirit approaches, it first dulls our perception. Soon, our zeal for the things of God diminishes. We still love the Lord, of course, but our vision sits in the back seat as other less important aspects of life set the direction for our lives.

Indeed, from the beginning, the voice of Satan has had this seductive, lulling effect on mankind. Eve's excuse for disobedience? "The serpent hath caused me to forget" (Gen. 3:13 Young's Literal Translation).

This sense of spiritual forgetfulness, of drowsiness, is the cloud of blindness that we each must discern and overcome. It was in regard to this that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through the following dream:

There was a temple standing in an open field. My view of the temple was from its side, about 200 yards away. I could not see its front, yet it must have been completely open because great light flashed out from the inside; it pulsed like lightning yet was solid like sunlight. The block of light coursed straight out, and I knew this light was the glory of God.

The temple was so close, just across the field, that I knew with just a little effort I could enter the glory of God. His holy presence was clearly within my reach. There were others also in the dream who were directly in front of me, people I recognized from church. Each one seemed busy. And while the temple and its light were visible and readily accessible to all, every head was bent downward and turned away from the light; each was occupied with other things.

I heard one person say, "I have to do laundry." Another said, "I have to go to work." I could see people reading newspapers, watching televisions, and eating. I was sure everyone could see the light if they wanted to – even more sure that we all knew His glory was near.

There were even a few people reading the Bible and praying, but everyone maintained the downward thrust of their gaze; they all had a mental barrier of some kind between them and the place of God's presence. No one, in fact, seemed capable of standing up, turning, and steadfastly walking into the very near glory of God.

As I watched, suddenly my wife lifted her head and beheld the temple in the field. She stood and walked without pausing toward the open front. As she drew closer to the light, a garment of glory formed and thickened around her; the closer she went, the more dense the light surrounding her became. Finally, she stepped in front of the temple, turned, and stood in full view of the blazing glory of God. Then she entered the temple.

Oh! How jealous I felt. My wife had entered the glory of God before me! At the same time I realized that there was nothing stopping me from approaching God's presence – nothing except the multitude of things to do and responsibilities that, in truth, ruled my life more than the voice of God.

Pushing the weight of these pressures from me, I determined to rise and enter the temple myself. But, to my great regret, in my dream as I rose up, I suddenly woke up! The longing and disappointment within me seemed unbearable. I had been so close to entering God's presence. How I wanted to enter the temple and be swallowed up in His glory!

I cried, "Lord, why did You let me wake up?"

Immediately, the word of the Lord responded. He said, "I will not have My servant's life fulfilled by a dream. If you want your dream to come true, you have to wake up."

Breaking Passivity; Setting Priorities
Beloved, today God is awakening us to the reality of His presence. The promises the Lord gives us in the Scriptures must become more to us than dream-like realities reserved only for the hereafter. Moses frequented the glory of God. Israel's seventy elders ate and drank in God's resplendent glory (Exod. 24:9-11). Jesus unveiled God's glory to His key disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration! Paul says that beholding the glory of the Lord is the very means of our transformation (2 Cor. 3:18).

For this reason the Scripture says, "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Eph. 5:14). If we truly want Christ to "shine" upon us, we must arise from the distractions that entomb us in lethargy and spiritual drowsiness.

Right at this moment, the presence of the living God is near enough to hear the whisper of our hearts. But if we want our dream of standing in the presence of God to come true, we must wake up.

Awaken my heart, Lord. Open my eyes to all that You are and everything we can be together. Lead me to Your presence and show me how to truly keep You first in my life. Show me what will have lasting significance. I want all of You, and I want to experience Your glory!
 

The Gift of Discernment
 

If we will move in true discernment, our view of life must be purged of human thoughts and reactions. We must perceive life through the eyes of Christ.

To Discern, You Cannot Judge
We will never possess true discernment until we crucify our instincts to judge. Realistically, this can take months or even years of uprooting old thought-systems that have not been planted in the divine soil of faith and love for people. To appropriate the discernment that is in the "mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16), we must first find the heart of Christ. The heart and love of Jesus is summed up in His own words: "I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47).

Spiritual discernment is the grace to see into the unseen. It is a gift of the Spirit to perceive the realm of the spirit. Its purpose is to understand the nature of that which is veiled. However, the first veil that must be removed is the veil over our own hearts. For the capacity to see into that which is in another's heart comes from Christ revealing that which is in our own hearts. Before He reveals the sin of another, Jesus demands we grasp our own deep need of His mercy. Thus, out of the grace that we have received, we can compassionately minister grace to others. We will know thoroughly that the true gift of discernment is not a faculty of our minds.

Christ's goal is to save, not judge. We are called to navigate the narrow and well-hidden path into the true nature of men's needs. If we would truly help men, we must remember, we are following a Lamb.

This foundation must be laid correctly, for in order to discern, you cannot react. To perceive, you must make yourself blind to what seems apparent. People may react to you, but you cannot react to them. You must always remain forgiving in nature, for the demons you cast out will challenge you, masquerading as the very voice of the person you seek to deliver. You must discern the difference between the oppressing spirit and the person oppressed.

Thus, Jesus prepared His disciples to be proactive in their forgiveness. Using Himself as their example, He taught, "Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him" (Luke 12:10). Jesus prepared His heart to forgive men before they ever sinned against Him. He knew His mission was to die for men, not condemn them.

Likewise, we are called to His mission as well. In His prayer to the Father, Jesus said, "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them" (John 17:18). We are called to die that others may live. Therefore, we must realize that before our perception develops, our love must mature until our normal attitude is one of forgiveness. Should God reveal to us the hearts of men and then call us to release them from captivity, we cannot react to what they say. As our perception becomes more like Christ Himself and the secrets of men's hearts are revealed to us, we cannot even react to what they think.

If we do not move in divine forgiveness, we will walk in much deception. We will presume we have discernment when, in truth, we are seeing through the veil of a critical spirit. We must know our weaknesses, for if we are blind to our sins, what we assume we discern in men will merely be the reflection of ourselves. Indeed, if we do not move in love, we will actually become a menace to the body of Christ.

This is exactly what Jesus taught when He said:

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ---Matthew 7:1-5

Repentance is the removal of the "logs" within our vision; it is the true beginning of seeing clearly. There are many who suppose they are receiving the Lord's discernment concerning one thing or another. Perhaps in some things they are; only God knows. But many are simply judging others and calling it discernment. Jesus commanded us to judge not. The same eternal hand that wrote the Law on stones in the old covenant is writing the law of the kingdom on tablets of flesh today. This word to "not judge" (by "outer appearance") is just as immutable as His Ten Commandments. It is still God speaking.

The Goal is To See Clearly
The judgmental carnal mind always sees the image of itself in others. Without realizing it is seeing itself, it assumes it is perceiving others. Jesus refers to the person who judges as a "hypocrite." The Lord is not saying we should totally stop thinking about people. He wants us to be able to help one another. The emphasis in Jesus' command to "not judge" is summarized in His concluding remark: "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." The way we help is not by judging but by seeing clearly. And we do not see clearly until we have been through deep and thorough repentance, until the instinct to judge after the flesh is uprooted.

We have seen that Jesus paralleled speaking to people about their sins with taking specks out of their eyes. The eye is the most tender, most sensitive part of the human body. How do you take a speck out of someone's eye? Very carefully! First, you must win their trust. This means consistently demonstrating an attitude that does not judge, one that will not instinctively condemn. To help others, we must see clearly.

If you seek to have a heart that does not condemn, you must truly crucify your instinct to judge. Then you will have laid a true foundation for the gift of discernment, for you will have prepared your heart to receive the dreams, visions and insights from God. You will be unstained by human bias and corruption.

The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' best selling book, The Three Battlegrounds

With the Glance of Your Eyes
"Who is this that grows like the dawn, as beautiful as the full moon, as pure as the sun, as awesome as an army with banners?" ---Song of Sol. 6:10

In spite of all the controversy and strife in our world, regardless of the clashing opinions in today's religious wars, the focus of Christ still remains upon His bride. It is our quest to fix our gaze upon Him.

Most of us sincerely love the Lord and are thankful for all He has done. However, too many are more comfortable celebrating what Jesus has done than accepting who He desires to be to us. We sing of His victories and teach of His mercies, yet rarely do we quiet our hearts and surrender to His presence. We want Him near enough to protect us but not so close that our consciousness is captured by His presence.

As awesome and liberating as it is to know what Jesus has done for us, until we actually surrender ourselves to Him, our religion will be hardly more than a "history lesson." Religion is not enough. It satisfies neither us nor Christ. Jesus wants to also know us.

You say, But He does know us! In His omniscience, He knows everything.

Yes, but in His love He seeks to know us as His bride living in unbroken union with Him. Because He purchased us with His blood, He has the right to our souls, our secrets, and our dreams. He wants the person we are when no one else is looking. Yet, He will not force Himself upon us. This is not the way of love.

In truth, we love because He first loved us. We become committed to Him because of His commitment to us. This inter-penetration of our lives with Christ's - this oneness born of love - is the only destiny for the church for which Christ is content. At the end of the age, nothing short of oneness with Christ will sustain us.

God is Love
I know the fear of the Lord and that it is the beginning of true knowledge. I delight in the fear of the Lord. Yet, like the apostle John, I have too have "come to know and have believed the love which God has for us" (1 John 4:16). God is love. Let us consider that the apostle who fell before Jesus as a dead man on the Isle of Pathos later wrote, "There is no fear in love" (1 John 4:18).

The Lord knows our holy fear is a strong deterrent from sin as well as a powerful ally in walking uprightly. Yet, to draw near to Him we must know more than the fear of God; we must believe in "the love which God has for us." It is this perfect love from God that "casts out all fear, because fear involves torment" (v. 18). It is this love alone that can bring the bride of Christ into her destiny.

The Heart of God
You may be reading this article and the thought of seeking God, of drawing nearer to Christ, may have triggered an initiative to do so. Yet, when the thought first awakened within you, urging you to enter His presence, something also quickened in the heart of Christ. He says,

"You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes" (Song of Sol. 4:9).

Your glance, even if it was no more than the briefest anticipation of being with Him, made His heart beat faster. The King James Version reads, "Thou hast ravished my heart." This is how the heart of Christ responds
to our desire to be with Him.

Jesus is not returning simply to destroy wickedness; He is coming for a bride. At the end of the age our task is not simply to prepare for the rapture or the tribulation but to prepare for Christ Himself!

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7).

You see, our preparation is for Christ. The bride isn't wallowing in fear at what is coming upon the world; she is swallowed up in love at who is coming to this world! We are not being prepared for a date, but a marriage! There is nothing more important to Jesus Christ than His bride, the church. For her He died; for her He lives to make intercession.

His love proved itself capable and worthy of winning our full redemption. Our most noble task is to fearlessly surrender to Him whose heart beats faster with the single glance of our eyes.

Lord, I confess, I've been distracted and anxious with my many tasks. Indeed, even my duties on Your behalf have, in a way, taken the place of Your presence. Master, beloved lover of my soul, I repent. I desire to know You, even as You have known me. Lord, I come.


 

The Divine Obsession

There are three basic categories of Christians. The largest group consists of people who, though they try to avoid the darkness in the world, have no hope that the world can be redeemed. Assuming Christ's return is imminent, they retreat into what seems a shelter of apathy concerning the non-Christian world around them. Yet most are not truly apathetic. Their souls, like Lot's, are vexed by the conduct of unprincipled men (2 Pet. 2:7-8). Their compassion, though, is kindled even if it's limited. Rarely do they extend themselves beyond the needs of their immediate family and closest friends. They love the Lord, but they don't know how or what to do to change society or even to positively impact their neighborhoods.

The second group of Christians consists of those who would rather rail at the darkness than adjust to it. Though much smaller in number than the first, they are by no means apathetic; in fact, they appear exactly opposite. They rage at the depravity of the ungodly and protest the audacity of the wicked. They pound the pulpit and the pavement; they are both vocal and visible. Yet their ability to transform their culture is, for the most part, neutralized by their negativity and rage. They are dismissed as judgmental extremists. Most sinners simply cannot endure the harshness of their approach.

Both groups sincerely desire to see our culture transformed. Yet the same problem afflicts them: they are troubled that the world is unchristian, without being troubled that their own hearts are un-Christlike. They do not perceive the priority of God's heart, which is the transformation of the church into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).

World Changers Needed
It is this very passion to be conformed to Christ that separates the third group from the others. Though smallest in number, its members are the most effective. Throughout history, these have been the world changers. These are the individuals who have understood the priority of God. They know that the Father's highest passion is to behold His Son revealed in a believer's soul. As much as they are moved with compassion for the lost, their primary quest is not to touch their neighbors' hearts, but to touch the heart of God. They know if they awaken the Father's pleasure, the power of His Spirit will go before them. God Himself will change the hearts of those around them.

It is my sincere quest in life to be like Jesus in everything. It stuns me to know that if I am truly conformed to Christ, I have the Spirit's promise that I will also awaken the pleasure of Almighty God. Here, in my transformation, is the power to touch cities and redeem cultures, for it takes transformed people to transform nations.

To Be Like Christ
Indeed, it was this hunger for Christlikeness that was the secret of Paul's success. His expressed vision was simply, "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).

Paul's passion was taken up with this one heavenly goal of being conformed to the life and power of Jesus Christ. The apostle's quest was not only to win the world but to know Jesus Christ. The works Paul accomplished - founding churches, writing almost half the New Testament, winning the lost, demonstrating miraculous spiritual gifts, and remaining faithful throughout times of terrible suffering - were all by-products of his passion to know Christ.

Likewise with us, the Father's immediate, primary goal for the church is for us to be like Christ. He rescues us so He can transform us. Some say that the Father's goal is to win the lost. Yet, if this were His highest priority, He would simply bypass the church and save men Himself. Has He not proven, as seen in Paul's conversion, that His abilities to save people are without limit? Did He not change the arrogant heart of King Nebuchadnezzar into a man of meekness who gave glory to God? Who can resist Him who is irresistible? However, instead of revealing His glory, it is His choice to reach to the lost through the agency of transformed people.

This, my friends, is the glorious mystery of our existence: the Almighty has purposed from eternity to create a race of men and women who, though tested in a corrupt and violent world, bear the image and likeness of Christ (Gen. 1:27). Christ calls this heavenly-natured people "the church," His "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV).

The Holy Obsession
To be in love is to be obsessed with one's beloved; to be obsessed is "to think continually about the same thing." In this sense, the Father is obsessed with filling the universe with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Beginning with eternity past, revealing the Firstborn in the womb of time, and continuing with the transformation of the church, the Father desires all creation ultimately to be summed up in Christ. Our goal is to participate in this "summing up" (Eph. 1:10) until all that we are is conformed to Christ.

Now, if the Father is obsessed with His Son, let us also surrender not only to God's will but also to His obsession. Indeed, Jesus prayed that the very love with which the Father loved the Son would be in His disciples (John 17:26). We can receive and be flooded with the very same quality of love that the Father has for His Son. We can know the divine obsession.

Therefore, let us ponder and then pursue what it means to be Christ-like. Let us give ourselves to the divine obsession of God: to see creation, starting with ourselves, summed up in Christ. For it is here, in the transformation of our lives, that we discover and fulfill the wondrous obsession of God: the unveiling of His Son in the earth. It is here, at the threshold of Christ in us, that we discover the power one life surrendered to Christ has upon the heart of God.

Father, let my heart become as obsessed with Your Son as You are. Let the fullness of my absorption with Him displace all other pursuits until, at the mere glimpse of Jesus, my whole being is flooded with the pleasure You Yourself feel.

Standing Behind Our Wall

The sense of distance we often feel between Christ and ourselves is an illusion. As we enter the days prior to Christ's Second Coming, the Lord shall begin to remove that falsehood. Indeed, He promises, "In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (John 14:20).

The Scriptures tell us that Christ is the vine, we are the branches; He is the head, we are His body; He is the Lord and we are His temple. From start to finish, the Bible declares the Lord not only has a dwelling in Heaven, but that He also abides perpetually in redemptive union with His people. The ever-present focus of His activity is to guide us into oneness with Himself.

Thus, for all that the Holy Spirit has come to establish in our lives, whether through gifts, virtue or power, His highest purpose is to lead us into the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit labors ceaselessly to establish intimacy between ourselves and the Lord Jesus. Someone once said that intimacy means "into-me-see." Intimacy means secrets shared. The Father sees us in secret; He establishes within us the “secret place of [His] presence” (Ps. 31:20), where those who fear Him can always find Him (Ps. 27:5).

This union with Christ lifts us higher to a personal, rather than merely academic, relationship with God’s Word. We hear the Shepherd's voice speaking to our spirits, bringing comfort, correction and direction (John 10:27). Not only are we privileged to know Christ's teachings, but as we grow, we also discern the tone of His voice in His instruction. This is heart-to-heart intimacy.

Listen to His wonderful promise:

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15).

Jesus says, "I know My own, and My own know Me." How intimate is this relationship? Scripturally, the union between Christ and our hearts is of the same quality as His union with the Father. He says it is "even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father."

Finding Our Beloved
Yet, the sense of distance between Jesus Christ and ourselves persists. You may have prayed, Lord, You said You are with us forever but I feel isolated from You. If Christ is within us, how can we find the living flame of His presence?

In the Song of Solomon, this quest to find the secret place of His presence is given wonderful expression. The bride says, "Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag" (Song of Sol. 2:8-9).

This is our Lord, full of vitality! He is "climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills." To see Him on mountains, though, is to behold Him from afar. He remains distant. How do we live in a moment-by-moment sense of His indwelling presence? We still ask, "Where are You, Lord, within me?"

The bride continues,

"Behold, he is standing behind our wall, he is looking through the windows, he is peering through the lattice" (Song of Sol. 2:9).

Yes, Christ dwells within us, but He is standing behind our walls. Indeed, there are many “walls” between us and the Savior, and all of them are consequences of unrenewed minds and hardened hearts. We have barricaded ourselves behind fears and carnal attitudes; we are held hostage by sin and worldly distractions.

Yet these barriers can be eliminated. To the degree they are removed, we possess functional oneness with Christ; we experience true spiritual advancement.

Removing The Walls
Even now, let us pursue the removal of these barriers.

Imagine that, even as you are reading, the Lord Himself has quietly entered a nearby room. You look, and suddenly the room is vibrant and alive; it is pulsing with waves of light. Instantly, your spiritual senses are flooded with fear and the awareness of God’s holiness; living, probing light actually enters you and descends into your heart, illuminating the true condition of your soul. My question: Knowing that Jesus Christ is in the room, would you enter?

If you could not bring yourself to move toward the room, what would be your reason? If it is because you feel you have failed the Lord too many times, then shame has become a "wall" between you and Christ. If fear keeps you distant, then fear is the barrier between God and you; if an unrepentant heart is keeping you from intimacy with Christ, then heart hardness is your cause of isolation.

Remember, the pure in heart see God (Matt. 5:8). If we repent of our wrong attitudes and sins; if, instead of shame and fear, we clothe ourselves with the garments of praise and salvation, the barriers between ourselves and the Lord shall be removed (Ps. 34:3-5).

But let me ask you a second question: How would you enter Christ's presence?

It is my opinion that we would not pick up tambourines and dance into His glory. No. When the greatest apostles and prophets beheld Him, His presence caused each to fall face down as a dead man. For me, it would be with great trembling that I would approach the room of His presence. I would inch my way closer.

How can we remove the sense of distance between Christ and ourselves? In the same way we would repent of sin and shame before entering the room, let us turn our gaze toward His living glory. In trembling obedience, let us enter the fire of His presence for, in truth, He is closer than the room next door. He is, even now, standing behind our wall.

Lord Jesus, I remove the wall created by my fears, sin, and shame. Master, with all my heart I desire to enter Your glory, to stand in Your presence and love You. Receive me now as I bow before Your glory.

 

Purity of Heart: Open Vision
By Francis Frangipane


Spiritual perception is based upon purity of heart. What we see in life and how we see it is rooted in the soil of our inner thought life. If we would experience clear and open vision concerning the kingdom of God, a pure heart is most essential.

Revelation Perception At the Throne of God
In the book of Revelation there is a marvel: ". . . in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind . . . around and within" (Rev. 4:6, 8). Our purpose here is not to spend ourselves in speculations about these creatures. Our goal is to possess that purity of heart that comes from living in the awareness of God. We're seeking the open vision that is manifested at His throne.

Though these "living creatures" may represent many things, one thing is fairly certain: John was not seeing a nightmarish vision of six-winged beasts with dozens of eyes covering their bodies. What John saw was a symbol of a deeper truth. The many "eyes" represent the open, all-inclusive vision that is the result of being in God's presence.

Let it be known, where the Lord is, there also is His throne. If you have had a meeting with the Lord, it is because your spirit is at His throne. When you were spiritually reborn, you were born again from above (John 3:3 Amplified). At this very moment, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, your spirit is "seated" with Christ upon His throne in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Where His presence is, there also is open vision.

These "living creatures" are symbols of the life one finds as he abides in God's presence. In Him our eyes can think: they see with discernment and understanding. The mind of Christ fuses with our vision, revealing what was impossible to be seen by the narrowness of our perception; we see "in front and behind." Our vision also comes from "the center . . . [of] the throne." Not only do we see distant spiritual realities, but we are close enough to penetrate and search the depths of God Himself (1 Cor. 2:10).

Yet, at the same time, being near to God also gives us "eyes . . . within," eyes which monitor the motives that guide self, inner eyes which stand guard against sin. The more our vision opens up, the greater we see God in His holiness. The slightest sin in our lives becomes significant; we are compelled to live pure before Him.

The "four creatures" at the throne of God do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty" (Rev. 4:8). Day and night, God is holy. When our spiritual eyes are open, the utterances of our mouths are all, "Holy, holy, holy."

A True Israelite Has Spiritual Perception
Jesus spoke concerning Nathanael, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (John 1:47). What kind of man was this young disciple, that Jesus should praise him? There was no guile, no deceit in this young man's heart. Oh, how we should desire this purity for ourselves! Nathanael had "eyes . . . within." He kept himself free from self-deception. When you cleave to the truth inwardly, you will perceive the truth outwardly. Nathanael looked at Jesus and declared, "You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel" (v. 49).

Jesus said to Nathanael, "You will see greater things than these . . . I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (vv. 50-51). Because of Nathanael's honest heart, Jesus knew open vision would be inevitable. Open vision is the consequence of a pure heart. To those who fight against sin, who hate falsehood, who diligently pursue walking in holiness, your struggle is a preparation for seeing God. You shall see the heavens opened.

Because of our dullness of heart, we have come to expect spiritual blindness as an unfortunate condition of this world. The truth is, in the Old Testament one of God's judgments against sin was that the heavens became "bronze" (Deut. 28:23). Most Christians similarly see the heavens closed. Few see with open vision either into the heavenly realms or into their own hearts. The heavens are always "bronze" to a hardened heart. But the Lord promised, "You shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God"!

God wants us to have true spiritual vision. One sign that the Holy Spirit is involved in a church is that, "young men . . . see visions, and your old men . . . dream dreams" (Acts 2:17). There is continuity between God's kingdom in Heaven and His kingdom on earth.

Oh, there are those who say the supernatural was strictly limited to the first century, that today we "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). Yes, we often do take steps of faith, where we walk without prior knowledge of what each step involves. But we do perceive Him who is with us! Ours is not a blind trust; it is a proven, seeing trust! Walking by faith and having spiritual vision is not an either/or situation. Just moments before Paul stated he walked by faith, he wrote, “We look . . . at the things which are not seen . . . things which are . . . eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). Paul had revelation perception of the spirit realm. He saw the eternal spiritual body that was prepared and waiting for him in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1, 4)! He knew how "a man . . . was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words" (2 Cor. 12:3-4).

We could continue concerning Paul's spiritual perception, but the fact is, he authored one-third of the New Testament out of his open vision of Christ. How did he see the things he saw? Just after he declared "with unveiled face [we behold] . . . the glory of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18), he wrote, "But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame" (2 Cor. 4:2). Later he continued, “Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). Out of a purified heart, out of his perfected holiness, came open vision of the glory of God.

Remember, we are not seeking experiences, we are seeking a pure heart. We are not running after visions; we want holiness. Even as the supernatural realm was an expected phenomenon in the primitive church, so also was purity the expected condition in their hearts. Therefore, do not be as the foolish ones who seek visions. You must seek sanctification, and when you are ready, if God wills, He shall speak to you in supernatural ways (Acts 2:17-18). Do not seek to conjure up an "experience" with Jesus; seek to have a clean heart, allowing Christ to examine and purge you daily. And as He washes you with His Word and chastens you with His holiness, He will draw you into His presence. He will open your eyes to "things without and things within."

Because He First Loved Us
By Francis Frangipane
 

Do you love Jesus Christ? Isn’t there a part of your heart that not only accepts the truth of Christ's death for you but, in response, actually loves Him for the price He paid? Don’t you love His Word, even when it hurts; and don't you appreciate the many times He's rescued you, even from battles caused by your own sin?

For too many people, however, knowing Jesus is superficial; it goes no deeper than agreeing to the historical fact of His existence. Loving Him is a distant, almost unnatural reality for them. Some even take His name in vain or anger.

For you, however, the very sound of His name, Jesus, calms the troubling in your heart. You often cry at movies that reverentially mention His name. Even if you fall short of your own spiritual aspirations, still you love His righteousness.

The fact that you possess love for Christ, even if your love is imperfect, proves something vital about you. The very existence of your love has been cultivated and awakened by God’s love for you. The living Christ has actually approached you. You love Him because He has revealed Himself to you. As it is written, "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Christ, Our Source of Unity
Today, Christians argue about doctrines and divide over perceptions of end-time events. Yet, let us look at the deeper issue: Do we each love Jesus Christ? If so, our love for Him is the result of His love for us. Even if we disagree with one another on minor doctrines we should treat each other with reverence, for Christ has personally loved us.

You see, the proof that we truly know Jesus Christ is not measured by the degrees we post on a wall but by the degree of love for Him that burns in our hearts.

Do you not love Him? Your love is a response to the relentless warmth of God’s love for you, and His love has proven itself irresistible. He says, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). Again, He says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). Even our coming to Him is a product of His love for us.

When I say, "I love You, Jesus," it is because at some point long before I knew Him, before I could discern His voice or recognize His influence in my life, a power born of His love was drawing me to Him. Yes, I know I am not worthy, but still Christ loved me. True, I have no righteousness of my own, but I imagine there was a moment in Heaven when the Son turned to the heavenly Father and said, "I love Francis. I will bring him to Myself, show him My ways, and become the strength of his life."

Behold How He Loves Us
Our capacity to actually dwell in Christ’s presence is based upon knowing the true nature of God. If we see Him as a loving Father, we will draw near; if He seems to be a harsh judge, we will withdraw. Indeed, everything that defines us is influenced by our perception of God.

If we do not believe God cares about us, we will be overly focused on caring for ourselves. If we feel insignificant or ignored by Him, we will exhaust ourselves seeking significance from others. Once we accept the profound truth that God loves us, that He desires we draw near to Him, a door opens before us into His heart. Here, in the shelter of the Most High, we can find rest and renewed power for our souls.

Our Lord is not distant from us, for He is actually "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb. 4:15 KJV). He feels the pain of what we experience on earth. He participates in the life we live, for "in Him we live, and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28 KJV). He is not removed from our need; we are His body.

The truth is, we are never alone in our battles. However, if we believe we are alone - if we accept the lie that God does not care - our darkened thinking will isolate us from the eternal commitment of our heavenly Father. Beloved, even in our times of sin or rebellion, the heart of God is not far. Consider the Lord’s relationship with Israel. Though Israel had sinned and was suffering oppressive consequences, we read that, when the Lord "could bear the misery of Israel no longer," He raised up deliverers (Judg. 10:16; Neh. 9:27). God wasn’t distant; He was with them, actually bearing them and their misery!

At Lazarus’ tomb, the Bible tells us that Jesus wept. Of course, Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus; He knew it six days before He raised Lazarus from death. He wept because those He loved were weeping. The Spirit of God feels our heartache. He is with us in our conflicts and fears. At the tomb of Lazarus, some suggest that Christ’s weeping was actually over the unbelief of His disciples. I think not. When the Lord wept over Lazarus, those who saw Christ saw a man touched by the sorrows of others, and they marveled, "See how He loved him!" (John 11:36).

Our healing comes when we behold how He loves us. We are raised from the dead when He comes to the tomb of our spiritual failures and pain (Eph. 2:4-5). He calls us out of death by name.

You see, we must accept the personalization of God’s love. He gave His Son for my sins, He enlivens His Word for my guidance, and His Spirit is with me as my helper. If the Almighty is for me, who can be against me?

Never wonder if God loves you. Rather, look at your heart. Do you love Him? If so, your love for Him is proof of His love for you. We love because He first loved us.

Dear friend, with wide-eyed wonder, let us behold how He loves us, and be healed of our aloneness.

Heavenly Father, help us to pause, to absorb into our consciousness the impact of Your purposed love for us. Let this wondrous love influence everything we think and all that we do and become: I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. Your banner over me is love. Let my life be flavored by Your unfailing mercy until, with all my heart, I love You, even as You have loved me.

Unrelenting Love
By Francis Frangipane
 

We simply must have more of Jesus. In the face of increasing wickedness in the world, human ideas have fallen short. Those who understand the hour are seeking God. Possessing more of Christ Himself is our only strategy and hope.

Yet, to seek God is to embark on a journey that will include obstacles and spiritual enemies along the way. We must not give ourselves reasons or excuses to fail.

As a pattern, therefore, we will look at the Song of Solomon 3:1-4. Here we find a bride and bridegroom who both are intolerant of the distance between them. The bride in the passage symbolizes the church in her deepest longings for Jesus; the bridegroom represents the Lord.

The bride: "On my bed night after night I sought him whom my soul loves."

On the highest level, seeking God is an action born of love. It is not a matter only of discipline, it is first an awakening of desire. It is not a question of sacrifice but of the passions stirred by unrelenting love. The bride's ability to sleep is gone because her beloved is gone. She must seek him, for such is the nature of love.

Some will say, "But I already know the Lord. I have found Him." In reality, it was He who found us. Our salvation rests securely upon this truth. But while many rest upon Christ having found them, they have little interest in possessing a greater relationship with Him, nor do they realize His desire for us. The bride loves because Christ first loved her (1 John 4:19). She arises now to find Him. In the very love that He inspired, she pursues her beloved.

The apostle Paul wrote, "As many as are perfect, have this attitude" (Phil. 3:15). To seek and know Christ is the attitude of the mature; it is the singular obsession of Christ's bride.

In this maturing process, there will come a point when your love for God will take ascendancy over mere intellectual or doctrinal understanding.
The bride of Christ cannot contain her longing or patronize her aching heart; she cannot simply adjust to feeling empty. There is simply no reconciling the passion of her soul with the absence of her beloved.

Note also that there is an unfolding dimension to seeking the Lord. Genuine love for God is an ever-increasing hunger. As one would die without food, so we feel we will die without Him. The bride says, "Night after night I sought him." She has come to love the Lord with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her mind (Matt. 22:37). Her love has become all-consuming; to accept his absence is impossible.

Overcoming Resistance
Note: the Lord will allow obstacles and delays to deepen and test the character of our love. Thus, the bride acknowledges, "I sought him whom my soul loves. I sought him but did not find him."

Her first attempts at seeking her beloved proved fruitless, yet she does not terminate her quest. Augustine said it well: "God is not on the surface." There is indeed a "secret place of the Most High." Although hidden, it can be found and accessed.

One common deterrent, ironically, is the benevolent effect that comes with drawing nearer to the Lord. Inevitably, the blessings of an answered prayer or a new understanding of Scripture will greet us on our way to God, but we must guard against these signposts becoming our final destination. We must not be content with edification or comfort, only encouraged.

Let us also understand, we will not find His fullness by seeking Him merely in convenient times and comfortable places. Rather, our quest is a determined and continual pilgrimage. It will not end until He is disclosed to us (Phil. 3:12). We are confident, though, for He has promised that in the day we seek Him with our whole heart, we shall find Him (Jer. 29:13). He assures us, "And I will be found by you" (v. 14).

Christ Our Life
The bride continues, "I must arise now and go about the city; in the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves."

This inexorable woman has risen from the security of her own bed. She has left the comfort of her warm house and now is seeking her beloved in the streets and in the squares. Pastors, be aware: Not all who wander from church to church are uncommitted or superficial Christians. A significant number are honestly searching for Christ. They are asking, "Have you seen Him?"

Not only is the bride in the streets and squares of Christianity; she is facing the force and the power of darkness as well. Yet nothing stops her - not her own need of sleep or her fear of the night. The love of Christ compels her.

However, again she is disappointed: "I sought him but did not find him."

We might think that after so great an effort - and in the face of the seeming reluctance of Heaven to answer her cry - she would feel justified to return home. But she does not. We too must guard against becoming satisfied with our opinion of ourselves: "We prayed; we waited; we searched for God. We did more than other men." This false reward fills the soul with self-exaltation. If we truly want to find Him, we must stay empty and hungry for God alone.

"The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, and I said, ‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?'"

From her bed, to the streets, and now to the watchmen, the bride is seeking her lover. Notice that "the watchmen" found her. The watchmen are the modern-day prophetic ministries. Their highest calling is to find the searching bride and direct her to Jesus. While many may come to the seers for a word of encouragement or revelation, the bride is looking for Jesus. Her singleness of purpose is undistracted; she asks the watchmen, "Have you seen Him?"

"Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves." This is the greatest motivation for seeking the Lord: The time will come when you find Him! You will pass your tests and overcome the obstacles; you will be secure in the embrace of Christ.

She says, "I held on to him and would not let him go."

I am reminded of Mary at the empty tomb of Christ (John 20:11-18). The apostles came, looked in the cave, and went away astounded. But Mary lingered, weeping. The death of Christ was horrible, but the empty tomb was unbearable. She had to find Him whom her soul loved!

The Scripture says that Jesus Himself came to her, but in her sorrow she did not recognize Him. He said, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" It is interesting that Jesus connected Mary's inconsolable weeping with her seeking. Blinded by her tears, she supposed He was the gardener.

"Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away" (v. 15).

"Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!' She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!' (which means, Teacher)" (v. 16).

Immediately Mary burst from her kneeling position to embrace Christ; she held Him so tightly that, like the bride, she too could say, "I held on to him and would not let him go." I see Jesus smiling, and with great love He gently pushed her back, saying, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father" (v. 17).

This is a most astounding event. It is a marvel, I admit, that is beyond comprehension. In the mysterious process of the Lord's resurrection - during an interlude between the grave and some stage of His ascension - Christ interrupted His triumphant ascent to appear to Mary. Jesus was drawn - no, compelled - toward Mary's weeping!

I am staggered by this event. Jesus demonstrated that love is the highest, most powerful law of His kingdom. It brings His living presence into the hearts of those who seek Him.

You Have Made His Heart Beat Faster
One last thought, and it is a profound reality: Where was the Bridegroom during the time when the bride was searching? Was He aloof, indifferent, sitting detached in Heaven? No, from the beginning, He had been watching, actually longing, for His bride to find Him.

He now speaks:

"You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes." ---Song of Solomon 4:9

You are His bride. He is returning from Heaven for you! The single glance of your eyes toward Him makes His heart beat faster. Such love is inconceivable. He sees your repentance from sin as your preparation for Him - His bride making herself ready. He beholds you kneeling, weeping at your bedside. He shares your painful longing. He has been watching. And the bridegroom says, "The glance of your eyes has made my heart beat faster."

The Lord has a promise for His bride. There is coming a fresh baptism of love that will surpass all our knowledge of Him. We will know the height and depth, the length and the breadth of His love. While yet here on earth, we will be filled with His fullness. (See Eph. 3:18-19 Amplified.)

We have many tasks, even responsibilities, which have come from Heaven. However, the greatest need of our soul is to be with Jesus. The areas of sin in our lives exist simply because we have lived too far from Him. Let us commit our hearts to seeking our God. Let us find Him whom our soul loves and bring Him back to the house of the Lord!

Lord, even now we lift our eyes toward You. Jesus, grace and truth are realized in You. Grant us grace that the truth of this message will change our lives and compel us in unrelenting love to You! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Unoffendable
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).

God has a new heart for us that cannot be offended, an "unoffendable" heart. Beloved, possessing an unoffendable heart is not an option or a luxury; it's not a little thing. An offended heart is in danger of becoming a "heart of stone."

Consider: Jesus warns that, as we near the end of the age, a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith. Listen carefully to His warning:

"Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another . . . and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:10-12 KJV).

"Many" will "be offended." The result? The love of "many" will grow cold. My prayer is that we will hear His words with holy fear.

When we allow an offense to remain in our hearts, it causes serious spiritual consequences. In the above verse Jesus named three dangerous results: betrayal, hatred and cold love. When we are offended with someone, even someone we care for, we must go to them. If we do not talk to them, we will begin to talk about them. We betray that relationship, whispering maliciously behind their back to others, exposing their weaknesses and sins. We may mask our betrayal by saying we are just looking for advice or counsel, but when we look back, we see we have spoken negatively to far too many people. Our real goal was not to get spiritual help for ourselves but to seek revenge toward the one who offended us. How is such action not a manifestation of hatred? For an offended soul, cold love, betrayal and hatred are a walk into darkness.

People don't stumble over boulders; they stumble over stones, relatively small things. It may be that the personality of someone in authority bothers us, and soon we are offended. Or, a friend or family member fails to meet our expectations, and we take an offense into our soul. Beloved, if we will "endure to the end," we will have to confront the things that bother us.

When Jesus warns that we need endurance, He is saying that it is easier to begin the race than finish it. Between now and the day you die, there will be major times of offense that you will need to overcome. You might be in such a time right now. Do not minimize the danger of harboring an offense!

No one plans on falling away; no one ever says, "Today, I think I'll try to develop a hardened heart of stone." Such things enter our souls through stealth. It is only naiveté that assumes it couldn't happen to us. I know many people who consistently become offended about one thing or another. Instead of dealing with the offenses, praying about them and turning the issue over to God, they carry the offense in their soul until its weight disables their walk with God. You may be doing fine today, but I guarantee you, tomorrow something will happen that will inevitably disappoint or wound you; some injustice will strike you, demanding you retaliate in the flesh. Will you find more love, and hence, continue your growth toward Christlikeness? Or will you allow that offense to consume your spiritual life?

The Root Of Offense
An offense can strike at our virtues or sins, our values or our pride. It can penetrate and wound any dimension of the soul, both good and evil. I once brought a series of messages about gossip. Most people saw their sin and repented, but a core group of gossips were greatly offended and ultimately left the church. When the Holy Spirit exposes sin in someone's soul, if we refuse the opportunity to repent, we often become offended at the person who brought the teaching. Instead of humbling our hearts, we are outraged at the person who exposed us. Truthfully, most of the time, I have no idea who specifically needs to hear what I'm teaching, but God knows.

Paul told Timothy to "reprove, rebuke, exhort" (see 2 Tim. 4:2). He didn't say, "exhort, exhort, exhort," but exhortation is what we receive in most churches. Certainly, we need to be encouraged, but there are also times, beloved, when we need to be reproved and rebuked. Today, there are preachers who are afraid to preach truth for fear people will react and leave the church. The end result is a church of easily offended people who cannot grow beyond their inability to accept correction.

People don't change by exhortation alone. There are areas in all of us that need to be confronted and disciplined. The pastor who refuses to discipline and correct those in sin is in disobedience to God. He is unable to lead people into any truly transforming changes in their lives; they will not "endure to the end" if they cannot be corrected (see Matt. 24).

We need to become a people who say, "Lord, show me what needs to change in me." I'm talking about growing up. A wise man will receive a rebuke and he will prosper. But a fool rejects his father's discipline (see Prov. 15:5).

Personal Offense
It is often our pride that suffers offense most easily. Pride leads us to expect more than we deserve. Pride is a form of self-worship. God must destroy our pride, and to do so, He will allow offenses to expose what we lack in humility. It is not wrong to expect encouragement for our good works, but we cannot be offended when it doesn't happen in the timing we are expecting.

Years ago when I was a young pastor, I attended a conference where the main leader decided to personally greet each minister and spouse. He greeted the couple on our right and then turned to his staff to ask a question. A moment later he returned, but passed us by and went to the couple on our left. Everyone around us saw we were bypassed. We were embarrassed and offended. But my wife wisely observed that we could allow this thing to hurt us or we could see it as an investment in sensitivity toward other people's feelings. The offense taught us how others feel when they are ignored. Do you see this? You must make that offense become an opportunity to become more Christlike.

The occasions for taking offense are practically endless. Indeed, we are daily given the opportunity to either be offended by something or to possess an unoffendable heart. The Lord's promise is that He's given us a new heart - a soft, entreatable heart that can be filled with His Spirit and abound with His love.

Lord, forgive me for being so easily offended and for carrying offenses. Father, my heart is foolish and weak. Grant me the unoffendable heart of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Possessing the Redeemer's Mind
 

As Christians, we spend too much time battling basic, elementary battles: "Am I truly saved?" "Am I really forgiven?" The fact is, God has so much more for us. He seeks to conform our thought-life to the actual thought-life of Christ. Indeed, the Holy Spirit comes, not just to give us goose bumps and chills, but to restructure our attitudes and perceptions until we think the thoughts of Jesus.

Consider Paul's remarkable insights. He wrote,

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

This revelation is stunning: we have the mind of Christ. God wants us to have Christ's very discernment.

Or consider again what Paul wrote to the Galatians. He said, "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you" (Gal 4:19).

Critics will call the revelation of Christ in us a heresy, as though all we were to have was the name, but not the nature of Jesus Christ.

You see, God's goal is not only to see us saved and go to Heaven, but for Christ to be functionally formed and living through us on earth. We are not just to have a religion about what Jesus did; we are called to possess the very substance of who Jesus is.

Yes, it means we indeed will go to Heaven; but it is more. Through our knowledge of Christ's word and our yieldedness to the Holy Spirit, the actual person of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, gains living access to the needs of man. As His body, we give Him flesh and blood contact with this world. True, we face conflicts, but these difficulties are staged by God so He can showcase His Son through us. Indeed, we face persecution, but it's only so Christ, in the midst of injustice, will reveal how His life overcomes death.

Again, Paul wrote,

"For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11).

Isn't this exactly what you desire, the "life of Jesus . . . manifested in [your] mortal flesh"? Aren't you tired of the cycle of judging people and then, because of pride, being judged by God in return?

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Does that mean we walk on the water or do great signs? Miracles are indeed a part of Christ's life, yet there is something greater than miracles to attain: Our hearts can be filled with the redemptive, creative thought-life of God! (See 1 Cor. 2.)

Lord, deliver us of our fleshly motives! Free us from our human instincts and fallen passions. Grant us, Lord, the motives of Jesus. Teach us to think, not as a prosecutor whose quest is to condemn, but as the Savior whose heart is to redeem.

 

The Virgin Shall Be With Child

(The Virgin Bride Of Christ)

The Bible is a book of reversals. Old things become new, the dead come to life, the lost are found. Even those who were the vilest of sinners are now empowered by grace to become the virgin bride of Jesus Christ.

The Virgin Bride Of Christ
We are called to become a holy bride, the spotless wife of Jesus Christ. But before we become a bride, we must first become a virgin. In the Bible a virgin was not just one who was free from the sins of premarital sex or immoral behavior; a virgin was also one set aside for another. The sense in which the church is to become virginal involves being uncorrupted, pure and undefiled by the world. It implies being untouched by man's ideas, traditions or sinfulness. To reach the goal of spiritual virginity, we must first be perfectly consecrated, wholly set apart for Jesus (2 Cor. 11:2–3).

Like everything in true Christianity, the purity of the church is not that which originates from herself; it is that which is imparted as virtue from Christ. It is true, living virtue, but it is Christ's virtue. Jesus, you will remember, was also a virgin. He had set Himself aside for us.

Indeed, it is with reference to Christ's union with the church, the marriage ceremony of the Son of God and man, that Paul wrote,

For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. —Ephesians 5:31–32

Christ and His church: the two become one flesh! The apostle said, "This mystery is great." Do not presume you understand this just because you can read. This mystery is great. Jesus left His positional relationship and privileges as God's Son and clothed Himself in human flesh, that He might absorb and then resurrect humanity into His own divine stature: the two become one! Jesus will always be the Son of God, but in love He chose to cleave unto His wife, the church. And while He is forever one Spirit with the Father, He is forever married to the church. Indeed, has this not been the eternal purpose of God: to bring the Spirit of His Son into the church, thereby creating man in both the divine image and the divine likeness (Gen. 1:26)?

Scripture calls Jesus Christ the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). He is the first-born of the new creation as Adam was the first-born of the old creation. The first Adam, however, in cleaving unto Eve, fell with her in sin. But Christ, in cleaving unto His church, has redeemed us and raised us up, seating us with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).

The marriage of Adam and Eve, where Eve literally emerged and was born out of Adam's substance, is a prophetic type of the church born out of the actual substance of Christ. Paul tells us that our bodies are the physical members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15; 12:12). We are not simply metaphorically the body of Christ, but spiritually we are "bone of [His] bones, and flesh of [His] flesh" (Gen. 2:23).

This truth is not "New Age" theology; it is not heresy. It is the unalterable Word of God. Christ Himself is in us. To believe otherwise is heresy. The test of Christian orthodoxy, according to Scripture, is in 2 Cor. 13:5:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?

We must recognize this about ourselves: Jesus Christ is in us. Yes, it is heresy to say we are Christ. Yet it is also error to deny He is within us. Paul expressed this mystery when he wrote,

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 who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.     —Galatians 2:20

The Preparation of Christ's Humanity
Christ Himself is in us. However, for Him to come forth through us, we must become a pure virgin. Revival comes as Christ prepares for Himself a people; as He is raised up within them, He draws all men unto Himself. Their Christlikeness is a door through which Jesus Himself enters the world.

"Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body thou hast prepared for Me'" (Heb. 10:5). While descriptive of Christ's first coming, this verse is also applicable of His presence during revival.

Secure this thought in your mind: when the Spirit of Christ comes into the physical world, He must enter through a physical body. As was stated, the people or "body" Christ uses, of necessity, must be holy. They will have been prepared, set apart for Him, beforehand. The purpose of that body is not to offer ritual sacrifices typical of the time and customs of the people. Rather, when Christ enters the world through them, He repeats His eternal purpose: "I have come . . . to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:7).

We must not despise this time of preparation. Jesus Himself lived for thirty years before He was revealed and empowered as the Messiah. Although Jesus was always the Son of God, He "kept increasing in wisdom" (Luke 2:52). He could not learn of the kingdom of God in the rabbinical colleges of His day; neither could any man teach Him the mystery of the miraculous. All this had to come directly from the Father Himself. Jesus was always sinless and obedient, but Hebrews 5:8–9 tells us, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered . . . having been made perfect." The destiny the Father planned for Christ was something Jesus grew into, just as we must.

Hebrews plainly reveals Christ as the pre-existent Creator; He is God from all eternity (Heb. 1:8). Yet, in the unfolding of Christ's earthly life there was a point in time when His Messianic calling was announced from heaven, where it commenced on earth. Until He was baptized by John, Jesus had been in "labor" to bring forth His destiny, "pregnant" with the promise of God within Him.

After the water baptism, while Jesus was praying, the Spirit descended visibly upon Him in power, heaven opened and out thundered the voice of the Father, "Thou art My beloved Son—" (Luke 3:22). And all those promises and dreams, prophecies and visions, the thirty years of learning obedience and becoming acquainted with grief, stood poised in perfect surrender, focused upon this one incredible moment in time "—in Thee I am well-pleased!" (v. 22) Instantly, the power of heaven flowed into the Spirit of Jesus and the ministry of the Messiah was birthed.

The voice of God spoke, not to the crowds, not only for the sake of John the Baptist, but to Jesus. The requirements and days of preparation were fulfilled. The ministry of the Messiah was birthed upon the earth in power.

Mary, A Type of the Church
In another sense, Mary, the mother of Jesus, also was "a body [God] hast prepared" (Heb. 10:5). When Christ first entered our world as a child, it was Mary whom God chose to give Christ birth. Mary's life symbolized the qualities the church must possess to walk in the fullness of Christ. She was humble, considering herself a bondservant of the Lord; she unwaveringly believed the word spoken to her (Luke 1:34–38). And, Mary was a virgin. These traits qualified her to be used by God in carrying, and giving birth to, Christ.

Like Mary, our humble state as the Lord's bondslaves is but a preparation for the coming forth of Christ in our lives. Yes, we have been "chastened" of the Lord. However, the goal of the Lord's chastening is not merely to punish; He seeks to make us chaste: pure and spiritually flawless. Indeed, our purity, our spiritual virginity as the body of Christ, is nothing less than God Himself preparing us, as He did Mary, to "give birth" to the ministry of His Son. Even now, in the spiritual womb of the virgin church, the holy purpose of Christ is growing, awaiting maturity; ready to be born in power in the timing of God!

Embracing the Pains of Birth
We live within a time frame the Bible calls the "period of restoration" (Acts 3:21). Since the Reformation, the truth of Christ has been progressively restored to His church. Since the dark ages of apostasy, every time Christ's presence has been more fully revealed, it is because a "virgin church" has been in labor to bring Him forth. The Holy Spirit impregnates a Martin Luther or a John Wesley, a housewife or a teenager in Bethlehem—a person whom God knows will continually say "yes" to Him—with a vision of the Living God. The vision spreads to others where it is tested with persecutions and refined with fire, but it spreads. Yes, those people are flawed. Truly, not a one of them is perfect. But along the way their vision of God possesses their souls. They become the "woman clothed with the sun," the virgin church who is "in labor and in pain to give birth" (Rev. 12:1–2).

As her hour nears, this virgin church lays aside her many tasks to focus on her one great commission. Through intense prayer and the agonizing of the Holy Spirit, in groanings too deep for words, she embraces her appointed destiny—until the very voice of Christ Himself is heard again through her prayers: "Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God!" Birthed in His Spirit and in His power, fused together through love and suffering, this holy people becomes, as it were, a "body [God] hast prepared."

Even now, hell trembles and the heavens watch in awe. For I say to you, once again the "virgin is with child."

Before Jesus Himself returns, the last virgin church shall become pregnant with the promise of God. Out of her travail the body of Christ shall come forth, raised to the full stature of its Head, the Lord Jesus. Corporately manifested in holiness, power and love, the bride of Christ shall arise clothed in white garments, bright and clean. During this last and greatest move of God, great darkness shall cover the earth. Even as in the judgment of Egypt, it will be a "darkness that can be felt." Yet, in the midst of darkness, the visible, powerful glory of the Lord Jesus shall rise upon the virgin church. His glory shall be seen upon them. Nations shall be drawn to their light, kings to the brightness of their rising. Radiant shall they appear, for their hearts shall possess the beautiful star of the morning. In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, their light shall exult like the dew! (Eph.4:13; Rev.2:26–27; Ex.10:21; Isa.60:1–3; 2 Pet.1:19; Ps.110:1–3)

Beware of the Stronghold of
Cold Love

by Francis Frangipane
 

Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you.

Guard Against Unforgiveness!
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12). A major area of spiritual warfare that has come against the church is the sphere of church relationships. Satan knows that a church divided against itself cannot stand. We may enjoy temporary blessings and seasonal breakthroughs, but to win a citywide war, Jesus is raising up a united, citywide church. An earmark of this corporate, overcoming church will be its commitment to love. Yet, because of the increasing iniquity in the end of this age, true Christian love will be severely assaulted.

There is no spiritual unity, and hence no lasting victory, without love. Love is a passion for oneness. Bitterness, on the other hand, is characterized by a noticeable lack of love. This cold love is a demonic stronghold. In our generation cold love is becoming increasingly more common. It shuts down the power of prayer and disables the flow of healing and outreach. In fact, where there is persistent and hardened unforgiveness in a person or church, the demonic world (known in Matthew 18:34 as "torturers") has unhindered access.

The Scriptures warn that even a little root of bitterness springing up in a person's life can defile many (see Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge. Another's thoughtlessness or cruelty may have wounded us deeply. It is inevitable that, in a world of increasing harshness and cruelty, we will at some point be hurt. But if we fail to react with love and forgiveness, if we retain in our spirit the debt the offender owes, that offense will rob our hearts of their capacity to love. Imperceptibly, we will become a member of the majority of end-time Christians whose love is growing cold.

Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love. To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us. Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies. If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test. Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam. We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love. Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment. Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God's answer for your pain. God gives you a way out: love!

As we embrace God's love and begin to walk in Christlike forgiveness, we are actually pulling down the stronghold of cold love in our lives. Because of this experience, we will soon possess more of the love of Christ than we had previously.

Love Without Commitment Is Not Love
"And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt. 24:10-12).

Allow me to be perfectly clear: there is no such thing as love without commitment. The measure of one's love is found in the depth of his or her commitment to others. How often we have heard people say, "I loved once, but I was hurt." Or, "I was committed to Christian service, but they used me." When someone withdraws his commitment to a relationship, he is withdrawing his love. It is not one's commitment that grows cold; it is their love. It may not seem like they have become cold—they may still attend church, sing and look "Christian"—but inside they have become hard and separated from others. They have withdrawn from love. Because their commitment is shallow, they will be easily offended.

Jesus said, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come" (Matt. 18:7). In your walk there will be times when even good people have bad days. As long as you live on earth, there will never be a time when "stumbling blocks" cease to be found upon your path. People do not stumble over boulders but over stones—little things. To stumble is to stop walking and fall. Have you stumbled over someone's weakness or sin lately? Have you gotten back up and continued loving as you did before, or has that fall caused you to withdraw somewhat from walking after love? To preserve the quality of love in your heart, you must forgive those who have caused you to stumble.

Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God. You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) and allow that opinion to crystallize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God. You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear: "The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20). You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them. Love is your only choice.

What do I mean by love? First, I do not merely mean "tough love." I mean gentle, affectionate, sensitive, open, persistent love. God will be tough when He needs to be, and we will be firm when He tells us to be, but beneath our firmness must be an underground river of love waiting to spring into action. By love, I mean a compassion that is empowered by faith and prayer to see God's best come forth in the people I love. When I have love for someone, I have predetermined that I am going to stand with them, regardless of what they are going through. I am committed.

We each need people who love us, who are committed to us in spite of our imperfections. The fullness of Christ will not come without Christians standing with each other in love. We are not talking about salvation, but growing in salvation until we care for each other, even as Christ has committed Himself to us.

Many people will stumble over little faults and human weaknesses. These minor things are quickly pumped up by the enemy into great big problems. Oh, how frail are the excuses people use to justify withdrawing from others. In reality, these problems, often with a church or pastor, are a smokescreen which masks the person's lack of love.

We need to overcome our hang-ups about commitment, for no one will attain the fullness of God's purposes on earth without being committed to imperfect people along the way.

"Well, as soon as I find a church that believes as I do, I will be committed." This is a dangerous excuse, because as soon as you decide you do not want to forgive, or God begins to deal with the quality of your love, you will blame your withdrawing on some minor doctrinal difference. The kingdom of God is not based on mere doctrines, it is founded upon relationships—relationships with God and, because of God, with one another. Doctrines only help define those relationships. We are not anti-doctrine, but we are against empty doctrines which seem like virtues but are simply excuses that justify cold love.

The Greatest Commandments
An expert in the Law once asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. His reply was wonderful: " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' " (Mark 12:30-31). Jesus said that the second commandment is like the first. When you love God, your love for others will actually be like your love for God. The more you unconditionally love God, the more you will unconditionally love others.

To those whose attitude is, "I am content with just Jesus and me," I say it is wonderful you found Jesus. But you cannot truly have Jesus and simultaneously not do what He says. The outgrowth of love and faith in Christ is love and faith like Christ's, which means we are committed, even as He is, to His people.

You see, the kingdom of God is most perfectly revealed in our relationships with one another. We are being perfected into a unit (see John 17). To have the kingdom, we must be committed to one another as individuals and as churches. If Christ accepts us while we are still imperfect, we must also accept one another. The people who possess the kingdom of God in its reality are people who overcome the obstacles of each other's faults. They help each other become what God has called them to be: the living body of Jesus Christ.

Remember, the goal of pulling down the stronghold of cold love is to see the oneness of Christ's body revealed. You will be challenged in this, but if you persist, you will discover the height and depth, the length and breadth of Christ's love. You will become a body filled and flooded with God Himself.

When David Captured Jerusalem

or: we cannot allow the words of the spiritually blind and the emotionally lame to guide us.
by Francis Frangipane


One of the great errors of the Church is to base its faith and standards by yesterday's achievements. Many promises must be fulfilled before Jesus returns. The Bible tells us that the Church will experience not only "perilous times" in the last days (see 2 Timothy 3:1, KJV), but seasons of renewal and restoration (see Acts 3:21). Consequently, in the midst of worldwide conflicts, the Kingdom of God on earth will continually be restored and renewed until it is conformed to the Kingdom of God in heaven! Plan on seeing new harvests and expressions of God's glory and power. We should expect to see wonders that our fathers did not see (see Acts 2:19–21)! Yes, and let us also trust that the promises we fail to possess, our children will walk in.

We can find encouragement and guidance once again in the life of King David. He was born into a time similar to ours. The Hebrews were in the Promised Land, but they shared the land with unconquered enemies. When David became king, he knew that God had promised more for Israel than the Jews had attained. In particular was the fact that the Jebusites still occupied the area now known as Jerusalem. Now if David measured himself by the success of his predecessors, he never would have contemplated an attack against the Jebusites. The Jebusites were a fierce mountain people and, in spite of being on the list of nations to be dispossessed by Israel, they had never been conquered.

Think of it: Israel's greatest heroes from Joshua to the judges had tried and failed to conquer the Jebusites. Thus, the Jebusites were contemptuous when they heard of David's plan to possess their chief city, Jebus (Jerusalem). They mocked Israel's young king, saying, "You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame will turn you away" (2 Samuel 5:6).

There are two lessons here. First, for everyone who desires to see the awesome promises of God fulfilled, the Lord is saying to us all, Don't be conditioned by the past! Just because you have not seen the manifest power of God over your church or city or nation, God can change everything overnight.

The second lesson is this: It probably will not be the devil himself who comes out to defeat us; rather, we must guard against the misguided advice of unbelieving Christians. Remember, the taunt of the Jebusites was that the "blind and lame shall turn you away." We may stand firm in faith against the spiritual hosts of wickedness only to be defeated by the spiritually "blind and lame" sitting next to us in church.

Who are the "blind?" Put simply, they are the ones who do not see the vision you see. They are blind to the faith-future God has put in your heart. We cannot let people who do not see our visions become our counselors. Beware of becoming sympathetic toward the spiritually blind. A little leaven of their unbelief can undermine your faith in a time of battle.

Along with the spiritually blind are the emotionally "lame." These are people who have stumbled over something (or someone) in the past. They no longer walk stride for stride with Christ. Beware of sharing your dreams with cynics. If we heed the warnings of the "lame," it will only be a matter of time before their excuses will deplete our strength; we, too, will become overly cautious and suspicious.

Although we need counsel from other Christians, and we must remain forgiving and kind toward those in opposition, we cannot allow the words of the spiritually blind and the emotionally lame to guide us.

The Word Is God
In our world, our real enemies are not people, but the spiritual forces of evil influencing our communities. And let us remember: If we are suffering from being lame or blind, Jesus can heal us. But the fact is, like those Jebusites, Satan has watched the failures of many Christians before us. One can sense the devil's scorn as pastors and intercessors pray for citywide or national revival. The devil's taunts are not without substance for, generally speaking, our spiritual forebears did not succeed in dislodging the strongholds of wickedness from their cities. History is indeed on the adversary's side.

But God has given us His unalterable, immutable word. He promises:

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.                 — Habakkuk 2:3-4

To "live by faith" is to believe God until the vision He gave comes to pass. David believed God, and in spite of history being on the side of the Jebusites, we read: "Nevertheless, David captured the stronghold of Zion" (2 Samuel 5:7).

There was something in David from his early years that urged him toward the goal of victory over the Jebusites. In fact, Scripture tells us that when David was still just a youth, after he killed Goliath, he took the "Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem" (1 Samuel 17:54). Remember, at that time Jerusalem was called Jebus and was occupied by the Jebusites. It was as though he were saying, "Okay, I'm just a young buck, but I've conquered this Philistine giant. Remember me, I will be back." Fewer than twenty years later David returned, now as king of Israel. As he had conquered Goliath, so he conquered the stronghold of the Jebusites and it was renamed the "City of David," though it soon became known as Jerusalem.

You see, this is not about the fulfillment of our lives but the fulfillment of God's Word. God's Word cannot return to Him void without fulfilling the purpose for which He spoke it. When King David heard the taunts of the Jebusites, he did not draw back in unbelief; neither was his faith crushed because of his ancestors' failures. Instead—and this is important—David interpreted the battle in light of the promises of God. At stake was the integrity of the Lord's personal promise to Abraham and to his seed: "Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies" (Genesis 22:17, NIV). While the enemy may have had history on its side, David had the unalterable Word of God on his side!

It is the heritage of Abraham's spiritual offspring to bring the prevailing influence of God into their communities and, through Christ, possess cities. That is not my word or yours, but the promise of God Almighty! He said it and He will fulfill it. His people shall possess the gates of their enemies. It is a reproach to us that the devil wants our cities more than the Church does! David's desire for Jerusalem was a godly desire that came to him from Christ, for what outwardly was to become David's city was soon to become the city of God.

As David simply believed God's promises, so also must we. The Lord has sworn that "nations will come to [our] light" (Isaiah 60:3). Whom shall we believe? Shall we take counsel from the blind if they cannot see the potential we see? Let us take God at His word. Let me state this again: Jesus Himself assures us that "All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23). Do you believe? Or are you just a nice unbeliever who goes to church?

Beloved, if we fail, it is no great shame. We simply join the ranks of the spiritual heroes who went before us and "died in faith, without receiving the promises" (Hebrews 11:13). In truth, it is better to die in faith than to live in doubt. But consider: What if we succeed? What if, through the process of believing God, He imparts to us Christ's perseverance and His character, and in so doing we find God helping us turn our land back to Him.

Lord, You have promised that nations shall come to our light. Forgive me for wavering in unbelief and from the conditioning of yesterday's failures or attainments! I believe that You have prepared our nation for great things. We will follow Your promise to dislodge our enemies, even as David conquered the great city that would bear the name Jerusalem! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Perfectly Weak
by Francis Frangipane
 

(According to the Scriptures, Moses was "educated in all the learning of the Egyptians." Indeed, as a prince in Egypt, Moses had grown to be a "man of power in words and deeds" (Acts 7:22). Thus, it is hard to equate this eloquent and cultured man with the stammering shepherd who, at 80 years old, was overwhelmed with his inadequacies, so much so that he pleaded with God to choose someone else.

Consider: The Lord took a self-assured world leader and reduced his opinion of himself until he possessed no confidence. And it was in this state of mind that God decided to use him. Having been thoroughly convinced of his unfitness for leadership, Moses was now qualified to lead.

Remarkably, the Lord would ultimately reveal Himself to Moses (and all Israel as well) as Jehovah-Rapha: "I am the Lord that healeth thee." Yes, God is our healer, yet there are times when God's hands wound before they heal. Indeed, He must cripple our self-confidence before we truly become God-confident. He breaks and drains us of pride so that we, who were once full of self, might instead be filled with God.

The Lord called Moses to return to Egypt as His spokesman. In response Moses pleaded, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Ex. 4:10).

Never been eloquent? What about Egypt? "Moses the Eloquent" has become "Moses the Stammerer." The identity of a sophisticated leader, a prince who knew the highest tiers of Egyptian culture, no longer functions in Moses. God has so humbled His servant that he cannot even remember his days of powerful words and mighty deeds. Moses has only one memory of Egypt: failure.

For Moses, the very mention of the word Egypt floods his mind with weakness; Moses fears returning to the place of his humiliation, especially as a leader. Yet, God has not called him to be a leader, but a servant. And, to be a servant, one need not be eloquent, but obedient.

It Was God's Idea
Moses is sure his particular weakness, stammering, will disqualify him. How can a man who cannot speak clearly speak for God? Yet, not only is the Lord unhindered by human weakness, He asks, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" (Ex. 4:11). Amazingly, the Lord not only accommodates Moses' condition, He takes credit for it!

It is a profound thought: God stripped Moses of his worldly place and training, burdened him with a heavy and slow tongue, and then commanded him to serve Him in this specific area of weakness: speaking!

The Lord could have instantly healed Moses! He could have given him oratorical skills greater than what he possessed in Egypt, but He did nothing to cure Moses. In fact, the slow speech is God's idea!

Perhaps we have spent too much time blaming the devil for certain limitations that actually have their origins in God. Yet, what truly matters with the Almighty is not the eloquence of our words, but His power to fulfill them. It's a fitting combination: stammering words backed up with immutable power. "I...will be with your mouth" (Ex. 4:12). This is the alliance that makes for victory.

Why is the Lord so attracted to the lowly? He knows the weaker His servant, the more genuinely he will praise God for the work He accomplishes.

So the Lord kept Moses weak, and He maintained His servant’s sense of dependancy throughout the wilderness sojourning. Forget Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Moses with perfect articulation, there is no record of God having healed Moses’ stammer. Standing before the regalia of Pharaoh's court, Moses spoke with the same stammering tongue that began to afflict him in his old age. Later, at the Red Sea, when the horses and chariots of Pharaoh's army cornered the fleeing Hebrews, Moses lifted his voice and, with struggling lips, proclaimed, "Sta-sta-stand st-still a-a-and see th-the s-s-salvation of the L-L-Lord!"

Who would not be tempted to plead, "Hurry Lord; heal his stutter!" Yet, the Red Sea parted. God was never troubled by His servant's flawed oratory skills.

This is the glory of the cross: self is crucified so that Christ may be revealed in power.

The fact is, the Lord deliberately seeks those who know their flaws. Paul testifies that "God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. . .the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God" (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

"That no man may boast before God." May the revelation of God liberate us from human vanity. The truth of God is this: Our weaknesses are an asset. God has chosen us, not because of our strength, but because we are weak. I am not talking about our sinfulness, but that our weaknesses and lack of pedigree do not disqualify us from being used by God.

I am not saying we shouldn’t seek God to heal our weaknesses, let us pray and believe Him! But let us also not excuse ourselves from God's calling because of our weakness. You see, before the Almighty, we each are nothing, and we can do nothing of lasting value apart from Him. It is in our lowliness that God's glory rises to its greatest heights.

Perhaps your last place of service to the Lord seemed to be a complete failure. Yet, it is possible that the Lord has simply been making you perfectly weak, that He might manifest Himself perfectly strong within you.

 

Your Appointment Awaits You
By Francis Frangipane
 

Appointed Times
In spite of escalating turmoil in our world, there remains one last, great outpouring of mercy during the end times (see Matt. 24:14; Acts 2:17). This supernatural season of grace has been predetermined. It is an "appointed time" of the Lord.

For those unaware, an appointed time is, in truth, an open display of the sovereignty and power of God. In it we discover with absolute certainty that nothing is impossible for God. For this is a season when God fulfills His will on earth, fulfilling in the process His promises, and the hopes and dreams of His people.

The Psalmist wrote, "But You, O Lord, abide forever, and Your name to all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come" (Ps. 102:12-13).

There is an appointed time coming for Israel, and an appointed time for you and me. If the Lord has promised, He will certainly bring it to pass.

Recall: Abraham and Sarah had waited in faith for a quarter of a century for the promise of God. Finally, as they neared one hundred years of age, the Lord told Abraham, "At the appointed time I will return to you . . . and Sarah will have a son" (Gen .18:14). One year later, "at the appointed time" (Gen. 21:2), Isaac was born to aged parents!

While there are, indeed, appointed times of judgment (see Mark 13:33), the phrase most frequently represents a time, preset by God, when He reveals "wonders, plans formed long ago, [that unfold] with perfect faithfulness"(Isa. 25:1).

Demons may stand arrayed against the Lord; nations may align themselves to fight Him. It does not matter. He who sits in the heavens laughs. For He makes "all things [His] servants" (Ps. 119:91). Even His enemies' plans for evil are reversed and made to serve the purpose of God (see Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28; Acts 2:22-23).

If God gave you a vision, a spiritual hope or dream for your future, there will be an appointed time when that which God spoke comes to pass. Thus the Lord assures us,

"Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time. It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay" (Hab. 2:2-3).

If you have a vision or promise from God, that vision also has a time of fulfillment. Write it down and place it where you can see it every day. Though it tarries, wait for it. For it will certainly come to pass at the appointed time.

Appointed Servants of God
When the Lord manifests Himself openly in an appointed time, He actually moves through a power grid He established in hiddenness during the time of preparation. His work appears suddenly, but its preparation may have taken many years. Either way, an appointed time flows through appointed people. He predestines the time of their breakthrough in advance, even as He works silently within their hearts in preparation.

Consider the Lord's word to His disciples: "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain" (John 15:16).

Every disciple feels that, at some point, he or she chose Christ. Yet, the deeper truth is that God chose us before the foundation of the world and has been working in us. At the appointed time we choose Christ, but only after He chose us (see Eph. 1:3-5). We could not even come to Christ had not the Father drawn us (see John 6:44).

Yet, He who chose us also appointed us to bear much fruit. The same power that worked surrender in us and then inspired our faith continues to work in our hearts throughout our days, appointing us to bear fruit. The idea that we can just sit quietly in church is a deception. You may look at your life and feel unfruitful. But God is not done with you yet. Do you believe God has chosen you? Then believe also that He has appointed you to bear fruit.

The Enemy's Work
One may argue, "But I know people who were good Christians who have fallen away." Yes, but in many cases you will find that, at some point, they fell into deep disappointment about some failed spiritual expectation. Disappointment is not just a sad, emotional state of mind; deep disappointment actually can sever our hearts from faith. It is the enemy's work. Demonically manipulated disappointment can actually "dis-appoint" a person from God's destiny for their lives.

I have known many who were doing well, moving toward their appointed destiny. The future God had for them seemed almost close enough to taste. Then they became disappointed in someone or something. By accepting into their souls this demonically manipulated disappointment, their faith turned dormant; a bitter winter took over their souls. It is here, even in the throes of disappointment, that the righteous learn to live by faith (see Hab. 2:1-4).

We all face times of disappointment. I went through a time when the promise of God seemed like a foolish spiritual fantasy. For nearly three years I had not been involved in pastoral ministry. No doors would open. God was doing a work in my soul to cause me to trust Him, but I felt abandoned and cut off from my calling. In a moment of abject honesty, I prayed, "Lord, You promised that those who believed in You would not be disappointed. Master, You know all things. Look at my heart. I am full of disappointment."

The Lord simply replied, "You're life is not over."

Of course, I knew that. I was a healthy young man not older than forty. Yet, the spell of disappointment had flooded my soul with darkness, causing me to conclude erroneously that God was done with me.

Listen well my friend: Satan can stop our destiny if we accept the power of disappointment into our lives. Once we accept the heaviness of a deep dis-appointment, backsliding is often not far away. You see, dis-appointment cuts us off from our vision, and without a vision people perish.

Are you carrying disappointment in your heart? Renounce it. Forgive those who have let you down. Have you personally or morally failed? Repent deeply and return to your Redeemer. Holy Spirit, I ask You to remove from my brother and sister the paralyzing sting of disappointment!

Beloved, the Spirit of God has come to release you of the effect of the dis-appointment. He reminds you, your appointment with your destiny is still set.

 

Restoration of All Things
By Asher Intrater
 

We believe in the biblical principle of restoration. God made everything in the world "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Yet, Adam's sin and Satan's rebellion caused much destruction. God's plan of redemption not only saves us from damnation, it also restores the damage that was caused.

That restoration is first personal. Our spirit, soul, and body are redeemed. However, God's restoration is also general, and includes everything in the world. Personal restoration is better known in the Christian world, while world restoration is better known in the Jewish world. The New Covenant includes both.

The traditional Jewish prayer, "Aleinu" (It is incumbent upon us), which closes every service, three times per day, makes a petition – לתקן עולם במלכות שדי – "to repair the world in the kingdom of El Shaddai." The word here for "repair" is – תיקון – "Tikkun." [This is the name we use for our cooperative ministries with Dan Juster, Don Finto, David Rudolph, Eitan Shishkoff, and Paul Wilbur.]

World restoration (Tikkun) is central not only to our ministry, but to the worldview of the kingdom of God. There are five passages in the New Covenant that speak specifically of world restoration.

Matthew 17 – The Church
Romans 11 – The Messianic remnant
Matthew 19 – Natural Creation
Acts 1 – Kingdom of Israel
Acts 3 – All Things

Matthew 17:11

Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.

Yeshua prophesies that someone in the spirit and power of Elijah will come "first" – that means before Yeshua returns. The "days of Elijah" restoration will take place before the 2nd Coming. The phrase, "all things," cannot mean all things in the world, because that will only happen after Yeshua returns. This restoration is parallel to the prophecy that "the bride will make herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). The elements of the kingdom of God will be restored within the community of faith before Yeshua returns. When He returns, what is within the people of God will be revealed and given to the nations. A central theme of prophetic ministry in our generation is the restoration of the true Church as we approach the 2nd Coming.

Romans 11:15

What will their restoration be but life from the dead?

There will also be a restoration of the Messianic remnant of Israel. This dual restoration can be seen in Revelation 7:4 and 9. The elements to be restored are those found in the early community of faith in the book of Acts. There we see sacrificial love, extravagant giving, bold evangelism, miraculous signs, and unity of the saints.

The end times remnant of Israel will be even stronger than the apostolic community of the first century (Romans 11:12). The revival of the end times will be greater than the revival they experienced (Acts 2:17). The Messianic remnant will be a key element leading to the resurrection of the dead.

Matthew 19:28

In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

As both the international Church and the remnant of Israel come into their fullness (Romans 11:15 and 25), they will together call upon Yeshua to return (Matthew 23:39, Revelation 22:20). At that time the kingdom of God will be established on the earth for a thousand years. This Millennial kingdom will include two key elements.

The first is "regeneration." The Hebrew translation says, "renewal of creation." The Greek original is paliggenesia – pali means "again" and genesia means "genesis" like creation in the book of Genesis. Natural creation will be redeemed (Romans 8:19-22). The heavens and earth will be renewed as they were immediately after the flood of Noah (II Peter 3:3-5). People will begin to live longer lives (Isaiah 65:17, 20).

The second element is a worldwide kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.

Acts 1:6

Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?

The apostles expected Yeshua to restore the Davidic kingdom immediately upon His resurrection from the dead. However, He told them they first had to receive the Holy Spirit and preach the gospel to the nations. His kingdom was to be international, not just Israelite; and spiritual, not just governmental. It is a renewal and expansion of the Davidic kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-4). The former dominion will be restored (Micah 4:8).

Yeshua will sit upon His throne in Jerusalem; the apostles will sit on twelve thrones governing the tribes of Israel. Those who have "followed Him" will sit on thrones governing the rest of the nations - when Yeshua returns in glory (Matthew 16:27; 19:28; 24:30; 24:46-47; 25:21; 25:31; 26:64).

Acts 3:21

Whom the heavens must receive until the time of the restoration of all things; which God has spoken by the mouth of all His prophets since the world began.

Ultimately, God will restore all things. There is nothing that will not be restored. This includes everything planned at creation; everything prophesied to Israel; everything promised to the Church. It includes all things in heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:10). God's commitment to restore all things is a source of great hope and encouragement to us all.

 

The War Mode   By Francis Frangipane


I was seventeen years old, a senior in high school, and was slouching into my desk when an angry student almost twice my size entered the room. In a storm of spit and fire, he burst toward where I was sitting, grabbed me by my neck and began rearranging my facial features with his fist.

Someone had written a derogatory remark about him on the inside of his notebook and signed my name to it. Obviously, there was more going on in the Big Guy's life than anyone realized. Whatever other frustrations had been accumulating in his heart, his immediate goal was to release his fury on the latest offender, whom he considered to be me.

I should also mention that at the time I was five foot nine and weighed about 135 pounds. I was not a confrontational guy and had, in fact, developed several clever ways of avoiding conflict while still appearing relatively cool among my friends. However, it does not matter what one's philosophy is concerning physical violence when one is actually in a fight, especially with an angry giant. Big Guy was looking for blood. I quickly realized that if this attack was going to end, it would be because I put my whole heart into fighting back.

Once I accepted that I had no choice but to fight, something amazing happened inside me. Instead of my fear getting worse, it actually left. The energy that had been expended through fear was suddenly mobilized for my defense. At that moment, unexpectedly, I discovered another dimension of my soul: the war mode.

Frankly, I did not even know I had a war mode, but when Big Guy reached down to pick me up for "round two," my fight instincts clicked into action. It had been easy for him to throw me around when I was not resisting, but now I sprang upward with a punch that landed squarely on his nose. He fell back a step. I hit him again two or three times and then jumped on him while he was off balance, knocking him to the floor. I admit it is possible, on reflection, that he stumbled over a chair and my punch had nothing to do with his fall, but it did not matter. When his back hit the floor, there was a 135-pound Sicilian on top of him.

By now, students were pulling me off of him. Blood was pouring from his nose, and his friends were calling me a bully. When the teacher entered the room, it plainly looked as though I was the aggressor and Big Guy the victim, cowering beneath my relentless assault.

I nearly failed to graduate because of the incident, but I did not care. Something inside me had changed. I had found the war mode. I still did not look for a fight, but I was not afraid of one either.

Passivity Is Not Peace
Why am I telling you this story? First of all, it is not because I think physical violence is the answer to our problems. Unless we are in the military or law enforcement, physical violence is not God’s answer to what troubles us. I related this incident to emphasize that there is a "war mode" that exists in each one of us. You may be facing a foe bigger than you – maybe it’s sin or demonic attacks, or perhaps your kids are drifting away from God, or your community or church is declining spiritually – but a point comes when living under oppression is no longer acceptable to you!It is at the moment that you say "enough!" that God begins to activate the war mode inside of you.

This mode of thinking is not a virtue in itself. Yet, just as we surrender our hearts, minds and bodies to God, so we can surrender this aspect of the soul, and find God’s grace anointing us to fight the fight of faith.

The fact is, we are at war on a global scale. We are fighting the influence of immoral and perverse leaders in our culture; and on an international level, facing Islamic terrorism and manipulation. Who will protect the future for our children? You see, it is up to us to defend our communities, to reinforce moral values and bring redemptive change to our world.

Again, we are not talking about physical or carnal warfare – Paul said the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty! (See 2 Cor. 10:4.) We need to take up the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). Fighting for righteousness is not an advanced stage of spiritual development; it actually is basic. Everyone needs to learn how to pray, to take spiritual authority, and to speak the Word of God with faith. We cannot be intimidated by our enemies' threats as we stand against the advances of darkness.

You see, too many have settled for a false peace, which is the result of compromise and fear. God wants us to have true peace, which comes from faith in Christ and victory over evil.

Today many are weary with world events. Part of this weariness is because our hearts are divided. We need to get over our reluctance in facing our enemies. Stop worrying about making the devil mad and get mad yourself – be angry, but do not sin! There is a legitimate "time for war" (Eccles. 3:8) and we are in it.

The sooner we switch into war mode, the faster we will tap into the moral resolve needed to defeat personal oppression and secure victory. As we are changed, so we can begin to influence the world around us. So rebuke passivity and take authority over self-pity. God will give grace to prevail.

Consider also Isaiah’s revelation about the Lord. The prophet wrote:

"The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies" (Isa. 42:13).

The Lord is a warrior and He desires you to become a warrior as well. Shake off the weariness and get back into the Word of God. If you were knocked down, get up. It’s time to reactivate your war mode.

Master, I submit to Your anointing for warfare. I renounce being a coward or embracing a false peace based on compromise. I submit to the fighter in You, who can sanctify the fighter in me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

 

Breaking the Bondage of a
Passive Spirit

By Francis Frangipane
 

The Spirit of God does not want us merely to tolerate oppression; He desires we conquer it. He has not called us to passivity; He has called us to war! God has anointed us with the power of His Holy Spirit and Jesus has given us His authority over all the power of the enemy (see Luke 10:19).

This authority of the Lord is not just for guard duty or defensive maneuvers. The Holy Spirit desires that, as we follow Christ, we take the battle to the enemy as well. When David sings in Psalm 18 that, under God’s anointing, he can "bend a bow of bronze," he also states: "I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and I did not turn back until they were consumed" (Psalm 18:37).

Let’s make this clear: David was first a worshiper of God. He did not pursue his enemies without first pursuing God. But when the Lord led him into war, he thoroughly defeated his foes.

I will tell you a solemn truth: Either we pursue our enemies or our enemies will pursue us. We must develop Christ’s attitude toward evil. He came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3 8). The Bible says, "Hate evil, you who love the Lord" (Psalm 97:10). The Holy Spirit is looking for determination in us so that, like David, we will pursue our enemies until they are consumed. It is, in fact, this aggressive attitude of heart that causes us to grow into mature Christlikeness.

Jesus could live with and forgive human failure, but He never allowed evil spirits to control Him. He was aggressive toward His spiritual enemies. There is no neutral ground. There is no room for a passive spirit in God’s army.

Attack and Counterattack
Let’s take a classic example of our need to act aggressively against our enemy: the battle for the mind. If you are frustrated repeatedly by fear, self-pity, anger, immoral thoughts or fleshly lusts, you know that these ideas and feelings will not go away by themselves. Your mind must be renewed through repentance and the knowledge of God’s Word. And if there is demonic activity exploiting your sin nature, that enemy must be confronted in the authority of Jesus’ name. Whether you are fighting fear, lust, anger or any other sin, you are in a war for your soul.

Some people respond to this by saying: "I don’t have a problem with an evil spirit; my battle is with the flesh." I agree. Frequent failure in a particular area might genuinely be rooted in the carnal attitudes of our old nature. But if you have repented repeatedly and still cannot find lasting freedom, perhaps the issue is a combination of sin and the devil’s manipulation of that sin. The real power behind recurring failure may well be demonic.

Yet, even if you confront that demonic entity in the authority of Christ, your fight is not over. The enemy will wait until you relax your guard and try to reenter your life. Recall Jesus’ warning: "Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’" (Matthew 12:43-44).

Jesus explains that even if you have had a genuine deliverance from the hand of God, a time may still come when that "unclean spirit" seeks to return to the "house from which" it came. The house it seeks to reenter is the darkness created in your soul by your pre-repentant thought-life. The way it seeks access is to masquerade as your own thoughts. Jesus warns that if the unclean spirit returns and finds your soul unguarded, it brings "seven other spirits more wicked than itself" (Matthew 12:45).

You must discern this counterattack. The enemy will try to infiltrate your mind, seeking to plant a thought or sow a sinful idea in your soul. Then he will attempt to water that seed with corresponding temptation. Beloved, we must capture those initial, invasive thoughts. We must be vigilant to recognize and conquer the oppression before it leads us back into sin. We must take authority over it before it can multiply. If we fail to use our authority, though, the enemy will attempt a full-scale invasion. Jesus says that "the last state of that man becomes worse than the first" (verse 45).

Thus, we must be aggressive in our prayers and actions! Satan will attack and counterattack. To win, in the midst of everything else we do, we must guard our hearts and minds. To do this we must exercise spiritual authority aggressively.

Present Attitudes and Future Victories
An Old Testament story captures well my concern with the effects of a passive spirit. Elisha the prophet was about to die and Joash, king of Israel, in an unusual show of affection, wept over the man of God. Yet a test remained. After promising victory to the king over Aram, Elisha told Joash to take the arrows and "strike the ground," but Joash struck the ground just three times and stopped. At this the prophet became angry and said, "You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times" (2 Kings 13:18-19).

Elisha was angered by the passive spirit in King Joash. He saw that the king did not possess the perseverance to pursue his enemies until he fully conquered them.

What does this mean for us? The prophet’s anger actually mirrors the Lord’s displeasure toward the passiveness or laziness of His people today. Is it hard to believe that Jesus would actually be angry with His Church? Then consider the Lord’s word to the church in Laodicea, a church that was overly concerned with its own comfort and passive in its attitude toward spiritual realities. Jesus said, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).

Jesus would rather we were hot or cold than lukewarm. Does He still love those He rebukes? Of course, but He calls us to change our attitudes. It is not that passivity or laziness is such terrible sin, like murder or adultery. It is simply that such attitudes create a psychological prison around believers that actually holds us hostage to our other sins.

The Lord is not pleased with the spiritual passivity and indifference so prevalent among His people. We are aware daily that terrorists could attack with massive destruction, or we watch the advance of perversion in our cultures, yet many Christians remain prayerless and inactive. This is in spite of the Lord’s promise that if we will come before Him, humbling ourselves in earnest prayer, He will empower us to pursue our enemies and defeat them. But instead of seeking God’s face on behalf of the lost, too many of us are immobilized by the grip of a passive spirit.

I am not talking about the level of energy in our bodies, but the level of fire in our obedience. Elisha could see that King Joash was a quitter by the passive way he struck the arrows. Beloved, God has given us authority and He has given us spiritual weapons of our warfare to help us, but we need to get up and fight. We need to repent of a passive spirit and stand with Christ’s authority in this day of battle. For if we fail to do either -- pray or act -- we might actually lose the soul of our nation. Our defeat might come, not because God’s help was not available but because we saw the advance of evil and did nothing.

For maximum benefit, pray this prayer out loud:
Lord God, I thank You that You have given me authority over all the power of the enemy. Forgive me for allowing my voice to remain silent and my will immobilized by a passive spirit. I realize that to be an overcomer I must pursue my enemy until he is consumed. You have given me authority over the plans and works of evil. You have created me to be a minister of Your righteousness. You have filled me with Your Holy Spirit and with fire. This day I confront, renounce and take authority over the power of the enemy. I break the bondage of a passive spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Measure Those Who Worship
By Francis Frangipane
 

At the end of the age there will be two types of Christians: those who worship in the inner court and those outside the place of intimacy.

Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations" (Revelation 11:1-2).

For whatever else this verse ultimately means, it tells us now that the Spirit of God is measuring worshipers - those individuals whose treasure is in heaven, who abide in the inner court of God’s temple. Beloved, those who truly worship God dwell in a measured and protected place.

Consider: In our world of terrors, pressures and trauma, our only refuge exists in the living presence of God. We must not accept a religion about God instead of the presence of God. If we are to truly dwell in the Divine Presence, one thing perhaps above all others will take us there: We must become true worshipers of God.

True Worship
Jesus taught that "true worshipers" are those who worship "the Father in spirit and truth." In other words, their worship to God flows from their heart unhindered by difficult outward conditions. "Spirit and truth" worship is genuine worship. Indeed, right now on Planet Earth, the Father is seeking such people "to be His worshipers" (John 4: 23).

Consider well the priority of God. He isn’t seeking for us to be miracle workers or great apostles and prophets. He desires more from us than the cultivation of good leadership skills or administrative strengths. What does He seek? He desires that we become His worshipers in spirit and truth.

Genuine Worship Causes Us To Become Genuine Christians
If we focus on making our worship true, our Bible study, prayer, and extended service to God, whatever that may be, will also become true. Indeed, a worshiping heart floods all other spiritual disciplines with legitimacy and substance. If we bow in worship before studying God’s Word, His word will plunge more deeply into our soul; our fruit will be sweeter and more enduring. If, before we open our mouths in prayer, we honor God in worship, our intercession will ascend toward heaven on wings of unfeigned trust and expectant faith.

Worship rescues our spiritual efforts from routine, religiosity, pride and guilt; it takes our minds completely off ourselves and burrows us into the overwhelming life of God.

We have all heard teachings that God desires to have a relationship with us, and it is true. Yet, the implication is that His relationship with us is perfectly accommodating, nearly casual in its nature and mostly defined by our terms and needs. Yes, God desires that our union with Him be full and wonderful. Yet, His descent into our lives, His commitment to redeem and restore us, has another purpose: the reality of His presence transforms us into worshipers.

Indeed, worship is the evidence of a transformed life. Worship may be expressed with tears of joy or in silent awe; it may create an abiding gratitude toward God or inspire songs in the night. Regardless of the form of expression, the worship the Father seeks is absolutely meaningful. It turns our complete being toward God in love.

If, however, the idea of "worship" seems to be a strange thing, if it feels mechanical or the words expressed seem hollow (and not hallowed), it is because the soul of the individual has not first been transformed. The closer we draw to God, the more we are transformed; the greater our transformation, the more completely we respond in worship. You see, true worship deepens and matures as we walk on with God.

Recall the aged apostle John’s testimony. He was in his nineties when he wrote, "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us" (1 John 4:16). Listen to that first phrase: We have come to know.

When we first come to God, by necessity we must come as we are with sin and shame. Yes, we seek to repent of our obvious sins, but the work of God is destined to go much deeper. As young Christians, we still carry attitudes of pride, ambition and fear, as well as many other sins, which cause us to misrepresent the actual nature of God to others. Though we are sinful, God does not abandon us. Instead, His work continues. His illuminating fire enters the darkened caverns of our hearts. Here, in this furnace of divine refinement, stripped of our pretenses and pride, spiritually naked, without a rag of self-righteousness in which to clothe ourselves - in this stark reality we come to know God’s unconditional love and acceptance.

What once sounded like an impossible command, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37), is transformed from a law into a promise full of hope, an anticipation that He will transform all that we are and, in the process, create the praise of our lips. It is as though He says, You shall love Me with all your heart for that is exactly how I love you, with all My heart.

Our worship is the result of His drawing near to us; it is the effect He has upon the redeemed. Yet, it is also a choice we make. I choose worship as a way to demonstrate my trust in God when my circumstances appear hostile; I choose worship as my means of burrowing into the heart of God when all around me is in turmoil. And as I’m lifted into His presence, I am also aware that the character of my life is being measured, and it’s being measured by my worship at His altar.

Lord, come into my life and fulfill Your promise of transformation. Create praise on my lips, and help me to worship You in spirit and in truth.

 

"I Do Not Remember"
By Francis Frangipane
 

How little we understand of eternal redemption! How many times will God forgive you? If you have truly set your heart to follow Him, He will cancel your sins as often as you ask. Will He forgive you of the worst sin you can think of? Yes! You may have to live with the consequences of your misdeed, but the redemptive power of God is such that, even in your sin, there are many things of value to be reclaimed. As for the sin itself, if you deeply and sincerely repent of it, not only will God forgive you, He will blot it out of His memory.

Let me share an experience. A certain man of God had been gifted with revelatory insight into people's lives. During an evening service he ministered to a Presbyterian pastor and his wife. By the gift of the Spirit, he revealed the couple's past, uncovered their present situation and then disclosed to them what was to come. This work of God greatly impressed the couple, and as the prophecies were fulfilled, one month later the Presbyterian minister brought two other pastors, each with their wives, to another service for personal ministry.

The word of knowledge was exceptionally sure that night, and the second minister and his wife marveled at the accuracy and truth in the prophetic word. The third couple stepped forward for ministry and again the word of knowledge was present. The prophet spoke to the husband, revealing his past, present and insight into his future. Then the man of God turned to this third minister's wife. As he began to speak of her past, suddenly he stopped. "There was a very serious sin in your past." The woman, with her worst fear seemingly upon her, turned pale and closed her eyes. The congregation hushed and moved to the edge of their seats.

The prophet continued, "And I asked the Lord, 'What was this sin that she committed?' And the Lord answered, 'I do not remember!'"

The Lord had been faithful to His promise: "I will not remember your sins" (Isa. 43:25). Although many times this minister's wife had asked for cleansing, still she could not believe the depth of God's forgiveness. Christ had placed her sin in the sea of His forgetfulness. He removed it "as far as the east is from the west" (Ps. 103:12). From everywhere but the prison of her own mind, her sin had been paid for and removed. And now, in His great mercy, He removed it from there as well!

Oh, what burdens we carry, what guilt and limitations surround us because we do not accept God's total and perfect forgiveness. In Isaiah we read, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins" (Isa. 43:25).

How great is the God we serve. How wonderful is His love toward us. He is our Redeemer! Our Savior! If you are willing to forgive others and will but ask Him to forgive you, He will pardon your debts as often as you contritely turn to Him. He promises He will remember your sins no more.

 

Cease Striving and
Know That I Am God

By Francis Frangipane

 

Among the many complex and sublime faculties of the human soul, one attribute functions as a servant to all: the nature of the soul is porous. This means that in addition to latent strengths and talents, the soul is also shaped and developed by external stimuli: we learn customs and language, habits, virtues and vices largely by importing reality as it surrounds us. Indeed, the marrow of life itself, as we subjectively know it, is created by the inward flow of these outward realities.

Thus, the soul, while it is born with innate powers, it is also the product of its times and circumstances. Because we live in unprecedented, prophetic times, individuals born during the last five or six decades are impacted, not only by the common struggles and joys of life, but also by the unspeakable disasters as they occur around the world. As a result of live media coverage, we vicariously experience repeated participation with human suffering. We see the actual faces of those traumatized by earthquakes and tsunamis, famines and wars. Again, because of the porous nature of the soul, when we view life’s terrors, we are repeatedly absorbing these fearful realities into our consciousness. We cannot help but be affected.

How do we erase from our minds the faces of earthquake and tsunami victims? How is it possible to forget the horrific memory of people leaping to their deaths from flaming windows high on the Twin Towers on 9/11? What happens to our souls when we view news reports of Iraqis and Israelis being blown apart by terrorists’ bombs?

If you are an intercessor, or even one who possesses just basic, human compassion, the flood of sorrow and terror rising from terrible disasters cannot be stopped by a levee of human intellect. Life’s pains, even when they aren’t our own, are still absorbed at some level into our soul, and more so if we know the one suffering.

To cope with our vulnerabilities, we have created some positive remedies: hospitals, relief agencies, first responders and charitable giving all are relatively new means of dealing with human sorrow. We are compelled, not only to help the victims, but to help ourselves digest and respond to the emotional overload of our times.

Media Manipulates Our Fears
It is important to remember that the main goal of the news media is not to communicate current news but to make money doing so. Thus, even minor stories are often sensationalized to bring back viewers. I, for one, am worn out by the highly publicized scandals and moral failures among leaders, whether political or religious. If I am not careful, the flood of these realities can jade my heart, harden my soul and make me cynical.

Added to these things we are daily reminded of current economic pressures, plus the threats of disease and the advance of crime and lawlessness in our communities. Our souls churn with the added news. How can mere man cope with the fearful conditions of the world?

Magnify the Lord
It is here, in this valley of pressure, conflict and fear that would-be saints lose heart and fade from the race. Yet, it is also here that the God seeker is driven closer to the Lord.

The psalmist cries, “O magnify the Lord with me!” (Ps. 34:3). The closer we are to God, the more we are infused by His strength. The world around us may not get any better, but through the Holy Spirit, we gain new strength.

In His presence, the demons of our world shrink in proportion. Beloved, in these very circumstances, let’s magnify the Lord! We have read the final chapters: every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! (See Phil. 2:10-11.)

When our enemies multiply and pressures mount, retreat---yes, retreat into the stronghold of God. Are you anxious? Fearful? Remember: ""He who sits in the heavens laughs” (Ps. 2:4). Are you being accused by the enemy? Again, the Lord says, “In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength" (Isa. 30:15). When the accuser comes to incarcerate you in your sin, shame and regret, you do not have to defend yourself. You have a right to remain silent. God Himself has appointed an advocate for you, and it is His very Son, the One who died for your sins.

Do not magnify your problems; let God be exalted over all the earth. Do not let your unbelieving words deplete your soul of life, for the more you talk, the more peace you lose. Be slow to speak. Before you can learn to speak for God, you must learn what NOT to speak. This battle is not about overcoming difficult circumstances around you; it is about listening to the Lord, hearing what He intends to do, then following Him to victory.

Remember, dear friend, the words of Paul: “Be anxious for nothing.” The true battle you are facing is not one of action, but direction: you must ascend vertically to be successful horizontally. Secure your soul in God and you will secure victory in your life. In the presence of God, the porous nature of the human soul is a great advantage. We can escape the stresses of life. We can actually be saturated with the life-restoring substance of God!

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

 

Angry, Angry, Angry
By Francis Frangipane


It's hard to remember a time when people were more angry. A civilized person ought to be, first of all, civil. Yet, today there is no discourse, no respect for another's opinion, no reasoning together for the common good. I am concerned, especially for the church.

One may argue, "Our society is decaying. We should be mad." Yes, but we can be angry yet still not sin (see Eph 4:26). Of course, I feel anger that the underpinnings of our culture are being dismantled by unprincipled men. Our souls should be vexed at the darkening cloud of demonic infestation in our culture, especially when children are caused to stumble or the weak are exploited. If we don't take a stand, the advance of evil ultimately means more people will die without Christ. So, if we are angry, it does not necessarily mean we have sinned. It can simply mean we care.

I am not surprised by the increased anger. My concern is that, unless this anger regenerates into something more redemptive, more Christlike, we will not see our world renewed. Indeed, anger that does not awaken in us redemptive action ultimately degrades into bitterness and unbelief.

A Two-Pronged Attack
While hell advances into our world on many levels, I want to discuss two primary areas. The first manifestation is brazen, widespread and alarming. For example, a corrupt law gets passed or gang violence breaks out; or it might be that a beloved public figure is scandalized. It's on the news and people are talking about it. The shock waves caused by this demonic intrusion smash against our hearts: we're disappointed, offended, stunned and, often, outraged. In this state of mind, hell launches the second area of attack. There is no newscast featuring this next stage of warfare. On this front, the devil does not come openly flaunting himself, but quietly. In seething whispers he stirs the pot of our discontent until it boils. Ultimately, where once the heart of the Christian was full of faith and love, now bitterness, hatred and malice churn in the souls of God's people.

So while we must fight the culture wars of our times, we must preserve our capacity to love if we will actually win our war. We must remember we are not fighting against "flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph. 6:12 KJV).

Sadly, I have heard many people say recently that they've lost their vision for America. What they actually lost was not their vision, but their love. For love believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7).

The Goal Of God
I will tell you how I look at this. I believe that if the Almighty's highest plan was to end evil on Earth, He could do so in a flash. Why does He wait? He desires to bring believers to Christlike maturity. In a moment evil would be gone, as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah. But we must never forget: Jesus did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.

What God waits for is us. Our Christlike perfection is the harvest upon which the Father waits. He desires to bring many sons to glory, and this world, with all its evil, is the perfect setting to bring us to Christlike maturity. Here, we have real enemies that God can use to perfect our love; in this environment, we have actual foes whose persecution helps to perfect our prayer.

Yes, we should be angry about what's wrong, but we must be Christlike in making things right. We cannot just be political; we must be spiritual, like people from another realm.

Rightly there are times when we must defend the helpless among us, but concerning ourselves, let us consider again what Jesus commanded:

"But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:39-45).

You see, God desires mature sons and daughters who, while fighting for their world, open the door of love into His world. To see our nation transformed, we ourselves must be transformed. Otherwise, we will risk becoming Christian hypocrites: angry that the world is not Christian but untroubled that we are not Christlike.

Expect to See God's Glory!
By Francis Frangipane
 

Light Shines in the Darkness
It is not enough to know God exists. If we will live in the awareness of the heavenly, we must be freed from the boundaries of the earthly. To awaken faith, the Holy Spirit will take us through times when the presence of God cannot be clearly discerned. The Lord's goal during these times is to bring to maturity our spiritual senses.

Therefore, do not accept that God has permanently hidden Himself from you, though during trials it may seem so. He is teaching us to see in the dark and to hear in the silence. He is making Himself known to our inner man so that, regardless of outer circumstances, we can continually be led by His Spirit.

To see God, beloved, it is imperative that our vision become spiritual and not just sensory. To hear God, we must learn to tune out the clamor of our fears and earthly desires. The outcome of this inner spiritual working is an increasing perception that nothing is impossible for God. The time of darkness, though it comes as an enemy, actually compels us to seek God more earnestly; we learn to even more revere God's light. Never mistake temporary darkness for permanent blindness, for today's training is the very process that opens us to see God's glory. Ultimately, we will discover the truth of what Isaiah wrote, that "the whole earth is full of [God's] glory" (Isa. 6:3).

Lord, Open Our Eyes!
Did not Moses endure "as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27 KJV)? Indeed, the Bible was written by individuals who actually beheld the glory of God. To see the glory of God is our call as well. Our spiritual vision is not an imaginary device of the mind, but that which comes from the living union of the Holy Spirit with our hearts. Did not our Lord promise that the "pure in heart . . . shall see God" (Matt. 5:8)? And is it not reasonable to expect that, if Christ truly dwells within us, we ought to perceive life with unveiled minds? Just as it is written,

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

Yes, if we remove the veils of sin, shame and self-absorption, if we persist in seeking God, staying focused upon His Spirit and Word, we should expect to see the glory of the Lord. Such open perception is biblical and should be pursued! Yet there are those who say access to greater spiritual realities is a false hope and a heresy. I say, beware of the leaven of the unbelieving Christian. For such people would have you accept religion without vision as though to see God's glory was sin.

Consider how many in the Bible actually saw the glory of the Lord: Abraham saw the Christ's glory while he was in Mesopotamia. Isaiah beheld Him in the year King Uzziah died. Ezekiel fell before the Living One by the river Chebar. David, Habakkuk, Solomon, and Zechariah all saw the glory of the Lord (Acts 7:2; Isa. 6:1; Ezek. 3:23; 2 Sam. 6:2; Hab. 3:3; 2 Chron. 7:1; Zech. 1:8). Moses beheld Him, then Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy Hebrew elders as well. Exodus tells us these men actually "saw the God of Israel." The Bible describes this incredible scene, saying that "under [God's] feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself " (Exod. 24:10). The concluding thought is staggering; it reads, "And they saw God, and they ate and drank" (Exod. 24:11).

Think of it: They beheld God! Could anything be more wonderful? Is there not a jealousy within you for that experience --- to actually gaze upon the God of Israel?

Be assured, to behold the Lord's glory is not only scriptural but typical, especially during the pivotal decades between ages (which is where we are today). The fact is, over six million Israelites saw God's glory on Mount Sinai. Young men, old women, and little children --- people of every age and physical condition --- all saw "the glory of the Lord [as it] rested on Mount Sinai." These same people actually "heard the voice of God" speaking to them (Deut. 4:33)!

Yet, that unveiling of glory did not stop at Sinai. The entire Hebrew nation followed a cloud of glory by day and was illuminated by a blazing pillar of fire-like glory at night. This happened not just once or twice but every day for forty years! How much more shall the Lord of glory manifest Himself to us at the end of the age?

If you are a God-seeker, except for times of darkness when the Spirit refines your spiritual senses, you should expect to see the glory of God! There should be an anticipation that, any day now --- as you enter your prayer room or go for a walk, or in a dream --- the Spirit of God is going to appear to you in some marvelous and life-changing way.

Christ, Our Life

For many, Christianity is simply the religion into which they were born. For others, although Jesus is truly their Savior, their relationship with Him is hardly more than a history lesson, a study of what He did in the past. For those who truly love Him, however, Christ is Savior and more: He is their very life (Col. 3:4). When Jesus is your life you cannot go on without Him.

There is a story of a man who, in search of God, came to study at the feet of an old sage. The master brought this young man to a lake and led him out into the shoulder-deep water. Putting his hands upon his pupil's head, he promptly pushed him under the water and continued to hold him there until the disciple, feeling he would surely drown, frantically repelled the old man's resistance. In shock and confusion the young man resurfaced. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. His teacher looked him in the eyes and said, "When you desire God as you desired air, you shall find Him."

Was this not the attitude of psalmist when he wrote, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God" (Ps 42:1)? You see, there is a place in seeking God where our heart goes beyond the limits of desire, where the actual issue becomes one of survival. I need Christ as a drowning man needs air and as a parched deer needs water. It is here, where we feel we cannot exist without seeking and finding the reality of God, that our deepest passion is fulfilled.

Legal Protection -
By Francis Frangipane
 

Approximately two thousand years ago a decree was issued at the judgment seat of Almighty God. It provided "legal" protection for the church against the devil. Indeed, when Jesus died for our sins, the "ruler of this world" was judged (John 16:11). Our debts were nailed to Christ's cross and canceled; principalities and powers were disarmed. In truth, because of Jesus, we have a legal right, not only to be protected from our enemy but to triumph over him (Col. 2:13-15).

It does not matter what nation you come from, the sacrifice of Christ was so complete and the judicial decision from God against Satan so decisive that divine protection, enough to cover every need known to Christians, has been granted (see Rev. 3:10). Christ's death is the lawful platform upon which the church rises to do spiritual warfare; His Word is the eternal sword we raise against wickedness.

Having said that, we must also acknowledge that the church has only rarely walked in such victory since the first century. Why? At least in part, the answer is this: To attain the protection of Christ, the church must embrace the intercession of Christ. We must become a house of prayer.

Indeed, church history began with its leadership devoted to the Word of God and to prayer (Acts 2:42; 6:4). Every day the leaders gathered to pray and minister to the Lord (Acts 3:1). In this clarity of vision and simplicity of purpose, the church of Jesus Christ never had greater power or capacity to make true disciples.

Today, however, our qualifications for church leadership include almost everything but devotion to God's Word and prayer. Leaders are expected to be organizers, counselors, and individuals with winning personalities whose charms alone can draw people.

In Luke 18, Jesus challenges our modern traditions. He asks, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (v. 8). His question is a warning to Christians who would limit the power of God at the end of the age. Jesus is calling us to resist the downward pull of our traditions; He is asking us individually, "Will I find faith in you?"

Before we respond, let us note that Jesus associates "faith" with "day and night prayer" (Luke 18:7). He is not asking, "Will I find correct doctrines in you?" The Lord's question does not so much concern itself with our head as with our heart. What we believe is important, but how we believe is vital in securing the help of God.

Indeed, procuring the supernatural help of God is exactly the point of Jesus' parable in Luke 18. His intent was to show that "at all times" we "ought to pray and not to lose heart" (Luke 18:1). To illustrate the quality of faith He seeks, He followed His admonition with a parable about a certain widow who petitioned a hardened judge for "legal protection" (v. 3). Although the judge was initially unwilling, yet by her "continually coming" (v. 5) she gained what was legally hers.

Jesus concluded by asking, “If an unrighteous judge will respond to a widow's persistence, shall not God avenge quickly His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?" Jesus said, "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily" (see Luke 18:1-8)

Understanding God's Delays
Our Heavenly Judge will not “delay long” over His elect, but He will delay. In fact, God's definition of "speedily" and ours are not always synonymous. The Lord incorporates delays into His overall plan: Delays work perseverance in us. So crucial is endurance to our character development that God is willing to delay even important answers to prayer to facilitate our transformation.

Thus, we should not interpret divine delays as signs of divine reluctance. Delays are tools to perfect our faith. Christ is looking to find a tenacity in our faith that prevails in spite of delays and setbacks. He seeks to create a perseverance within us that outlasts the test of time, a resolve that actually grows stronger during delays. When the Father sees this quality of persistence in our faith, it so touches His heart that He grants "legal protection" to His people.

Desperation Produces Change
It is significant that Jesus compared His elect to a widow harassed by an enemy. The image is actually liberating, for we tend to conceptualize the heroes of the faith as David or Joshua types -- individuals whose successes obscure their humble beginnings. But each of God's servants has, like the widow, a former life that is brimming with excuses and occasions to waver.

Look at the widow: She has legitimate reasons to quit, but instead she prevails. Indeed, she refuses to exempt herself from her high potential simply because of her low estate. She makes no apologies for her lack of finances, knowledge or charm. Giving herself no reason to fail, she unashamedly plants her case before the judge where she pleads for and receives what is hers: legal protection from her opponent.

How did a common widow gain such strength of character? We can imagine that there must have been a time when, under the relentless pressure of her adversary, she became desperate, and desperation worked to her advantage. Desperation is God's hammer: It demolishes the stronghold of fear and shatters the chains of our excuses. When our desperation exceeds our fears, progress begins.

Today, the force prodding many Christians toward greater unity and prayer has not been the sweetness of fellowship; more often it has been the assault of the enemy. We are in desperate times. When it comes to touching God's heart, other than for a few essential truths, unity of desperation is more crucial than unity of doctrine.

God's Elect
Our nation is suffering from a deep social and moral collapse. If we have ever needed God's anointing, it is now -- but where are God's elect? Where are the people whom Daniel says "know their God" and "will display strength and take action" (Dan. 11:32)?

Is there no one divinely empowered who can fell the Goliaths of our age? Perhaps we are looking in the wrong places. Perhaps we need only to look in our bathroom mirror. If you believe in Jesus and are desperate for God, you qualify as one of God's elect. Remember, in the above parable the widow typifies Christ's chosen.

We have erroneously held that God's chosen will never be assaulted by the adversary, much less driven to desperation and "day-and-night" prayer. But, this desperation is often the very crucible in which the elect of God are forged. Jesus portrays this characteristic metaphorically in the picture of the widow; He reveals the means through which His elect prevail in battle at the end of the age.

When all is said and done, it is also possible that this widow may not have been a singular person but a corporate people -- a "widow church" -- united in Christ in a singular, desperate prayer for protection against her adversary.

We need the "legal protection" that a national revival provides. But it will not come without unceasing prayer. You ask, "Where was the prayer behind the Charismatic Renewal?" The Lord spoke to my heart that the Charismatic Renewal was His answer to the cries of a million praying mothers -- women who refused to surrender their children to drugs and the devil.

It is our turn to pray. We are the widow who cannot give herself a reason for failure; God will answer our day-and-night cry. Let us position ourselves at His throne on behalf of our cities and nations. Certainly, as we persevere in faith, the Lord will grant us legal protection from our enemy.

 

 

Door of Hope
By Francis Frangipane
 

We tend to boast in the power of faith while minimizing the value of hope. Yet, "faith is the substance of the things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1 KJV). Without first having a living hope in God, our faith is meaningless. Indeed, the first stage of transformation is the awakening of hope.

Yet, even after we come to Christ, we still fail. Often, a downward spiral occurs when sin opens the door to condemnation, and condemnation smothers the voice of hope. Consider the story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. The Lord was about to prosper Israel with the wealth of the Canaanites, but only if the spoils of their first battle at Jericho were dedicated fully to God. One man, Achan, however, defied the Lord's edict. He took silver, gold, and a garment from Shinar, and then hid the spoils in his tent. As a result of his sin, thirty-six Israelites died in their next battle, defeated and humiliated by the tiny city of Ai.

After the Lord exposed Achan as the perpetrator, Joshua took him, along with his family and possessions, and brought them all to a valley. There, Israel's leader said, "'Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.' And all Israel stoned them with stones; . . . Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day" (Josh. 7:25-26).

The word Achor meant "troubling." It represented the trouble and pain one person’s sin exacted on many others. Certainly, the most terrible thing Achan experienced was that his sin caused his wife and children to die with him. As they huddled together awaiting this horrible judgment, the guilt and regret flooding Achan's mind must have been insufferable.

Personal Failure
In time, the valley of Achor came to symbolize the worst of punishments. It was a place of death and desolation. Today, of course, we do not stone those whose sin or irresponsibility has caused others grief. Still, sin has consequences, and though we may not be physically stoned for our failure, the effects of public condemnation can be just as crushing to the human spirit. The fact is, too many of us have known a personal valley of Achor, where our moral negligence or ill-advised actions caused another's suffering.

Perhaps you committed adultery, and since then, your spouse and children are devastated. It might be that your anxious or careless driving caused an accident, resulting in great suffering or possibly even another person's death. Or maybe your lack of Christian example has caused your children to turn from God. The possible ways of falling are endless, but the result is nearly always the same: it is as though a curse rests on your life.

It is bad enough that your own heart condemns you. There are also those individuals who know your failure, whose chorus of criticisms convince you of your hopeless nature. Public censure, cold looks and judgmental attitudes have the same effect on your soul as Achan's stoning had on his flesh, only what dies in you is hope. Where once you could look with anticipation toward the future, now heartache and regret block your view.

Only virtue, made pure and strong by true repentance, can displace the burden of self-condemnation. Thus, the only correct response to wrong actions and their consequences is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, the enemy has many Christians trapped in unbelief and self-condemnation. They know what they did was wrong and they hate it, but they cannot unburden themselves of the guilt. Remember, our Redeemer came to proclaim liberty to those who are "prisoners" (see Isa. 61:1). Is He speaking only of those who are incarcerated in jails? No, His mission is for all of us who are prisoners of our past failures. God wants us to learn from our mistakes, not be held captive to them. Jesus came to deliver and restore those whose dreams lie buried in the valley of Achor.

Personal Tragedy
The burdens we carry may have nothing to do with moral failure. They might have come from any number of life's calamities.

One of the worst ordeals for the soul is the death of a loved one. Such a loss can leave us excessively burdened and trapped in the past. The story of Abraham's father, Terah, gives us an insightful picture of a man who could not depart from the loss of a loved one.

Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor and Haran. The Bible tells us, "Haran died in the presence of his father" (Gen. 11:28). To lose your son can produce terrible heartache; to have him die in your arms can be utterly devastating.

In time, Terah took his family and left Ur of the Chaldeans in search of a new destiny in Canaan. En route, however, Terah had to pass through a city with the same name as his deceased son, Haran. Instead of continuing on to Canaan, the Scripture says Terah "went as far as Haran, and settled there" (v. 31).

Longing for a deceased loved one is normal. However, life's tragedies also have a way of obligating us to a false loyalty which prohibits the release of our pain. Without notice, a face in an airport or a song on the radio floods our hearts and, suddenly, we are overcome by sorrow. How quickly we reenter the place of our grief; how easy it is to settle there!

"And Terah died in Haran" (v. 32). Not only did Terah settle in Haran, he died there. The wording is both prophetic and significant. Perhaps it was a false sense of guilt that held him hostage: If only I had done such and such my son would not have died! Whatever the reason, Terah was never able to live beyond Haran's death.

We must also see that, as painful as the loss of a loved one is, we cannot permit the wounds of our past to nullify what God has for us in our future. Even if we enter limping, we must not settle for something outside our destiny. God's grace is here now. With His help, we must choose to journey on to Canaan or we, too, will die in Haran.

A Time For Healing
These two things, personal failure and personal tragedy, can place cruel burdens of oppression and guilt upon our souls. God's response to our need is that, in addition to forgiving our sins, He has laid on Christ "the guilt of us all" (Isa. 53:6 NAB). Whether our guilt is justified or not, it must be lifted from our shoulders and placed on Christ.

Today, a renewal is occurring in various parts of the world; God is restoring joy to His people. Many whom the Lord has touched were weighed down -- just like you might be -- with either moral failure or tragedy. In the very place where our deferred hopes produced heart sickness Christ is here "to bind up the brokenhearted" (Isa. 61:1). Where once sorrow and heaviness reigned, He gives a "garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting" (Isa. 61:3).

No longer will church attendance be a penance for your failures. From now on you shall enter His gates with thanksgiving. Indeed, to every Christian struggling with an unbearable burden, the Lord says, You are still My bride.

Indeed, speaking of this very valley of troubling, the Lord has promised: "I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth" (Hosea 2:14-15).

The fruitfulness of God's blessing, from this day forward, shall increase in your life. And there in "the valley of Achor," the scene of your deepest wounds or worst failures, the Lord has placed for you a "door of hope." His goal is nothing less than to restore to you the song of the Lord, that you might sing again "as in the days of [your] youth."

The God of the Mountains
and Valleys

By Francis Frangipane
 

The battles we face are often intense times of weakness, distress, and confusion. If the events of our lives were charted, these would be the lowest points. Yet God is no less with us during difficulties than at other times. In fact, these valleys are often as much the plan of God as our mountaintop experiences.

There is a story in the Bible that speaks plainly to this truth. Israel had recently defeated the Arameans in a mountain battle. In 1 Kings 20, we read:

Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, "Go, strengthen yourself and observe and see what you have to do; for at the turn of the year the king of Aram will come up against you." Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, "Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they." --1 Kings 20:22-23

The enemy said that the God of Israel was a god of the mountains, but if they fought the Jews in the valleys they would defeat them. We read in verse 28:

Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel and said, "Thus says the Lord, 'Because the Arameans have said, "The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys," therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.'" --1 Kings 20:28

No matter what the enemy tries to tell you, Christ is God of the mountains and God of the valleys. He has not stopped being God because you happen to be in a valley. He is the God of glory as seen in His power and miracles. In the valleys He reveals Himself as faithful, loyally committed to us in difficulties and distresses. In and through all things He is our God.

When we are on the "mountaintops" of our Christian experience, we can see our future clearly. We have perspective and confidence. When we are in one of life's valleys, however, our vision is limited and our future seems hidden. Yet valleys are also the most fertile places on earth.

Valleys produce fruitfulness. You can expect there to be a harvest of virtue when God dwells with you in the valleys.

The Highway to Zion

How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a spring. --Psalm 84:5-6

Baca means "weeping." Each of us has times of weeping when our hearts and hopes seem crushed. Because God has placed in our hearts "highways to Zion," however, we pass through valleys; we do not live in them.

"Passing through the valley of Baca…" Once we are on the other side of weeping, our Redeemer makes our valley experience into "a spring." The very things that overwhelmed us will, in time, refresh us with new life. Whether we are experiencing the height of success and power or are in a valley of weakness and despair, the Lord is our God continually!

Has the enemy isolated you, causing you to doubt God's love? Do not forget, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. He cares. It is His love for us that redeems our hardships and not only brings good out of what was meant for evil, but also trains us to deliver others.

How did Jesus prepare to do wonderful works? Part of His training involved suffering. Christ was a man of sorrows. He was One who was acquainted with grief. Yet His suffering was the Father's means of acquainting Him with the actual feelings of mankind's need and pain. Because He suffered what we suffer, He is able to serve as a faithful high priest. If we yield to God's plan for Christ to be formed in us, God will take our sorrows to enlarge our hearts. Once we have been acquainted with grief, we then can be anointed with compassion to deliver others.

Joseph's Trials
Consider Joseph. He was the second youngest of Jacob's sons and his father's favorite. His walk with God began with dreams and visions. Joseph's life is a pattern for many who have had a genuine call from God. Our walk with God may also have begun with a "travel brochure" of dreams and visions where God gives us a picture of His destination for us. Yet we fail to be able to see how His promises will come to pass in our lives.Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and delivered up by them to die. He was unjustly accused when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him. He was imprisoned and forgotten by all except God who patiently watched and measured Joseph's reaction to difficulty.

Rich or poor, blessed or smitten, Joseph served God. He was being tested, but he continued to pass his tests. Joseph was on trial before men, but he was found innocent before God.

Finally, at the right moment, the Lord suddenly connected all the loose ends of Joseph's life. Everything that Joseph went through would have seemed cruel and unfair except that the Lord was shaping a man for His purpose. God uses everything we go through for future purposes that He alone sees. We do not see His ultimate plan while we are in the valley. We must remember the vision, keeping faith in what God has promised.

Just as He allowed Joseph to go through many trials, so He allows us to go through great conflicts as well. For He knows that our lives-what we have become through His grace-will help others find the shelter of the Most High God in their lives.

"Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, 'For,' he said, 'God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household'" (Gen. 41:51). God caused Joseph to forget the difficulty and pain of his life. There is something wonderful about the Lord's capacity to cause all things to work for good. With Jesus in our lives, a time ultimately comes when God causes us to forget all the troubles of the past.

"He named the second Ephraim, 'For,' he said, 'God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction'" (Gen. 41:52). God made him fruitful in the very things that afflicted him. In the land of your affliction, in your battle, is the place where God will make you fruitful.

Consider even now, the area of greatest affliction in your life. In that area God will make you fruitful in such a way that your heart will be fully satisfied and God's heart fully glorified. Ultimately, the Lord will touch many others with the substance of what you have gained. In a world that is superficial, Christ will produce something within you that is deep and living.

God has not promised to keep us from valleys and sufferings, but He has promised to make us fruitful in them. Without a doubt we each will pass through valleys before we reach our final goal in God. As we remain faithful to Him in trials, the character and nature of Christ Jesus will emerge in our spirits; and Christ will be revealed to those around us. He intends to make your life a key that unlocks God's shelter for others.

Lord, You are God of the mountains and the valleys. I know that Your faithfulness is my shield and my bulwark.

Thank You for redeeming the conflicts of my life. I praise You for healing me and causing me to forget all the trauma of my past. Now Lord, help me to remember what I have learned. Cause me to remember that the crises in my life always precede the enrichment of my life. Help me to recognize that the place of my fruitfulness is in the land of my affliction. In Jesus's name. Amen.

 

The Divine Pursuit:
Stages of Seeking God

By Francis Frangipane
 

The divine pursuit begins with the humbling of self. Until we embrace humility, our natural mind displays itself as a god sitting in the temple of our thought-life. We are ruled by the tyranny of fleshly desires, soulish fears and human ambitions. To advance in God we must retreat from self.

Thus, when true meekness emerges in our hearts, it comes to silence the clamor of our fleshly minds. The volume on our self-righteousness mutes; the voice of our fears and inadequacies becomes a whisper. To humble our earthly perspectives and opinions, we must relegate them to a lower priority; they become mere background noise as our focus turns increasingly toward God. No pretense prevails; we come humbling ourselves. We bow on our face before the holy gaze of God. And in His light finally we perceive the darkness of our soul.

Thus, humility, at its root, starts with honesty. The humbled heart is truly and deeply acquainted with its need and, in the beginning, the awareness of one’s need becomes the voice of prayer. This confession, "I have sinned," puts us on the side of God concerning it. We agree with our Father that our behavior is wrong - we’re selfish, lustful and unloving. Thus, the process of healing begins during this moment of self-discovery. We are working together with God to defeat sin in our lives, and in this process of humbling ourselves the Lord grants us peace, covering, and transforming grace: the process of our healing has begun.

Yet, with humility we not only acknowledge our need, we take full responsibility for it. We offer no defense to God for our fallen condition. We’ve come, not to explain ourselves but to cleanse ourselves. Though we may have suffered injustice, we abandon self-justification or accusation toward others. We are consumed with the condition of just one soul, our own; and our quest is for mercy, not vengeance.

At some point, however, our humility toward God, if it is genuine, will regenerate and bloom again in our relationships with others. We will be able to laugh at ourselves; we will no longer take offense when challenged or accused. If we have been embittered by life, we now forgive. And, if we sinned against another, we humbly ask their forgiveness. We must deal with our offended heart. The Lord God may not require us to trust everyone, but He does call us to forgive (Matt. 18:21-35).

In a world where the heart of man is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" ( Jer. 17:9 KJV), in Heaven’s eyes, to tearfully acknowledge our need is a breakthrough.

A People of Prayer
The road to healing a society, whether it is a community, a church, or a family, begins with humbling ourselves to God and to one another. The Lord, who dwells "on a high and holy place," also dwells "with the contrite and lowly of spirit." It is the contrite and lowly the Lord promises to revive (Isa. 57:15).

Yet, humility is not our final goal. We must learn also to be a people of prayer. Prayer is the voice of our dependency. Strong, independent people do not pray; dependent people broken of self-will pray and look to God. Prayer is not a laser beam; it is a prism that accommodates variations of color and expression. Whether our cry is in supplication or silence, regardless if it is tearful or rejoicing, at its core, prayer is not just telling the Lord our needs; it is transferring those needs to God.

It should also be acknowledged that, especially in the beginning, prayer is often an expression of fear - fear concerning the threats and conditions of life, and fear that our sin or circumstances will overwhelm us or a loved one. Yet, we do not pray because we fear; we pray because we have a promise from God. He has said He will "hear from Heaven … and heal." Thus, at some point, fear must be displaced by faith; our prayer must be an expression of our growing trust in God. The world will remain a fearful place, but prayer empowered by faith can transform our world.

The Goal God Seeks
If we humble ourselves and pray, we will have ever increasing access to God. Yet, while we may experience degrees of breakthrough, our hope is to see God actually heal our land. It is encouraging to see that, today, the prayer movement has become a force in the earth. However, if we are honest, the depth of healing we have sought has not occurred. We have fasted and prayed, but the greatest breakthroughs have not come. Why? Perhaps we have sought God’s hand more than His face.

First, it is right to seek God’s hand. Indeed, Scripture asks, "To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (Isa. 53:1). Jesus cast out demons by the "finger of God" (Luke 11:20). Seeking the arm or hand or finger of the Almighty certainly is of great value. But the Lord did not say, "Seek My hand." Rather, He calls us to seek His face. We must lift our prayers beyond the needs of our world, and let our highest prayer be to seek God for Himself.

"If My people … seek My face," He says. Until now, our pilgrimage has been about us coming to God with our needs. Now, it is about Him. In this shift of focus, beloved, is the power to turn nations. When we become true God-seekers - individuals whose delight is perpetually in the Lord - we will secure the full help of Heaven. And more, we will rise to meet the consummate reward of Heaven: to see the face of God (Rev. 22:3-4).

As a leader in the prayer movement, I confess that we have sought more the hand of God and not His face. We have prayer, holy causes, and feel outrage because of sin; we repeatedly humble ourselves and fast and weep. Yet, until we are obsessed with love for God, we will always fall short of the greatest fulfillment. It is time to rise higher.

In a parallel promise given by God to Jeremiah, the Lord spoke to a people in exile from their land. He assured them that His plan for them was for their welfare and not for calamity (Jer. 29:11). And again He brought their focus to seeking Him. He says, "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:12-13).

In the next verse, the Lord reinforces His promise, saying, "And I will be found by you" (v. 14).

The Spirit of God desires not only that we seek Him but that we actually find Him! The humbling of our soul and learning to pray - these are not simply spiritual disciplines or mechanical things we do for the sake of revival. They are heart preparations. The invitation from the Lord to seek His face is not to be taken lightly; indeed, it is staggering!

God desires intimacy with us. To seek His face is to behold the divine expression and to hear the tone of His voice. From this vantage point of His presence, we can truly turn away from evil. For to know His love is to know why we’ve been created.

God-seeker, do not doubt the outcome of your pursuit. He says with glad assurance, "And I will be found by you."

Oh God, my insides ache for You, to know You and walk in Your ways. You are my exceedingly great reward, the pearl of great price. I love You, Master. And I will seek You until I truly
find You.

 

Everyone Who Seeks Finds
By Francis Frangipane
 

It is not hard to recognize one who has spent extended time at a newsstand: his conversation overflows with the drama of current affairs. And, it is not hard to discern a person who has come from a sporting event, as their face reveals the outcome of the game. Likewise, people can tell when an individual has spent extended time seeking God. An imperturbable calm guards their heart, and their countenance is radiant with light, as with the morning dew of Heaven.

Beloved, to seek and find God is everything.

The Eternal Imprint
It is to our shame that, in our era, church services do not focus more on actually seeking God. Yes, we do honor God and thank Him for what He has done. We hear a sermon and, perhaps, enjoy a time of fellowship with others. Yet only rarely do we depart a congregational meeting with the fire of eternity reflecting off our faces. Instead, we fill up with information about God without actually drawing near to Him. Most of us are still largely unaware of God's presence.

While we rightly need church programs, fellowship, and times for ministry training, we must not automatically assume that religious indoctrination is the same thing as actually seeking God. And while I am often blessed listening to contemporary Christian music, even godly entertainment is no substitute for my own worship encounter with God.

Therefore, let us ask ourselves: Is there a place and a time set apart in our spiritual lives where we can give ourselves to seeking God? What if the Spirit of God actually desired to manifest Himself during our worship service? Would the Lord have to wait until we finished our scheduled program? I respect and recognize the need for order; we need the scheduled times for announcements and the defined purposes that currently occupy Sunday mornings, but have we made room for God Himself?

"He Knew Not That His Face Shone"
When we first determine to draw near to God, it may seem we have little to show for our efforts. Yet, be assured: even the thought of seeking God is a step toward our transformation. Still, we often do not notice the first signs of our spiritual renewal, for as we grow increasingly more aware of God, we simultaneously grow increasingly less aware of ourselves. Though we may not see that we are changing, others certainly will.

Consider the experience of Moses. The Lord's servant had ascended Mount Sinai, and there stood before the living God. The eyes of Moses were actually filled with God's sun-like glory; his ears actually heard the audible sound of the Lord's voice. Yet, when Moses returned to the people, the Bible says he "did not know that the skin of his face shone" (Exod. 34:29). When the Israelites saw the fire of God's glory on the face of Moses, "they were afraid to come near him" (v. 30). They saw he had been with God.

The church needs more people who have, like Moses, climbed closer to the Almighty, people who have stood in the sacred fire of God's presence. Instead, we exhaust ourselves arguing over peripheral doctrines or styles of music in our song services.

Perhaps there are benefits to constantly debating the nuances of our doctrines, but are we not more truly thirsting for the reality of God?

Our goal is to, day by day, draw nearer to God. He has commanded that we come boldly to His throne of grace. To receive the help we need, we must arrive at His throne. Remember also that our confidence comes from Christ Himself. He promised,

"Everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matt. 7:8).

We are seeking a lifetime of increasing devotion, though it may certainly begin in a season of drawing near. In spite of natural and spiritual obstacles, as we persevere, the Lord assures us, "How much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
(Matt. 7:11).

If we do not cease seeking and knocking, we will discover unfolding degrees of intimacy with God. Even now, He's drawing near. The Lord promises, "Everyone who … seeks finds" (Matt. 7:8).

Master, to possess more of You is the heart-focus of my existence. Draw near, blessed Redeemer, fulfill Your desire for me by fulfilling my desire for You.

Two Sets of Books
By Francis Frangipane
 

It was not a dream. It was simply a thought in the middle of the night, but it came into my mind with such clarity that it roused me from my sleep. It said, "He keeps two sets of books: one is exact and the other forgiving."

I barely had time to wonder who it was that kept these mysterious two accounts when the parable of the wise, but wasteful, steward surfaced in my mind. The story, which comes from Luke, chapter 16, tells of a manager who was about to be dismissed for squandering his employer's wealth.

"What shall I do," the steward pondered, "since my master is taking the stewardship away from me?" (vs 3).

To secure his future, he shrewdly contacted his employer's debtors. To the one that owed 100 measures of oil he said, "Write fifty." He reduced another's debt from 100 measures of wheat to eighty. So clever was his plan that even the steward's master praised him because he acted shrewdly, with wisdom and prudence (vs 8).

The parable becomes even more meaningful when we consider that, in ancient Israel, a steward's wage was a hidden commission added to the total debt. It is likely that the steward was actually canceling some portion of the debt that was owed to him. By canceling his share of the bill, he made friends for himself and, in so doing, he prepared for himself a future.

God Is Calling Us To Account
In many ways, American Christianity has been like the unrighteous, wasteful steward. Our Master has given us great wealth. With it, He expected His church to better care for the poor; we could have supported a hundred times the number of missionaries. Instead, we have squandered much of what the Lord has given us on personal pursuits and possessions.

The Lord has also given us each other. But, again, instead of using our diversity for our common good, we fell into jealously and selfish ambition. James tells us that when jealousy and selfish ambition exist, they create "disorder" and open the door for "every evil thing" (James 3:16).

If we look honestly at the church today, whether it is in regard to ourselves, our cities or our environment, we are guilty of squandering our Master's possessions. What was written of Jerusalem applies also to us: "the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem - because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests" (Lam. 4:12-13a).

If we had not wasted our resources, we could have easily remedied many of society's needs. The Lord, I believe, is holding the church accountable for that part of our national decline which is due to our neglect. Yet, although we are in trouble, God has not abandoned us. Indeed, He desires us to see that a way into blessing still exists, but it depends upon on how wisely we respond to our failures. Though we have made a mess of the past, the Lord tells us there is still hope.

Through this very parable of the "shrewd steward," the Lord reveals that He anticipated our wastefulness. Using the steward's actions as our model, Jesus offers a profound, yet simple strategy. He concludes the parable offering us a remedy. He says,

"Make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings" (vs 9).

Perhaps we have been seeking answers for our cities that are too sophisticated. Maybe God's antidote for healing the conflicts in the world begins with healing the conflicts in the church. By canceling what others owe us, we are actually working to create an "eternal dwelling" which shall endure when all else fails.

Our future is connected to the quality of our Christian friendships. You see, a healing initiative has already come from Heaven, and it is beginning to descend into the historic wounds between peoples in America. Furthermore, the Lord is not only interested in our canceling what others owe us, He calls us to become friends with one another, and He’s telling us that our future hinges on how we care for each other.

There is a day coming when, according to the Lord, the "mammon of unrighteousness" shall fail. When it does, in city after city where the church has truly united in Christ - where debts have been forgiven and where churches communities are friends - a habitation of eternal life is emerging.

Two Sets
As we enter the year 2010, we must learn the principle of keeping two sets of books. One set is toward God. With the Lord we must be exact and fully accountable; but with others let us cancel all debts. The outcome? We can see healing, friendships and transformation occur between people of color and the white community. What the church lives is what the church gives, and our healing can spread quickly into the larger society around us. Imagine, evangelicals and pentecostals forgiving each other, uniting in Jesus according to John 17 and 2 Chronicles 7:14, seeing God begin to "heal our land!"

How do we get there? We must "make friends" with Christians from other churches and other cultures. If we have the "mammon of righteousness," let us use at least some to bless other churches. Take an offering for the pastor or church down the street. Pastors, if you know another pastor is hurting, befriend him. Intercessors, let's unite in prayer, perhaps weekly or at least monthly and pray corporately for our communities.

The Bible calls this "eternal dwelling" the "habitation of God" (Eph. 2:21-22). It is where Christ-centered relationships manifest Heaven on earth (see Ps. 133). You see, until the rapture occurs, God's ark of safety for us is us -- friends, united in the life and love of Christ. It is true, God calls us to keep two sets of books: one exact and the other forgiving.

 

The Christ Pattern
By Francis Frangipane
 

The seeking heart habitually looks to God. Was not this the inner working of Christ's heart? Yes, consider the perfections of Christ. Though He was the embodiment of God in Heaven, He laid aside His privileges of equality with God. Instead, He "emptied Himself" taking the appearance of a man, and as such patterned for us the way of a perfect man with God (Phil 2:6-8). What we see in Christ is, in truth, not merely the perfection of one’s talent or leadership abilities; in Christ we see the perfection of a surrendered heart. His life is the maturation of spiritual dependency. Christ’s incomparable righteousness, His stunning virtue and unparalleled strength of character all had to be appropriated from God the Father.

Christ shows us how God, manifested as a Son, submits to God, ruling as the Father. In so doing, Jesus also reveals how man, made in the image of God, draws spiritual strength and substance in seeking God as his life source.

It staggers me that the Son of God said of Himself, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone" (Mark 10:18). Of course Jesus was good! He was perfect. He who gazed upon Christ, feasted upon God. Yet, even here, Jesus models the pattern we must follow if we would find true spiritual fulfillment.

Christian, let us grasp this one great truth: attaining righteousness is the result of seeking God. Jesus had no plan of action other than to mirror the things He saw His Father doing. Everything we see Jesus accomplish on earth was, in fact, the result of His times of seeking God. We see the boldness of Christ and assume He moved in great faith and authority - and He most certainly did. Jesus was bold, but He was never self-willed. His faith came from seeing and hearing the Father. Whether by intuition or by physical sight or by hearing God's voice, Jesus had an inner "radar" that kept Him continually tracking and following the Father's heart.

Jesus did nothing on His own initiative (John 5:30; 8:28). The pattern He set for us is not one of a man wielding unlimited power, but a man pure in heart, seeking God as both a Son and servant. In so doing, He perfectly demonstrates that, when we ask for power or virtue from God, we are, in fact, asking to be nearer still to God the Father. The pure in heart see God; the work of power is, in truth, an act of obedience to what God revealed beforehand.

Lord, walking close to You is my plan. Hearing Your voice is my strategy. Knowing Your heart is my confidence. Master, I pray the prayer patterned by Your Son: not my will but Thine be done!

 

The Nearness of Our God
By Francis Frangipane
 

 In the 73rd Psalm, the psalmist Asaph expressed a struggle we all might feel at times. He questioned why the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous are chastened. The whole idea was troublesome until he entered the sanctuary of God. Once in the presence of God, Asaph realized his error. As he compared himself to the unbeliever, he saw that, apart from the influence of God, he had nothing in which to boast. He said, "When my heart was embittered and I was pierced with-in, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast be-fore You" (vv. 21-22).

Finally, his soul brightened as he considered that God alone was his salvation, and his relationship with God was his strength. He wrote, "Nevertheless I am continually with You … You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth … God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (vv. 23-26).

The summary thought of Asaph's revelation, and the point of this chapter, is in verse 28. He wrote, "But as for me, the nearness of God is my good."

Let's settle this truth once and for all: It is the nearness of God that produces our good. Christianity was never designed by God to be sustained by nice people trying to appear good. We're not that good. We're not that clever. And we're not that nice. The only thing that can sustain true Christianity is true union with Jesus Christ. It is nearness to Him in all things that produces our spiritual fruit.

If we are honest, we will admit that, apart from the influence and work of God, there is nothing morally superior or remarkably virtuous about our lives. Our flesh has the same carnal passions as do people in the world; our soul carries within it the same insecurities and fears. Thus, apart from the influence of Christ in us, there's no difference between Christians and non-Christians (except that Christians, when living separate from God's presence, can be more obnoxious). It's only our relationship with the Lord that keeps us from fulfilling the lusts and desires of the flesh, for apart from Him we can do nothing ( John 15:5).

Therefore, the strength of our walk does not originate from within ourselves; rather it comes from our relationship with Christ. Our virtue, if it can be defined as such, is that we have learned to prioritize seeking God; our character is the offspring of our oneness with Jesus. By this I mean, Jesus is not only first on our list of priorities; His influence rules over all our priorities. He inspires love in our relationships; His voice becomes the conviction in our integrity. God has made "Christ Jesus" to be to us "wisdom … and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).

Thus, the God-seeker desires to find the Lord's pleasure drawn to every aspect of his soul. He also knows that, should an area of his heart exist in isolation from God, he will remain vulnerable to manipulation by the enemy in that area. So let me underscore the psalmist's truth, and let us say with our own voice of conviction: it is the nearness of our God that is our good.

Oh God, You are the lover of my soul. Faithfully, have You extended Your hands toward me. Yet, I have been, at times, a drifter and distant. Master, this day I acknowledge my most wonderful times are those spent close to You. When my heart is near to You, I am partaking of the nectar of life.
 

 

One Message
By Francis Frangipane
 

"The Lord alone will be exalted in that day." - Isaiah 2:11

Normally my Sunday sermon is prepared a few days in advance, but this week was different. All week the heavens seemed like bronze. Saturday morning came and still I was at a loss. Nothing seemed alive. It was now Saturday evening and I was pacing the floor seeking God. "Lord," I asked, "What is the message for tomorrow morning? What topic should I address?"

A dozen ideas filed through my mind, loitered momentarily in my imagination, and left as unanointed as they had arrived. I went to bed praying. When I woke Sunday morning, my prayer was still on my lips.

A half-hour before I had to leave for church, I had not quit pacing the bedroom floor. For the umpteenth time, I asked, "Lord, what is the message?" when suddenly the electricity to our home clicked off, reset, and then came back on. This, in turn, caused the answering machine on my desk to also reset. Perfectly synchronized with my prayer asking for a sermon topic, the machine replied in its computerized voice: "You . . . have . . . one . . . message."

When a voice comes out of the air and says, "You have one message," if your message is not centered upon the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have missed the purpose of Christianity! That morning I preached Jesus. People said there was more fire than ever in my sermon.

The fact is, the church has only one message. The proclamation of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished is the eternal message of the church; it is the only message the Father promises to confirm with power. To reveal Jesus through obedience to what He taught is to bring the life of His kingdom into our world. As we return to the simple "purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3), we will find the most powerful manifestations of the Lord Jesus awaiting us. Indeed, at the end of the age, the church that loves Him will display Him. We will reveal His glory.

The Answer: More of Christ!
When we consider that America is plagued with abortion, violence, pornography, Satanism, drugs, national debt, sexual abuse, and the breakdown of the family structure, it becomes obvious we need more of the nature of Christ!

Indeed, how shall we deal with the terrors that have invaded our world? Should we move to Idaho, stockpile food, and wait for the tribulation? Perhaps we should simply close our eyes to the world and hope for the rapture?

Or should we find out what God is planning to do and throw our lives into His purpose?

My prayer is that God would give you a vision of what He’s planning to do before Jesus comes for His elect. The time is at hand when the works Jesus did, we shall also do, and even greater works (John 14:12). What is coming on the earth is "the day of [God’s] power" (Ps. 110:3). Beloved, think about it: great opportunities are set before those who seek conformity to Christ’s image in this day.

It is a time to simplify our lives and focus on our transformation. We truly have one message!

 

When the Morning Star
Rises in Our Hearts

By Francis Frangipane
 

It is noble that we should fight for our nation and heroic that we stand against evil. Yet, lest we despair at what seems like slow progress, let us also keep our eyes on the bigger picture. There is a day coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Beloved, even before that day of Christ's return, our Father has many spiritual breakthroughs awaiting the overcoming church. He will present to His Son a church radiant, clothed in Christ's character and power.

The Morning Star
The day of the Lord, like the dawning of any calendar day, does not burst forth abruptly. It is not pitch black at 5:59 a.m. and then, suddenly, bright morning the next minute. The night sky gradually recedes, rolling back from the approaching light of day. In the process of time transitioning from night to day, another event occurs: before the dawn breaks, the morning star begins to shine on the eastern horizon. It is a faithful herald of the coming day.

This unique morning "star" is not an actual star at all, it is the planet Venus. In the morning it is situated in our sky above the eastern horizon, appearing at the right place and at the right time to "see" the sun and announce to those in darkness, the day is soon at hand. The morning star is a small, yet brilliant preview of the light which is about to come.

The picture of the morning star serves well the biblical image of what God seeks to do with the true church at the end of the age. Concerning the end times, listen well to Peter’s words:

"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).

Peter’s statement is weighty, providing inspired vision concerning one dramatic phase of end-time events. Peter speaks of the "morning star" rising in the hearts of God’s people before the Lord returns. Remember, the significance of the morning star is that it appears as a herald while it is still night. It can’t be seen during the day. But here, Peter tells us that before the millennial "day [of the Lord ] dawns," in anticipation of Christ’s return, the morning star shall rise in our hearts!

You see, there is a glory coming for the overcomer at the end of the age. When I say "glory," I mean the living presence of Christ in us will increasingly manifest through us. As Paul wrote, "For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11).
I am talking about the actual, substantial life of Jesus being "manifested in our mortal flesh." I know some of us are caught up with the issues of our lives, but we need to keep our eyes on the vision of where God is taking us! I also know some will distort what I’m saying. But, simply, at the end of the age, God has purposed to reveal Himself through His people.

So, when we speak of the morning star, we are not referring to some New Age doctrine but the actual spiritual "wattage" of God’s presence increasing. We know that such luminescence does not emanate from ourselves; it comes from our union with the Lord Jesus, and it is worked in us through the Holy Spirit as we grow into full conformity with Christ’s words.

Yet, there is something to heed here. Over and over again, Jesus warned about His followers becoming preoccupied with the world or weary in the battle. Let us remember, it is to those who overcome that Jesus says, "I will give him the morning star" (Rev. 2:28). And then He says that He Himself is the "bright morning star" (Rev. 22:16).

A day is coming before the rapture, before the second coming of Jesus Christ, when those who follow Christ will be positioned, like the morning star - in the right place at the right time - and they will herald Christ’s return. They will come from every nation, people, tribe and tongue, yet they will be one, for Christ will have given them His glory (John 17:22).

I am not saying we won’t sin; temptation will always be in our world. Yet, if we stay true to Christ, if we don’t allow ourselves to be swallowed up in the cares and issues of this age, a time will come when the presence of the Lord Jesus, like the morning star, will rise and be visibly seen upon us. At that time, the word of Isaiah the prophet shall be fulfilled, which says,

"Arise, shine ; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising."
- Isaiah 60:1-3

 

 

The Fullness of God's Call   <----watch video

God is a Reality Broker    <---watch video   

       
11 - 01 - 09
 

"Come and See"
By Francis Frangipane
 

The two sons of Zebedee began their spiritual commitment as disciples of John the Baptist. In fact, James and John had actually been standing near the prophet when Jesus walked by. "Behold, the Lamb of God!" the Baptizer said, and from that moment the two disciples began to follow Jesus (John 1:35-37). This was an insightful account. It is John's handwritten testimony of how he came to the Son of God. Yet, John has deeper truths to reveal beyond this historic portrayal. He is also going to reveal what we should each ultimately seek when we come to Christ.

Let's pick up the account. James and John, having heard and believed John's messianic proclamation about Jesus, are now walking, perhaps hurriedly, to catch up to Jesus. They are within conversation range.

Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou? He saith unto them, Come and see.
---John 1:38-39 KJV

There are many reasons one comes to Christ. We may seek Him for health issues or to possess the keys to prosperity. Perhaps we need deliverance or are burdened with the cares of a loved one. Yet, as the Lord asked John and James, so He asks each of us: what are you seeking in life? What goals compel us? When we approach the final season of our lives, will the things we have achieved be transferable into eternal accounts? Or will we have spent our time and energies on that which is void of true life?

Jesus asks, "What are you seeking?" It is a very important question. The Lord desires that we take inventory of our passions and objectives, and then chart our course toward heavenly values. You see, many say they love Jesus. What they mean is that, in time, they hope to get around to loving Jesus. Right now, however, they barely know Him and almost never spend time seeking Him.

The proof that we love Him is that we keep His commandments (John 14:15). What must He think when so many who say they love Him are, in fact, not loving Him but actually having an affair with this world? May God have mercy.

Yet, this is not the situation with you. In spite of your flaws and weaknesses, you sincerely desire to possess more of God. You have emerged from the difficulties of your past and, though tried in the fire, your heart's desire is to walk close with the Lord. Indeed, Christ sees this holy desire and, to Him, it is the most precious part of you.

The Lord's heart is also moved toward those who follow Him, though they may walk limping. To those wounded by injustice or the effects of sin, the Lord's promise remains faithful: "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish." Surely, He will bring to victory the justice due you (Isa. 42:3; Matt. 12:20).

Like James and John, we, too, "behold the Lamb of God." Just as He asked them, so He asks us, "What are you seeking?"

The Dwelling Place of Christ
In response to Jesus' probing question, the disciples' answer may seem strange. For they did not ask Him for greater power or one of His many spiritual gifts. Instead, they asked Jesus something more personal, and intimate: "Where dwellest Thou?"

I'd like us to consider the poignancy of their answer. They wanted to know where Jesus lived. There are times when a question transcends the simple boundaries of intellectual curiosity and actually reveals one's quest in life. Such is now the case: they are seeking to live with Jesus. They are searching for the dwelling place of God.

It is not wrong to desire spiritual gifts or to ask God for special blessings of health and financial prosperity. It is not wrong; it is just not enough. Inside the heart of a God-seeker is a quest for more. We are in search of the "dwelling places" of God. In truth, our hearts have been divinely programmed. There are within us "the highways to Zion" (Ps. 84).

Our destination is nothing less than oneness with Christ. All fruitfulness comes from living in spiritual union with Jesus. In contrast, whatever we offer as service to God that is not the result of our union with Christ, that labor is in vain; it is a weak comfort. For apart from Him, we can do nothing.

John tells us in his first epistle that those who say they abide in Him ought to walk "in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Abiding in Jesus leads to walking like Jesus.

Beloved, there is yet much more to learn and discover concerning our Lord! We must beware of spiritual complacency. Recall the prayer of Moses: At the end of his life - after being used by God to confront and defeat the gods of Egypt, after dwelling in the Lord's glory and beholding miracle after miracle for forty years - Moses prayed, "You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand" (Deut. 3:24).

You have begun? No matter how much we attain, no matter what revelations of God's glory are ours, we have only begun to see His glory.

The disciples answered astutely, "Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?" May this become our prayer as well: Where do You live, O Son of God? Where is Your dwelling place? To all who feel similarly, Christ says to us what He promised them: "Come and see."

Dear Master, I turn to You now. You are my life's greatest goal. I desire to live with You, to abide in the wonder of a life united with You.

 

Pray for Hunger
By Francis Frangipane


Today many Christians have lost their hunger for God. Instead of coming into the Lord's presence hungry for more of His fullness, our thoughts are gathered to worldly concerns and fleshly distractions. At best, we are merely curious about spiritual realities, but not truly hungry.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates what I mean. We have a little a little dog named Sophie. Sophie loves people food. To her, eating people food is the culinary equivalent of entering the Kingdom of God. She loves our food. She even has a Bible verse that she claims in faith: "Even the dogs get the crumbs" (Matt 15:27).

When my wife and I share a meal, Sophie will sit at our feet, squint her eyes, and stare at us (she thinks squinting makes her cuter). Any food that falls to the floor instantly vanishes into her mouth. (We haven’t had to sweep the kitchen floor in eight years.) Frankly, she is always hungry for our food.

We also have a small fenced-in yard outside our porch where Sophie plays. The fence surrounds the area, but there are gaps where the wood pickets don't quite reach to the ground. If Sophie wanted, she actually could squeeze under the fence and get out, but she normally has no reason to try. Occasionally she will get curious and go as far as the gate, but she doesn't leave the yard.

One day, though, my wife decided to feed a few slices of stale bread to the birds, which happen to nest on a tree on the other side of the fence. When Sophie went out an hour later, she immediately noticed a human food smell in the air, which she tracked to the bread. In less than a heartbeat she found a little gap under the picket fence, squeezed herself to the ground, and then shimmied through the fence to the bread on the other side. It was gone in less than a minute.

My point is this: hunger will take you where mere curiosity would never go.

My friend, God is looking for hungry people. He is seeking people who are seeking Him. Indeed, He has bread from Heaven for us, and it is eternally satisfying. We cannot afford to settle into the routine of a fenced-in life, not when God has magnificent realities awaiting. Let us, therefore, follow our hunger into the presence of God.

Spiritual Authority and the Things We Love, Part 2
By Francis Frangipane


As wide as our sphere of love, to that extent we have spiritual authority. We see this in the mother who loves her child. Such a woman has authority to protect, train, and nurture her offspring. She has authority to protect what she loves. The same is true of the husband over his family. His authority is not merely to rule but to establish in his home the life of Christ. True spiritual authority is born of love.

The individuals who love their local congregation have authority to build up that congregation. Their authority is not extended, however, beyond the boundaries of their love. If we love the entire body of Christ in a locale, our authority touches the lives of those in our city or region, either through the burden of prayer or through teaching or outreach and service.

The testing ground of all spiritual things is love, for love alone purifies our motives and delivers us from the deceitfulness of self. Even authority in spiritual warfare must be rooted in love. David gained the skills to slay Goliath, not on a battlefield, but by defending his father's sheep from predatory animals. David loved the sheep so much that he risked his life for them. So also we grow in authority as we protect our Father's sheep, the flock He has given us to love.

Authority is muscle in the arm of love. The more one loves, the more authority is granted to him. If we love our cities and are willing to lay down our lives in service to our community, God will enlarge our hearts. He will grant us new authority in spiritual warfare. However, no man should ever engage in confrontational warfare who does not love what he has been called to protect. If you do not love your city, do not pray against the ruling forces of darkness. Satan knows the genuineness of our love by the brightness of the glory that surrounds us. A man or woman without Christ-inspired love will soon shrink back and fail in spiritual warfare. Only love "never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8).

Indeed, when it comes to spiritual warfare, there are many things the Holy Spirit has to say that we are not able to hear until the base of our love is expanded. In His wisdom, the Lord protects us from presumptuously attacking the strongholds of hell and suffering loss. Yet, if we are truly anointed in God's love, the price to see our culture saved is not too great. But it will be a price that love alone can pay.

Authority to Build Up the Body of Christ
"For even if I should boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you . . . " (2 Cor. 10:8).

Many so-called "prophets" today think they are called, like Jeremiah, to "pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow" (Jer. 1:10). Jeremiah's message was to a people who were destined to be carried off into Babylon. The prophet spoke to a people who did not have the Holy Spirit and the blood of Jesus. Israel was, at that time, a nation that God Himself said was destined for captivity, and had been speaking and warning against judgment for over 250 years.

Yet, even if we had only the prophet Jeremiah as our example, God's commission of Jeremiah was more than confronting sin. It also included promises of restoration and deliverance, "to build and to plant" (Jer. 1:10). To represent the heart of the Lord, which is the true prophetic role, the servant of God must know both God's grace and His truth. We must know by revelation whether the Holy Spirit is preparing to destroy or seeking to rebuild.

Today, in my opinion, we are a people coming out of captivity, a people whom God is encouraging to build, as they did in the days of Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah. We have been in exile from the promises of God, but we are returning to rebuild the Lord's house. Yes, we are in a time of judgment, correction and discipline, yet it is not a time to tear down the body of Christ; it is time to establish and to build up.

The authority coming to the Church in this next outpouring will be an authority to restore the local, citywide church. Like Paul's authority, ours will be given for building and encouraging and not for destroying.

God has this new leadership constantly before His eyes. Pastors from many denominations, along with their congregations, are meeting together in prayer, seeking to draw the very fire and heart of God into their souls. Emerging from this foundation of humility and prayer is a new authority to make disciples of Christ. Because their love extends outward into their cities, their authority reaches outward as well, even into the heavenly places. These are the leaders whom God is raising up. And those whom God raises up, He backs up with His power. Authority is muscle in the arm of love.

Dear Lord, make me a willing sacrifice. I desire Your authority, Lord. Give me courage to surrender in obedience, even when I do not see the outcome and when all I see is loss. Help me to trust as I walk through the narrow gate. Establish in me Your love that I might defend Your people with authority. In Jesus' name, amen.

 

Spiritual Authority and the Things We Love  (part one)
By Francis Frangipane
 

While the doctrines of Christianity can be taught, Christlikeness can only be inspired. By their humble and holy lives, this next generation of leaders will inspire multitudes. They will truly walk in Christ’s love; they will be granted great authority.

The Church has many administrators, but few examples of Christ; many who can explain the doctrines of Christianity but few who walk as Jesus walked. Indeed, while many stand in leadership today, not many function in the higher realms of authority that Christ purchased for His Church. However, a new badge of authority is coming to the Church. It will bring deliverance on a scale unprecedented; in some cases, entire cities will be turned toward God.

What is spiritual authority? It is nothing less than God Himself confirming with power the word of His servant. Moses exemplified spiritual authority when he warned unrepentant Pharaoh. The Spirit of God confirmed Moses’s judgments with power that broke the pride of Egypt. Jesus manifested spiritual authority when He confronted demons in people, silenced storms, healed diseases, and then fulfilled redemption in resurrection power. The Father let none of Christ’s words go unfulfilled.

The Bible provides us with many examples of those with spiritual authority. Every example tells us the same underlying principle: those who are raised up by God are backed up by God. They will "decree a thing, and it will be established" (Job 22:28). Such is the nature of spiritual authority.

The Source of Authority
Obviously, as pastors, leaders, and intercessors, we need to operate in greater authority. Yet while we enjoy a variety of graces that add to our personal edification, God gives us authority for one specific purpose: to fulfill His purposes on the earth. What are God’s purposes? One main unveiling of the divine purpose is seen in the Great Commission. Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:18-19).

Christ gave the Church authority to make disciples. We have been much more successful in making converts than disciples. In our day, many are believers in Jesus, but few are truly followers of Christ. If the goal is discipleship, how do we accomplish this? We are to take our converts and teach "them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded" (v. 20). When the Church returns to teaching all that Jesus taught, our disciples will have authority to do all that Jesus did.

Yet, spiritual authority is not something we possess merely because we strive for it. We cannot buy it as Simon the magician attempted to do (Acts 8:18). The power of authority will not function simply because we copy the methods of another, as the sons of Sceva realized (Acts 19:14-16). Nor can it be attained automatically because we read books about building the Church. We cannot pretend to have spiritual authority. As we focus upon obeying the words of Christ, there are divinely ordained ways for Christ’s authority to unfold in our lives.

From the beginning of our salvation we have enjoyed the Father’s unconditional love. As we mature, however, there comes a time when the Father’s love toward us seems conditional. As it was for Christ, so it is for those who follow Him. He said:

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life.
---John 10:17

Jesus lived in the deepest intimacies of the Father’s love because He laid down His life for the sheep. If we will grow in true authority, we will do so by laying down our lives for His sheep. Have you felt the drawing, the divine working of the Father bringing you into Christlike surrender? Be encouraged: He is equipping you for this next outpouring of His Spirit. But also be advised: your authority will be an outgrowth of your life laid down in love.

As leaders, we do indeed have administrative authority due to our positions in church government; however, spiritual authority transcends administrative authority. Here is the path to true spiritual authority: in full possession of our souls, without fear or intimidation by any outside source, we choose to lay down our lives for Christ’s sheep. Yes, in full freedom, with avenues of escape plainly within view, we fearlessly surrender our souls to God. No one controls us but God, yet our lives are laid down, like Christ’s, in intercession for others. When we could easily fight and win, yet turn the other cheek; when we are unjustly opposed, yet quietly endure---at those moments spiritual authority is entering our lives.

No one has taken [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.
---John 10:18

Jesus was not forced to accept crucifixion; He chose crucifixion. Christ’s Gethsemane prayer was not an entreaty to escape the cross, for while Jesus was still in the garden, He told Peter, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). Jesus had a choice: legions of warring angels and immediate personal deliverance, or death on the cross and deliverance for the world. He chose to die for us. The willful decision to lay down our lives as Jesus did is the very path upon which true authority develops. Jesus said, "I have authority to lay [My life] down" (John 10:18). His authority came in the laying down of His life. Our authority comes from the same source: picking up our cross and laying down our lives for others.

Authority, Not Control
Spiritual authority is the provision of God to transform the temporal with the power of the eternal. It is not something our flesh can imitate, nor is it found in the tone of our words or the gaze of our eyes. Divine authority requires divine sanction. This sanction comes from passing the tests of love.

When authority is administered without love, it degenerates into control. God does not call us to control His people but to inspire and guard them. The outcome of control is oppression, witchcraft, and strife. But the result of love is liberty and the power to build up and protect God’s people.

True spiritual authority exists above the realm of fleshly control. Our lives, and the lives of those who follow us, are laid down on our own initiative. It is a choice we make because of love. Since true authority itself is born in freedom, freedom is what it breeds.

We will walk in either the true authority of love, the false authority of control, or no authority at all. Both false authority and no authority are rooted in fear, and we react to fear in either of two ways. The first reaction, which produces false authority, is to seek to control those around us, thus making the circumstances around us more predictable and less threatening. The other response to fear is to refuse to accept and exercise any authority at all. Many relationships are simply the pairing of these symbiotic needs: the desire to control and the willingness to be controlled. Both are fueled by overreactions to fear.

Scripture tells us, however, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Since true authority is built upon love, its goal is to liberate, not dominate. Therefore, before one can truly move in spiritual authority, he must be delivered from fear and its desire to control; he must be rooted and grounded in love.

Authority to Inspire Christlikeness
When our teaching about God and our obedience to Him are one, spiritual authority accompanies our lives. Jesus astounded the multitudes, for He spoke "as one having authority" (Matt. 7:28-29). What He taught was consistent with how He lived. Therefore, we also must live and display the virtue we seek to teach.

Dear pastor, if we seek to train our congregations to pray, we ourselves must first be intercessors. You may say, "But out of a congregation of several hundred, only three people join me for prayer." Then with those three develop your intercessor base. Do not be discouraged, for you will win others. But the measure of our success is not the numbers in attendance on Sunday mornings. God has given us people so we may train them, not merely count them. Of this group, those whom we inspire to live like Christ are actually the measure of our success, the test of our effectiveness in the ministry.

Another may say, "But I’ve never been a leader." When anyone lays down his or her life in Christ’s love, others will see and follow. Whether you are a business owner, a housewife, or a teen, such a one can speak with confidence and authority as Christ’s disciple. In truth, if you are following Christ, others are following you. You are, indeed, a leader.

This next generation will not just teach the people; they will inspire the body of Christ to live like Jesus. Their example in all things will awaken godliness in those around them. From true virtue shall the leaders of tomorrow draw true authority, for when the nature of Christ is revealed, the authority of Christ soon follows.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, When the Many Become One (published by Creation House). For more information on this book, please visit the Arrow Bookstore at www.arrowbookstore.com. For reprint permission, please contact the publisher.

The Jedidiah Identity
By Richard Speight



Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife, and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that they should name him Jedidiah (which means "beloved of the Lord") as the Lord had commanded. (2 Samuel 12:24-25)

What defines you? Is it what you do? Some find their meaning in life by "making a difference." But what happens when you don’t? Fear of failure can become your god when you find your identity through making a difference.

What defines you? Is it who you are? Some think they have found enlightenment in the saying, "It’s not what you do but who you are that matters." Unfortunately, that thinking sets us up for a self-centered life---"I"dolatry. Fortunately, there is another way.

The Bible tells the famous story of David and Bathsheba. King David, a man who loved God with all his heart, made horrible choices in arranging the death of Bathsheba’s husband (Uriah, his loyal friend and soldier) so he could take Bathsheba as his own. God confronted him through the prophet Nathan, and David repented. (Sometime read David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. If you ever blow it, pray that prayer with all your heart and watch what happens.)

Though God forgave him, David experienced the painful consequences of his choices.

After the death of the child conceived in his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, David took her in as one of his wives. They named their next child Solomon, which means "peaceable." They were declaring, "We’ve been through a lot, but maybe we can have some peace now." They were like many people in our day, hoping for mere survival and maybe a little peace. It’s the best the world hopes for, and the best the world can offer.

But Jesus offers so much more.

Notice that "they named him Solomon," but the Lord named him Jedidiah---"beloved of the Lord."

As long as Solomon found his identity in being loved by the Lord, he became the wise king. But when he found his identity in being the wise king, he was given over to idolatry. Each one who is saved in Christ is His "Jedidiah." This identity is the Lord’s desire for every person. When you find your identity in what you do, your security depends upon your performance; but when you find your identity in being loved by the Lord, your security depends upon His performance.

We often make statements like, "I am a pastor… I am a teacher… I am a mother… I am a consultant… I am a student… I am an athlete"---often statements of identity. The truth is not that I am a pastor, but that I am a beloved child of the Lord who is doing the work of pastor.

If my happiness depends on what happens, the evil one can steal my happiness away. But if I rest in being the Lord’s beloved, then real life begins to well up inside me to overflowing.

Letting Jesus Love You
Jesus says, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, NKJV).

When my daughter Emily was editor of her college newspaper, she wrote an opinion column entitled, "Avoid identity theft, just be a schmuck!" Nice satire! Who wants to steal your identity if it’s not worth anything? However, the Bible says you were made in God’s image; you are of ultimate value to Him.

"This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:10). Out of his real love for you, God sent His Son to rescue you by dying on the cross for you. The Lord invites you to come to Him and find real rest, real love, and the real identity He has won for you---the Jedidiah identity.

What’s in a name? As a Jedidiah, you would let more and more of Jesus’ loving presence rest upon you, and as you let Him be enough for you, He will transform your life.

Make no mistake, there is an enemy who wants not only to steal your identity but to kill and utterly destroy you. However, the One who made you loves you. This wonderful rescuer, Jesus, died on a cross for all of us schmucks! He wants to rescue and fill you with life overflowing. Let Him. He wants to reveal to you the secret of true contentment: let it be enough to just be loved by Him.

LET’S PRAY! Lord, You know how driven I can be. I’m so tired of proving my own worth. It’s lonely being so dependent on myself. I need more than just a little peace. I’m tired of finding my identity in what I do. I want to enjoy life as Your beloved child. I sometimes act as if You are not there and don’t care about me. Please forgive me. Help me feel secure in Your love. I choose to let You love me. Please show me how much You love me. Teach me to let Your love be enough. Shine Your light on the dark stuff in me. I give my hurts, fears, and angers to You. Clean me out! Fill me up with Your love.

I am putting my life truly in Your hands. My security now depends upon Your performance, not mine. I am Your Jedidiah. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

Be Anxious For Nothing
by Francis Frangipane


Jesus warned that, in the last days, the world would face unfolding trauma. There would be wars, earthquakes and many other disasters. Yet, to His disciples, He said, "Do not be terrified"(Luke 21:9). He also said that, because of world conditions, men’s hearts would fail them "from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth" (Luke 21:26 NKJV). Not only would actual events generate worldwide fear, but the expectation of difficulties would cause men’s hearts to fail.

Today, heart failure is the number one cause of disease-related death in North America. Approximately every thirty-four seconds a heart stops beating and another person dies, usually suddenly. There may be many contributors to heart failure, but one major source is the inability to handle stress.

There are times when stress is unavoidable - the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, moving to a new home, severe illness, or going through a divorce - all take a toll. But most of the time accepting stress should not be so readily accommodated. The problem is that, just as death entered the world through Adam's sin (see Rom. 5), so the substance of death enters our personal world through our sins. Indeed, when we carry anxiety-related stress, we carry a container of death that, without fail, takes an ever increasing toll upon our lives.

Consider our world: War and terror attacks can occur at any time and anywhere. Will our struggling economy recover? We have many unanswered questions that are a source of stress. We also have personal situations. We worry about aging and our health. We have stress at our jobs and stress with a lack of jobs. Our families can be a place of comfort or a place of anxiety, especially with children. Someone once said, "A mother is only as happy as her saddest child." It is true for fathers also. We all carry people in our hearts, and as we love them their battles become ours, further adding to the layers of stress and anxiety we carry.

If you want to know how stressed you are, look at your disposition when you drive. If you are always exceeding the speed limit, it reveals the lack of rest in your soul. That extra push on the accelerator is occurring continually on your heart throughout the day, not only when you are driving. Driving simply makes apparent the level of anxiety we have learned to live with.

Paul wrote, "Be anxious for nothing" (Phil. 4:6). Yet we seem to be anxious for everything. In fact, stress-related anxiety is so much a part of our lives that, somehow, it has escaped being identified as being sinful. We medicate it, but do not change the habits of fear that caused it in the first place. But anxiety is sin. At its core, it is a stubborn refusal to trust the goodness of God or rest in His power. Anxiety is a by-product of unbelief. It is a spiritual "terror attack" from hell that is silently killing tens of thousands every day.

God Is With Us
Certainly, I am not suggesting we become passive. However, I am saying we ought to abandon our fears and the stressful anxieties that come from not trusting in God. One title for the Messiah is "Immanuel," which means, "God with us." Jesus promised to be with us, "even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). At some point we must accept the wonder and power of Christ's promise. He is with us always! To mistrust this promise is to reject the very character of the divine nature. It is not a minor issue.

Thus, Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).

My friend, let us come to Him. Let us cast our burdens upon Him, for truly He cares for us. Let us break our addictions to stress. We don’t have to be tied up in knots inside. God’s word says that the God of peace will crush Satan beneath our feet shortly (see Rom. 16:20).

Anxiety is sin. Let us break the bondage of this sin and walk as sons and daughter of God, who are anxious for nothing.

Lord, forgive me for my sin of anxiety. I renounce fear. I declare that my soul is your property, that You have promised to care for me. I believe Your word. I come to You and entrust all I am into Your love and care. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Time to Learn Righteousness
by Francis Frangipane


“At night my soul longs for You,
Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently;
For when the earth experiences Your judgments
The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9).

Fear Among the Nations
There is trepidation among the nations, and indeed there should be. Political leaders strike poses of confidence, yet express anxious whispers and dread when they are alone:

What is happening in our world? Will it get worse?

No one really knows the outcome of this time. But here is what is occurring worldwide: Over the past year the veil of deceit and subterfuge that hid the corruption in many nations is being lifted. God is exposing corruption, whether it is rooted in Wall Street or among politicians or leaders in the church.

The sense of privilege, that one can live without accountability either to God or to the law of man, is being judged by the Lord. There are no special people who are exempt.

One should not assume that things are worse today than ever before. I don’t believe so. There have always been corrupt leaders whose practices were masked with deceit. It is in this season that the Lord is peeling off the mask.

This is not a bad thing, although it will be very bad if leaders do not embrace righteousness as the way out. The fact that these things are being exposed is a good thing. If we respond correctly, it means that a more honest set of leaders will arise to replace those who were corrupted. It means that, if we submit to God, our economy and culture will turn a corner into a time of renewed blessing.

However, if we resist, if we persist in deceitful ways, we should not expect God to bless us.

Thus, it is imperative to discern this season. We are in a time of increasing judgment. The world and its structures are in a collision course with the Kingdom of God.

We have underestimated the authority and function of the Holy Spirit; we have assumed He has come only to inspire or comfort. Yet, Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes into the world, He comes also to confront and convict the world “concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

You see, God has an agenda, a grand plan, and it is not just to bless and prosper us as we live mostly self-centered lives. His ultimate goal is to see the kingdoms of this world become the “kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15). Thus, Jesus commands us to pray, "Thy kingdom come. . . . on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

Remember, Jesus’ message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). We are in the season of the kingdom. We either repent and change our ways so they conform to righteousness, or we face the consequences.

If we don’t repent, God renders a decision accordingly. He judges us. His motive is still to redeem, but He will not refrain from judging the sin that rules us. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This is not the season to try to negotiate with the Almighty. The only option He gives us is to humble ourselves and pray. It is time to seek His face and aggressively turn from our evil ways. If we would have healing in our land, we must take the path the Lord provides.

The Consuming Fire
Thus, speaking of the last days, the Lord warns, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven” (Heb. 12:26). God is focused on more than blessing a few people here and there. He is coming to shake and subdue the cultures of man. Hebrews continues:

“This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (v. 27).

Two things are occurring simultaneously: God is shaking what can be shaken, and He is establishing His kingdom, which cannot be shaken. We must migrate out of trusting in man and enter into the unshakeable life of the Kingdom of God.

Hebrews concludes:

“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” (vv. 28-29).

Let us focus on this reality: God is a consuming fire. Not long ago a revival tried to emerge amidst great controversy. To the shock of many, God exposed the hidden sin in Lakeland’s leader. To what degree this revival itself was true or false is still debated, but one thing is true: millions of people nightly joined via Christian television praying and calling forth in unison, “Fire! Fire! God pour out your fire.” The ministry itself was called “Fresh Fire.”

What did we suppose, that “fire” in God’s dictionary means blessing? Or even healing? No. Fire means purification. It consumes and purifies the sacrifice – indeed, it consumes everything that can be burned. This one prayer was certainly answered: when the body of Christ prayed for God's fire, chaff in the church, starting with leadership was the first to ignite. And then the fire spread into the world systems, exposing the corruption and greed.

While many hope that the rapture will rescue them from tribulation, it will rescue no one from the fire of God. Recall, my friend, Paul’s word: the day of the Lord will be “revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work” (see 1 Cor. 3:13-15).

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).

Judgment begins first with the household of God. Fire came to the church first, and it has only just begun to burn.

My advice is that we stop judging others and take inventory of our own condition. Where we have sinned, we humble ourselves before the Almighty. By humbling ourselves, I mean that we confess our secret sins, the areas of our soul’s bondage – our fears, lusts and deceits, those things we are most ashamed of – and bring our sin to the cleansing light of God’s grace. My counsel is that we not put this off for another day, but we humble ourselves now, passionately and thoroughly.

Do not look for shortcuts; do not seek to justify yourself to God. The judgments of God are in the land. It is time to learn righteousness.

 

 

The Land Beneath Our Feet
by Francis Frangipane



As a speaker in citywide and regional prayer conferences, I am often asked to unmask the "spiritual power" opposing the body of Christ in the conference region. City leaders and intercessors have even asked if I knew the "name" of the principle spirit that is resisting the church in their area.

"Do you want to know the name of the most powerful spirit opposing most Christians?" I ask. Eager faces respond affirmatively.

"It’s Yahweh."

My questioners, who suddenly look like a tree full of owls, are always bewildered by my answer. They are sure I misunderstood their question. Then, I explain. I remind them that, according to the Scriptures, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). So, if we are divided in our hearts from other churches, if we instinctively look down on other Christians or if we are at all self-promoting in attitude, we are walking in pride. As such, the Spirit that stands to resist our endeavors is not demonic; it’s God.

The Lord will not excuse our pride just because we sing three hymns on Sunday and consider ourselves "saved." God resisted Lucifer’s pride in heaven and He will oppose our pride on earth. What is most sad is, religious pride has been so homogenized into our Christian experience that we don’t even perceive it as being wrong. Yet it is without doubt the most offensive blight upon God’s people.

The Lord does not want the lost added to churches where they must assimilate the poison of pride at the same table as salvation.

The One Who Seeks and Judges
Jesus said of Himself, "I do not seek My glory." Yet, how many of our actions are expended doing the exact opposite of the nature of Christ! Our choice of clothes and cars, homes and roles in life so often have self-exaltation working in the background. Jesus continued, "there is One who seeks and judges" (John 8:50). Listen carefully to His words, for every time we seek to exalt ourselves we run face to face with God. One dimension of the Father’s heart is that He "seeks [glory] and judges" those who, through pride, exalt themselves. Indeed, my friends, consider with godly fear our American tradition of self-promotion. Though it is highly esteemed among men, it is actually "detestable in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15).

The Old Testament is replete with examples documenting the Almighty’s opposition to man’s pride. Time after time it was not Israel’s enemies that thwarted national prosperity; it was God. From generation to generation, the Lord allowed Israel’s adversaries to humble His people, to drive them toward desperation, humility and finally repentance. There, in brokenness and honesty, God could deal with their sins and finally lead them into national revival.

Listen how the Lord pleaded with Israel: "Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries" (Ps. 81:13–14).

So also with us. We need the might of God to be unleashed against our foes. For truly, terrible powers of darkness have invaded our land, and our adversary stalks our streets seeking whom he may devour. Our hope, however, is not merely in confronting the enemy, but in allowing God to confront us. Our victory over the enemy is directly attached to our full surrender to God.

If we truly learned of Him, we too would be "meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29 KJV). And God, who gives grace to the humble, would rescue us from the spiritual enemies of our nation.

Heal Our Land
The promise of the Lord is familiar. He says, "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). You say, But I’m humbling myself and praying. Yes, but our humility to God is not complete until we learn to humble ourselves to one another.

The fact is, because of pride, we have yet to accept what the Lord means in His words, "If My people." We still interpret His phrase "My people" to mean "our people"---our limited circle of friends, relatives and Christians whose culture or style of worship is, more or less, like our own.

However, when the Lord thinks of His people, He sees a more expansive group. He includes all who have been born again in a city. All of us who "are called by [His] name," though we are diverse in gifts and assignments, must find unity of spirit before Him. And this begins with an amazing strategy: we must humble ourselves.

I know this goes against the grain of our historic church relationships. Satan has not only divided us from others, he has made us proud that we are separate. We think being separate is a virtue. But consider: only one group of people consistently found the Lord confronting and resisting them in the New Testament: the Pharisees. Literally translated, the word "Pharisee" meant "the separate." Of all the religious groups in the first century, it is the pride of the Pharisees that, today, the church most resembles.

We pray, "Lord, heal our land." But the land He intends to heal first is that which exists beneath the feet of the humble. It is the world of the praying meek, who find the transforming power of God as their companion.

The Lord’s remedy for our society is hidden within the life-relationships of Christians. We are always so mindful of what others have done wrong to us, but where have we failed others? What can we do to heal the land that exists between us and those whom we have hurt?

You see, as we become those who "humble themselves and pray" about what we have done wrong, healing from God begins to flow. When white Christians humble themselves and ask for forgiveness from African and Native Americans, God begins to heal the land under their feet.

If God resists the proud, remember also, He gives grace to the humble. Grace is more than being covered; it is being cleansed and changed by the power of God. Grace is God’s transforming power doing in us what we cannot do for ourselves.

When we pray, "heal our land," it is the land beneath the feet of the humble that God promises to touch and restore to blessedness.

Let’s pray: Dear Father, You said the healing of our land begins with the humbling of ourselves. Master, reveal to my heart those with whom I am estranged. Grant me courage to forgive and honesty to see where I contributed to the strife. I long to be an ambassador of reconciliation. Therefore, lead me to bring healing to the relationships in our world, and so bring healing to the land in which I dwell. In Jesus’ name. Amen
 

Prayer Warriors, Part 1
by Francis Frangipane


In our rapidly changing times people are desperate to know the future. Barely do we adjust to the last changes, when totally new realities explode into our world.

In answer to the common fears spawned by change, society has seen a plethora of occult and demonic sources--fortune tellers, astrologers and psychic hotlines---all pretending to be able to peek into the mystery of tomorrow. Indeed, how many otherwise intelligent individuals glimpse, at least occasionally, at their "astrological signs" trying to get an edge on knowing the future!

Why anyone would consult someone who can't predict their own future is beyond me. These fortune tellers almost always live in abject poverty. Shouldn't their ability to predict the future at least work for themselves? They could invest in the stock market or pick the right lottery numbers. They can't even predict or better their own fortune, yet people go to them for discernment.

Tremendous Power In a Christian!

For Christians, God condemns this demonic, fleshly probing into the unknown. Indeed, as intercessors, He has called us not to wonder about the future, but to create it through the knowledge of His Living Word and prayer! Our Father gives us access to the future right now. You ask, How do we know what to pray? The Lord Jesus told us plainly,

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10).

We can look at the conditions of the world and faint or look at the possibilities of God and take faith. To bring revival is to pray for the reality of God's kingdom to manifest on earth. Jesus was not offering His disciples a millennial prayer focus, for that rule of God's kingdom is coming whether we want it to or not! No, but Christ calls us to pray for God's kingdom to manifest in our world today.

How will tomorrow look if God answers the prayer Christ gave us? Read the gospels. What we see in the life and power of Jesus Christ is a faith picture of God's kingdom. Jesus said that we can have that same full manifestation. In fact, He actually commanded us to pray for heaven's release!

The Prayer Womb
The reality God has planned will always manifest first in the prayer life of His intercessors. When you hear from God and then pray His Word, you are impacting the unformed essence of life with the Spirit of God Himself! Thus, God calls us, not only to know His Word, but to pray it. We must go from intellectualizing God's Word to being impregnated by it.

I know churches have special areas where intercessors can pray or people meditate. But maybe we ought to change the name from "prayer room" to "prayer womb." For everything good and holy that we see manifested in people, in churches and in life is first conceived, and then birthed, in the womb of prayer.

We have answers to prayer all around us. The place you are living in is an answer to prayer. Your church is an answer to prayer, as well as are your pastors, teachers and youth workers. As a church member, your attendance and participation is an answer to the prayer of your pastors and intercessors. When you asked God to lead you to the church you should attend, your current church became God's answer to your prayer!

Paul wrote, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might" (Eph. 1:18-19).

If you are a Christian, there is a power accompanying your life that is greater than great—the "surpassing greatness of His power." It is not human power, but the actual "strength of His might."

Think about it: The strength of God Almighty is attached to your prayer life!

The power of God's might is His resurrection power. What does resurrection mean? It means that things which look dead, smell dead, and act dead, can be touched by God and raised to life!

God demonstrated this "power toward us who believe" first "in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:19,20).

Right now, you have resurrection power attached to your prayer life! You can look on things that are absolutely dead and pray forth eternal LIFE! The power in us is the same potency God demonstrated when He raised Jesus out of the grave; it is resurrection power. Our mission is to bring resurrection life to situations that are dead.

If the devil challenges your prayer, remind him that you are seated with Christ, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come" (Eph. 1:21). Christ's authority is final. But not only has the Father put "all things in subjection under His feet," but He "gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23).

Notice the Lord uses anatomical metaphors to explain the downlink of authority: Christ is the "head" of a "body" that has all things put under its "feet."

This is a most profound understanding of our role: What the Head, Christ, has attained, the feet of the church walk out. In other words, God has positioned the church as the living bridge between the terrible conditions on earth and the wonderful solutions from heaven!

As we truly, passionately, and accurately submit to Christ in prayer, the kingdom of heaven steadily enters our now prayed-for world. The key of course, is to know Christ's word. We do not have authority; Christ has authority. What we have is revelation and submission. But as we submit to the Word, and persevere in prayer, we can see the future conformed to God's will.

 

Prayer Warriors, Part 2
by Francis Frangipane

Jesus told a parable to show that men ought to pray at all times and not lose heart (see Luke 18:1-8). In other words, if you are not praying, you will lose heart. Most of the things I pray for I have to persevere and pray through to get the answer. God desires to see something deeper come out of my prayer time than just answered prayers. He wants me to become like Jesus, so he arranges battles that are character-forming. Not only will they ultimately change the world around me, but they'll change me first. This is what all true prayer warriors have discovered.

When we picture a prayer warrior, we usually see a great-aunt or grandmother. I think that every family has one. You never find them looking into a crystal ball to know the future for little Johnny---they are at the throne of God creating Johnny's future in prayer. They are not wondering if Mary is going to make it; they are praying her through to victory. They do not have time to lament Harry's drinking problem; they are storming heaven to see him delivered.

Prayer warriors are the most frightening, powerful, demon-chasing, world-moving beings on earth. In truth, they act like children of God! If they were to gaze at a crystal ball, it would explode! They look at astrological predictions and rebuke them. They never wonder about the future because they are too busy creating it through their faith in God.

Prayer warriors are positioned by God to pray for their families. I remember when my Dad came to the Lord. For ten years we would intellectually clash about God during our visits. Finally, on one trip he arrived at our home "armed" with an argument against God. He said, "If there really is a God, why doesn't He always answer prayer?" He was secure in his position, and I was tired of the argument. I went into another room for a few minutes and prayed, "Lord, you've got to give me an answer."

When I returned I could see my Dad felt he won this round. I love my dad very, very much, but I said, "Dad, forget all the people that you think didn't get answers to prayer---you yourself are an answer to prayer! You are alive today because our entire family daily prays for you." (He was very overweight and smoked a pack of cigarettes daily). Then I continued, "But let's experiment. You say God doesn't answer prayer; we say He does. So, for one week we won't pray for you, and well see what happens."

I can't remember ever seeing my dad turn so pale. He looked over at my Mom and said, "Hon, tell the boy not to do that." Then, with beads of sweat forming on his forehead, he said to me, "Okay. What do I have to do to keep you praying for me?"

In three minutes, he went from not believing in prayer to begging us to keep praying for him. I said, "Dad, the only way I'll keep praying for you is if you pray right now and give your life to Christ,” and my dad at that moment received Christ. The Lord answered my prayer.

Prayer anchors us in God's strength for our battles. Each of us knows prayer works: we are saved because someone else prayed for us! Thus, looking at the miracle of our own conversion, we gain confidence in God's help to transform others.

Luke 21:36 tells us to be "praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Every time the Bible talks about standing before God, it is speaking of a position of anointed authority and commissioning. Elijah stood before God as did Gabriel. It speaks of one who stands before God as an attendant to the Almighty. When they decree God's Word, it comes to pass.

Jesus said, "With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). Under that banner, we pray and believe God. The Holy Spirit ever lives to make intercession. All we need to do is open our hearts to Him and prayer is going to come forth.

Look at the terrible issues of our world right now. Every need we see is where God wants us to release, through prayer, His future for that situation. God shows us what is wrong so we can pray for things to be made right. Why waste energy criticizing what's wrong when our prayers can change it!

The Lord our God in the midst of us is mighty. Our weapons are mighty to pulling down strongholds. Stop thinking of yourself as unable to pray. That's a lie out of hell. You are a prayer warrior!

There was a time when that great aunt or grandmother was a younger woman. She might have been just like you, and God showed her the needs around her. His grace came and she made a decision not to judge, but to pray. She didn't start off strong, but she became strong. Now it’s your turn to make that decision to be the prayer warrior for your family, church or city!"

Let's pray: Lord Jesus, You said that the armies in Heaven follow You, and Your name is called “the Word of God.” Help me to not only believe Your Word, but pray it in the power of the Holy Spirit! I accept that You have called me to be a prayer warrior. By Your grace, I receive a new anointing in intercession. Amen!

Follow Those Who Follow Christ
by Francis Frangipane 


"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." -Philippians 3:17

Paul faced a major problem in the first century. False teachers had slipped into the church. The apostle warned the Philippians, and us by extension, to recognize the differences between a true man of God and a deceptive teacher or prophet. Without any sense of false humility, Paul declared that both his vision and his spiritual attitude were examples for us to follow. He instructs us in our powers of discernment to look for and "observe" leaders who exemplify the centerpiece of God's purpose, which is to possess the likeness of Christ.

The context in which Paul wrote describes both his self-righteousness before he found Christ and his utter abandonment of fleshly confidence afterward. We will study these verses carefully. For in an age of increasing deception, not everyone who cries "truth, truth" is speaking in defense of conformity to Jesus.

"Beware of the Dogs"
Paul began his discourse by revealing three distinct types of false teachers. He warned, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision" (Phil. 3:2). These three each have their modern counterparts.

The first group Paul identified as "the dogs." The phrase "beware of the dog(s)" is familiar to us today. It means there is a vicious animal here. In Paul's day, most dogs were scavengers that ran in packs. One could find dozens of canines eating off the rubbish heaps outside cities, their faces bent downward as they sniffed and rooted out garbage to feed upon.

Today's church has similar people, fault-finders, who incessantly and self-righteously feed upon the garbage and failures of the human condition. Paul is saying, Beware of those who always have something negative to say, who are continually judging or slandering others. If you listen to them, you will become like them. Their words will rob you of vision, leave you without joy, and drain you of energy.

Paul wasn't saying, of course, to completely ignore what is wrong in people. We need discernment. Let me state plainly: There are serious doctrinal errors and sins in the modern church. But when you observe a pattern of angry, self-righteous fault finding in a person, when their primary view always seems negative, beware. Remember, Jesus warned of the Pharisees who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt" (Luke 18:9). Beware when your teacher must frequently tear down others to lift himself up.

"Evil Workers"
Paul next warned against the "evil workers." He describes this group briefly in the first chapter. These individuals do, in fact, proclaim Christ, but they do so from "envy . . . strife . . . selfish ambition" rather than from love (Phil. 1:15-17). For them, building a church is a competitive endeavor, a business. James also underscores this problem, saying, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16).

Part of Paul's efforts as an apostle was to build Christ-centered unity among Christians. However, the "evil workers" were self-centered rather than Christ-centered. Before we follow any leader, we truly ought to see the influence of Christ growing in that individual's character. Look to hear the pastor speak, at least occasionally, of his or her vision of attaining Christlikeness. Look for evidences of humility; listen to hear his burden for prayer, and see how he cultivates unity with other Christian churches. If your pastor or leader is growing in these values, then he is also growing in trustworthiness. As he seeks to follow Christ, the fruit of his ministry will, most likely, be healthy.

"The Judaizers"
The third warning was aimed against the "false circumcision" (Phil. 3:2). These were the Jewish Christians who, when they were saved, tried to make Christianity an extension of Judaism. This last teaching was the most dangerous because it seemed the most plausible.

The essence of this error was that Christ's atonement was not enough for salvation; you also had to keep the whole system of Mosaic Laws to be saved. Today, people continue to import religious obligations into the salvation experience. In exposing and warning against the influence of the "false circumcision," Paul set a firewall against the bondage of legalistic requirements for salvation. And while the way is indeed narrow that leads to life, the Way is a Person: Jesus Christ. We do not arrive at our goal by keeping laws but by entrusting ourselves to the keeping of Christ.

The True Pattern
It is one thing to be able to discern what is false, but it is of much greater value to know clearly the pattern of the true. Thus, Paul uses chapter three of Philippians to reveal his attitude of heart. In so doing, he gives us the pattern of what we should look for in a leader.

After presenting his remarkable pedigree in versus 5-6 - an Israelite by birth; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness defined in the Law, found blameless - Paul then renounces the very things he attained, saying: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (v. 7). For the mature, no position or esteem among men can replace the "surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord." The most amazing of achievements become "rubbish in order that [we] may gain Christ" (v. 8).

Paul separates himself further from the Mosaic Law, revealing that his quest is to "be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ" (v. 9). Having been saved from the consequences of the Law, and having received a new source of "righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith," Paul is liberated to pursue his true destiny: Christlikeness!

Beloved, we began this study with Paul's admonition to "observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us" (v. 17). In the following verse, God reveals the pattern we want to copy:

"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" (vv. 10-11).

There is a difference between knowing a collection of religious truths and actually knowing Christ. Truth is in Jesus; He Himself is the way, the truth and the life. To know Him is eternal life, and to live in fellowship with Him is to partake of the nectar of heaven.

Yet, knowing Christ also means knowing the fellowship of His sufferings as we lay down our lives for the redemption of others. For those suffering for Jesus, remember: participation in His sufferings is part of knowing Him.

Paul did not embrace death as an entity by itself; he embraced Christ's death, which is not only the death of self, but also the triumph of love. It is this surrender to "death for Jesus' sake" that allows "the life of Jesus [to] be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11).

Paul continued in Philippians, "Not that I have already . . . become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). Again, we are looking at the pattern God seeks for each of us. A mature Christian is one who lives in pursuit of God!

Paul said, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (vv.13-14). What did Paul choose to "forget"? He let go of the wounds, forgave the offenses, and released to God the disappointments of yesterday. He pressed toward the prize of possessing Christ.

Many teachers will come and go throughout your life. Remember Paul's warnings as you pray about whose teachings might influence you. Look for those who are pressing toward the prize of Christlikeness. As for the others, pray for them, stand with them, and, as you are led by the Lord, even attend their churches and encourage them in love and prayer. But if they are not going where you are going, do not follow them!

Paul set the pattern for us. In these times of deception, accusation and false discernment, let us look for and observe those who walk after the pattern of Paul. Let us discern the influence of Jesus in those who lead us. As we clearly see the Lord, let us follow those who follow Christ.

Christ-Responders

 by Francis Frangipane


I was out early one morning riding my bicycle when suddenly, to my left, came the horrific sound of an automobile accident; it occurred about eighty feet from me at a stoplight. I turned just in time to see one car sliding sideways, while the other car, with the hood and grill pushed up like a pug, was rocking back and forth from the impact.

Yet, other than dial 911, I didn't know what to do in this emergency. In fact, even as I walked toward the crash site, I found myself wrestling against a barrier of fears and apprehensions: What would I find? Would the passengers be bloody, seriously hurt or even dead? What would I do if a car caught fire?

When I arrived, I found there were only two people involved, the drivers of each car. Thankfully, while each was emotionally shaken, neither was physically hurt.

Yet, I wasn't fine. I was troubled by my inability to quickly respond. After the police arrived, I left pondering my reaction to this accident. I realized a significant part of my fear was due to being untrained. My lack of emergency first aid training left me unprepared to cope in a crisis situation. Without the knowledge and skills provided by training, the best I could offer is to call 911.

Why am I sharing this story? As Christians, many of us are unprepared to cope with spiritual emergencies in life. We are "saved" and we can pray, which is the spiritual equivalent of calling 911. But we are not trained to deal with crises and life issues. Many are not adept at spiritual warfare; they don't know how to effect reconciliation when divisions arise; they are not confident in ministering healing or discernment about issues.

You see, our salvation experience is the first step in a life of ongoing spiritual training and equipping. We may not all become pastors or missionaries, but we still need to know how to respond in an emergency.

Consider King David. He said the Lord, "trains my hands for battle" (Ps. 18:34). David didn't just fight, flailing at the wind; God trained him until David could bend a bow of bronze. David became mighty in battle. When others fled, intimidated by the sight of Goliath, David made plans to cut the giant down. Why was David confident? God trained David in previous confrontations with a bear and a lion. David knew what to do in a crisis.

Today, we are living in a state of national emergency, but most Christians are only dialing 911 in prayer. We need to be a first responder - a Christ-responder - who knows God and can do exploits (see Dan. 11:32).

Indeed, anyone can see our society and economy is failing, but God calls us to rebuild the ancient ruins, not just walk among the ruins and wonder what happened. We are called to be repairers of the breech, restorers of the streets in which to dwell (see Isa. 58:12). The Holy Spirit has redemptive answers for our cities and neighborhoods, creative remedies that will bring peace and prosperity back to our communities.

There are people who are hurting that God wants us to touch. Yet, before we can go out, first the Holy Spirit must train us. He says in Isaiah 50:4, "The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple."

Christ wants our tongues to be trained so we can speak as His representatives. People are weary, yet the Lord wants us to minister heart-to-heart resuscitation to those exhausted by their battle.

You see, it's not enough to be a Christian and simply try to be good. We need to be trained. Such training can come to us directly from the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit can use previously trained people to train us. Indeed, if we see someone who is Christlike in a particular area, who responds to life's emergencies with calm authority, we should not hesitate to ask them to train us in the area of their maturity (see Eph. 4:11-12).

The book of Hebrews urges us to "remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith" (v. 13:7).

We are not to merely copy other people, but upon careful examination of their virtue - considering the outcome of their way of life - seek to learn from them. Jesus Himself said, "A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).

Beloved, our goal is to be like Christ. With our focus upon Him, it is not a weakness to seek spiritual training from others whom He sends. Just as I desired to know how to serve in a physical emergency, so we need to know how to serve in spiritual emergencies as well.

The present conditions in our world are not merely judgments from God; they are opportunities for the church. Current conditions are making people ripe for evangelism.

God needs disciples who have been trained and tested. We cannot stand paralyzed by fear, watching the catastrophic events of our times unfold. We must become Christ-responders.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Heaven Within Our Reach
by Francis Frangipane
 

Since time began, the Kingdom of Heaven has been an interactive reality in man's destiny. God (and angels) spoke to man "from Heaven" (Gen. 21:17; 22.11; 22:15), the Lord gave man promises and blessings from Heaven (Gen. 24:7; 49.25), and when necessary brought judgments upon wicked men "out of heaven" (Gen. 19:24).

Indeed, the revelation of God's kingdom in the Sacred Writ is no incidental issue. The Bible records several hundred verses where Heaven or God's kingdom is mentioned in its various phrasings. It is this kingdom that I'd like us to consider, first as it is revealed in the Old Testament and then as it was manifest in power through Christ in the New Testament. Our focus will remain upon God, of course, yet we must also learn of that realm that surrounds the Most High: His eternal abode.

This realm called Heaven is not only "real," but it is "an everlasting kingdom" that "endures throughout all generations" (Ps. 145:13). Nations rise and fall, men and cultures emerge in pride and vanity only to disappear, yet God's kingdom abides forever.

The Time Is Fulfilled
For all the references to Heaven in the Old Testament, with few exceptions, the actual life of Heaven remained remote and inaccessible to the common man. Israel had the Law and the Prophets; it had moments of glory and divine visitation. Yet, the kingdom of God was greater than even Israel's standards of righteousness.

It was out of Israel that the Messiah came, yet His message was not a restoration of the Law. It was the proclamation of God's kingdom. Both Jesus and His forerunner, John the Baptist, heralded the same incredible word:

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

The time was fulfilled? Yes, a new dispensation had arrived! The Kingdom of God was at hand? Yes, Heaven was within the reach of men. The realm of God had come near! The message of the kingdom was without precedent, yet it was so! Every manner of sickness was healed instantly at the touch of Jesus' hands, for Heaven was at hand! The demonically tormented were instantly set free, for Heaven empowered Jesus.

Yet, as the Holy Spirit empowered Christ, so He empowered and commissioned His disciples, and Heaven manifest through them as well! Through the battalion of His disciples, the authority and compassion of Heaven flowed. They had power to heal, to deliver, even to raise the dead.

"And as you go, preach, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10:7).

Heaven, "at hand?" What did that mean, but that Heaven itself, once remote and inaccessible to common men, was now close enough to reach from where men were.

Beloved, this is what Jesus said church should look like! Healing, deliverance, power: the kingdom of Heaven manifested through the lives of surrendered, yet believing men and women.

And this is what the church will look like before Jesus returns.

This Gospel of the Kingdom
Jesus knew there would be a great falling away from God's kingdom. He warned of false prophets and teachers arising to mislead many. Certainly, we have seen our share of watered-down, superficial Christianity. Yet in spite of our failings, Jesus made a remarkable prediction. He said,

"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).

In spite of a great falling away, there is a great gathering back to God's kingdom. Let us hear Christ's words with faith. He said before the "end shall come" and He returns, the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all nations. He did not say that the whole world would be subdued before He returns, but that the whole world would witness the kingdom of Heaven, preached with power, before His return.

Let me emphasize His reassuring point. He said, "This gospel" – that is, His gospel, His teaching, the "words in red." If we focus on becoming like Him in obedience to His words, He promises to increasingly accompany our preaching with His power to perform miracles, signs and wonders.

He said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached." Not the gospel only of salvation (as wonderful as it is!), but also the message of the kingdom. The gospel of salvation is free. We cannot access the kingdom without experiencing salvation by faith in God's grace. Yet, many in the church have been parked in the realm of salvation without ever seeing and believing the promise of God's kingdom.

Beloved, our theology has been diluted by unbelief and dead traditions. We need to return to the words of Christ. We need to press into the reality of God's kingdom. For as this age ends, certainly Heaven will be within reach.


 

Find God!
by Francis Frangipane

There is only one thing that keeps most churches from prospering spiritually. They have yet to find God.

Holiness Comes From Seeking The Glory Of God
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44) If we are displaying our spirituality to impress men, still seeking honor from others, still living to appear righteous or special or “anointed” before people, can we honestly say we have been walking near to the living God? We know we are relating correctly to God when our hunger for His glory causes us to forsake the praise of men.

Does not all glory fade in the light of His glory? Even as Jesus challenged the genuineness of the Pharisees’ faith, so He challenges us: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another?”

What a weak comfort is the praise of men. Upon such a frail ledge do we mortals build our happiness. Consider: within but a few days after the Lycaonians attempted to worship Paul, they were congratulating themselves for having stoned him! (See Acts 14:11–19.) Consider: was it not the same city whose songs and praise welcomed Jesus as “King . . . gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5–9), that roared, “Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21) less than one week later? To seek the praise of men is to be tossed upon such a sea of instability!

We must ask ourselves, whose glory do we seek in life, God’s or our own? Jesus said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory” (John 7:18). When we speak from ourselves and of ourselves, are we not seeking to solicit from men the praise that belongs only to God? To seek our glory is to fall headlong into vanity and deception. “But,” Jesus continued, “He who is seeking the glory of the one who sent Him, He is true and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (John 7:18). The same quality of heart that made Christ’s intentions true must become our standard as well. For only to the degree that we are seeking the glory of God are our motivations true! Only to the degree that we abide in the glory of Him who sends us is there no unrighteousness in our hearts!

Therefore, let us give ourselves to seeking the glory of God, and let us do so until we find Him. As we behold the nature of Christ, as our eyes see Him, like Job we “abhor” ourselves and “repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1–6 KJV). As we are bathed in His glory, we shall be washed from seeking the glory of man.

If we truly find Him, no one will have to tell us to be humble. No one need convince us our old natures are as filthy rags. As we truly find God, the things which are so highly esteemed among men will become detestable in our sight (see Luke 16:15).

What could be more important than finding God? Take a day, a week or a month and do nothing but seek Him, persisting until you find Him. He has promised, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Find God, and once you have Him, determine to live the rest of your life in pursuit of His glory. As you touch Him, something will come alive in you—something eternal, someone Almighty! Instead of looking down on people, you will seek to lift them up. You will dwell in the presence of God. And you will be holy, for He is holy.

Two Things,Two Things Only
by Francis Frangipane


There are so many things to occupy our minds: so many books, so many examples, so many good teachings that deserve our attention, that say, "here is a truth." But, as I have been serving the Lord these past years, He has led me to seek for two things and two things only: to know the heart of God in Christ and to know my own heart in Christ's light.

Knowing the Heart of God
I have been seeking God, searching to know Him and the depth of His love toward His people. I want to know Christ's heart and the compassions that motivate Him. The Scriptures are plain: Jesus loved people. Mark's gospel tells us that after He taught and healed the multitudes, they became hungry. In His compassion, Christ saw them as "sheep without a shepherd" (Mark 6:34). It was not enough for Him to heal and teach them; He personally cared for each of them. Their physical well-being, even concerning food, was important to Him.

A lad with five loaves and two fish provided enough for Jesus to work another miracle, but this miracle had to come through Christ's willing but bone-weary body. Consider: Christ brought His disciples out to rest; "For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat" (Mark 6:31).

Consider: Jesus personally had come to pray and be strengthened. For John the Baptist, Jesus' forerunner, had been beheaded earlier that very week at the hands of Herod. It was in the state of being emotionally and physically depleted that Jesus fed the multitudes—not just once or twice but over and over again "He kept giving [the bread and the fish] to the disciples to set before them" (Mark 6:41).

Thousands of men, women and children all "ate and were satisfied" (v. 42)! Oh, the heart of Jesus! The miracle was for them, but we read of no miracle sustaining Him except the marvelous wonder of a holy love that continually lifted His tired hands with more bread and more fish. Out of increasing weakness He repeatedly gave that others might be renewed.

So, if my quest is to know Him, I must recognize this about Him: Jesus loves people—all people, especially those society ignores. Therefore, I must know exactly how far He would travel for men, for that is the same distance He would journey again through me. Indeed, I must know His thoughts concerning illness, poverty and human suffering. As His servant, I am useless to Him unless I know these things. If I would actually do His will, I must truly know His heart. Therefore, in all my study and times of prayer I am seeking more than just knowledge; I am searching for the heart of God.

Knowing Our Hearts
At the same time, as I draw closer to the heart of God, the very fire of His presence begins a deep purging work within me. In the vastness of His riches, my poverty appears. The psalmist wrote, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully" (Ps. 24:3-4).

We cannot even find the hill of the Lord, much less ascend it, if there is deceit in our heart. How does one serve in God's holy place if his soul is unclean? It is only the pure in heart who perceive God. To ascend toward God is to walk into a furnace of truth where falsehood is extracted from our souls. To abide in the holy place we must dwell in honesty, even when a lie might seem to save us. Each ascending step upon the hill of God is a thrusting of our souls into greater transparency, a more perfect view into the motives of our hearts.
It is this upward call of God which we pursue. Yet, the soul within us is hidden, crouching in fears and darkness, living in a world of untruths and illusions. This is our inner man, the soul God seeks to save. Have you discovered your true self, the inner person whom truth alone can free? Yes, we seek holiness, but true holiness arises from here; it comes as the Spirit of Truth unveils the hidden places in our hearts. Indeed, it is truthfulness which leads to holiness.

God, grant us a zeal for truth that we may stand in Your holy place!

Men everywhere presume they know the "truth" but have neither holiness nor power in their lives. Truth must become more than historical doctrines; it must be more than a museum of religious artifacts—mementos from when God once moved. Truth is knowing God's heart as it was revealed in Christ, and it is knowing our own hearts in the light of God's grace.

As members of the human race, we are shrouded in ignorance. Barely do we know our world around us; even less do we know the nature of our own souls. Without realizing it, as we search for God's heart, we are also searching for our own. For it is only in finding Him that we discover ourselves, for we are "in Him."

Yet, throughout that searching process, as I position my heart before the Lord, it is with a sense of trembling that I pray the prayer of King David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way"(Ps. 139:23-24).

Let us wash the cosmetics from our souls and look at the unadorned condition of our hearts. I know God has created us eternally complete and perfect in Christ. I believe that. But in the first three chapters of John's Revelation, Jesus did not tell the churches they were "perfect in His eyes." No! He revealed to them their true conditions; He told them their sins. Without compromise, He placed on them the demand to be overcomers, each in their own unique and difficult circumstances.

Like them, we must know our need. And like them, the souls we want saved dwell here, in a world system structured by lies, illusions and rampant corruption. Our old natures are like well-worn shoes into which we relax; we can be in the flesh instantly without even realizing it. The enemies that defeat us are hidden and latent within us! Thus, the Holy Spirit must expose our foes before we can conquer them!

Concerning man's nature, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). Quoting another of David's prayers, a similar cry is heard, "Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression" (Ps. 19:12-13).

There may be errors inside of us that are actually ruling us without our awareness. Do we realize, for instance, how many of our actions are manipulated purely by vanity and the desire to be seen or accepted by others? Are we aware of the fears and apprehensions that unconsciously influence so many of our decisions? We may have serious flaws inside yet still be either too proud or too insecure to admit we need help.

Concerning ourselves, we think so highly of what we know so little!

Even outwardly, though we know our camera pose, do we know how we appear when we are laughing or crying, eating or sleeping, talking or angry? The fact is, most of us are ignorant of how we appear outwardly to others; much less do we know ourselves inwardly before God! Our fallen thinking processes automatically justify our actions and rationalize our thoughts. Without the Holy Spirit, we are nearly defenseless against our own innate tendencies toward self-deception.

Therefore, if we would be holy, we must first renounce falsehood. In the light of God' grace, having been justified by faith and washed in the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we need not pretend to be righteous. We need only to become truthful.

No condemnation awaits our honesty of heart—no punishment. We have only to repent and confess our sins to have them forgiven and cleansed; if we will love the truth, we shall be delivered from sin and self-deception. Indeed, we need to know two things and two things only: the heart of God in Christ and our own hearts in Christ's light.

Shout Grace!
by Francis Frangipane

We sing Amazing Grace, but I don't think we realize how amazing grace actually is. Grace is God's power, motivated by His mercy, working to fulfill His compassion.

We are saved by grace, but what culminates in a "day of salvation" experience is actually months and even years of God quietly, yet powerfully, working in our hearts. Recall: Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44a). Do you remember that drawing power? Before we knew God, divine power was working invisibly within our hearts, drawing and wooing us to Christ.

Yet let me take this miracle of grace further, for after Jesus spoke of the Father's drawing power, He then said, "and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44b). This is the power and commitment of our Father's love: from the days of our sin and rebellion even to the days long after we die, grace continues working to unite our hearts with God's. From our utterly helpless beginnings to our utterly helpless end, from being dead in sin to being dead in the grave, grace carries us to the arms of God.

Unlocking the Power of Grace
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that, in the ages to come, He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:4-8).

Paul says that grace saved us "through faith." Faith unlocks the power of grace and releases it to function in our world-and faith itself is another gift of God. The difference between both gifts is, the grace-gift must be activated by the faith-gift. We must believe that God is "rich in mercy." We must accept as true that God loves us with "great love." We must not doubt He atoned for "our transgressions." We must be confident we are "alive together with Christ."

Grace works through faith. Believing the words of grace unlocks the power of grace; the power of grace to fully transform us comes through faith. As it is written, "For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace" (John 1:16). The true stride of a Christian's walk is "grace upon grace." The same grace that turned our hearts toward Christ continues to work in us, transforming even our sufferings and trials into virtue and power. Are you in a battle? Are you struggling with finances, health, righteousness or relationships? Your grace-miracle has already been created. But you must believe that not only has God created a grace-provision for you, but Christ is motivated by love and actually desires to show you favor.

You may feel like a loser, a sinner, a person others routinely reject---and perhaps you are! The purpose of redemption was so that, in the ages to come, God might display through us "the surpassing riches of His grace." You may be poor in this world, but you can become rich in the transforming grace of God. Believe Him. A day will come in the future world of God when He will point to you and I, once fallen and depraved, filthy and isolated creatures, and display us before heaven and earth as radiant, transformed beings---a glory to His workmanship and love. And it will come to pass because we believed in the grace of God to change us.

Who cares what other people think of you? God says He loves you! Indeed, His grace is working to set you free. God knows you have been struggling with desperate issues; that's one reason why He has inspired this message. His grace is reaching to you to deliver you. The means to your victory is not more prayer or more Bible study, but faith-activated grace. Of course, I strongly believe in both prayer and study, but the power to release each of us is a free gift of grace. Don't postpone your breakthrough. Believe that God's grace is here to release you!

What We Cannot Do On Our Own
We've been taught that grace is God's unmerited favor, which of course, it is. Yet unmerited favor is only one aspect of grace. In reality, grace is God's promise to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

The Bible says that "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). It doesn't mean that Abraham believe there was a God. No. Demons believe in one God and tremble! When Abraham "believed God" it meant that he believed what God had promised would come to pass. God promised to do for Abraham what Abraham and Sarah could not fulfill on their own. The Lord had promised Abraham he'd be a father of many nations. This is the glory of God's grace: it accomplishes what is otherwise impossible for us. You see, grace not only chooses me, saves me eternally and blankets my life with mercy, but grace also works in me realities unattainable without divine help.

Consider Zechariah and the story about Zerubbabel, who was governor of Israel. The Jews had been held in Babylonian captivity for seventy years. Now, they were being restored to Jerusalem. It was Zerubbabel's task to oversee the restoration of the city. In the struggle of the battle, weariness settled on the governor. So, the Lord gave Zechariah a promise for Zerubbabel. He said,

"‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).

God was saying, in effect, "You have labored, your enemies are many and they are strong, but this work I've set before you isn't about your abilities; it's about what I can do working through you." Likewise, our salvation isn't about our works or power. It's about believing in the Holy Spirit's power and the grace of God.

Then the Lord gave Zerubbabel an important word. He said,

"What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'" (Zech. 4:7).

Zerubbabel had mountains in his life that were too much for him. He had a task that was beyond his abilities. Yet God promised His Spirit would help, and when it was done, multitudes would be shouting "Grace, grace" at the finished work.

Listen, my friends, don't run from the mountains in your life; face them with faith---and then shout "Grace, grace" to them. Let God make your mountains into "a plain."

Let's not mutter an unbelieving whisper about grace, but shout it out loud. It doesn't say, think about grace, but release your faith and shout "Grace, grace!" God's unmerited favor has been poured out upon you; now speak to that mountain of discouragement, sickness or financial need---GRACE, GRACE!

Blessed God, You have drawn me to Yourself and have sheltered my life in the impenetrable stronghold of Your grace. Forgive me for drifting back into trusting in my works or abilities. Lord, I believe in Your grace! I shout "Grace, grace!" to the mountains that stand before me! In Jesus' name!

 

 

The Gift of Woundedness
by Francis Frangipane

The world and all it contains was created for one purpose: to showcase the grandeur of God's Son. In Jesus, the nature of God is magnificently and perfectly revealed; He is the "express image" of God (Heb. 1:3 KJV). Yet to gaze upon Christ is also to see God's pattern for man. As we seek to be like Him, we discover that our need was created for His sufficiency. We also see that, once the redemptive nature of Christ begins to triumph in our lives, mercy begins to triumph in the world around us.

How will we recognize revival when it comes? Behold, here is the awakening we seek: men and women, young and old, all conformed to Jesus. When will revival begin? It starts the moment we say yes to becoming like Him; it spreads to others as Christ is revealed through us.

Yet to embrace Christ's attitude toward mercy is but a first step in our spiritual growth. The process of being truly conformed to Christ compels us into deeper degrees of transformation. Indeed, just as Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered (see Heb. 5:8), so also must we. And it is here, even while we stand in intercession or service to God, that Christ gives us the gift of woundedness.

"Gift?" you ask. Yes, to be wounded in the service of mercy and, instead of closing our hearts, allow woundedness to crown love, is to release God's power in redemption. The steadfast prayer of the wounded intercessor holds great sway upon the heart of God.

We cannot become Christlike without being wounded. You see, even after we come to Christ, we carry encoded within us preset limits concerning how far we will go for love, and how much we are willing to suffer for redemption. When God allows us to be wounded, He exposes those human boundaries and reveals what we lack of His nature.

The path narrows as we seek true transformation. Indeed, many Christians fall short of Christ's stature because they have been hurt and offended by people. They leave churches discouraged, vowing never again to serve or lead or contribute because, when they offered themselves, their gift was marred by unloving people. To be struck or rejected in the administration of our service can become a great offense to us, especially as we are waiting for, and even expecting, a reward for our good efforts.

Yet wounding is inevitable if we are following Christ. Jesus was both "marred" (Isa. 52:14) and "wounded" (Zech. 13:6), and if we are sincere in our pursuit of His nature, we will suffer as well. How else will love be perfected?

Yet, let us beware. We will either become Christlike and forgive the offenders or we will enter a spiritual time warp where we abide continually in the memory of our wounding. Like a systemic disease, the hurtful memories infect every aspect of our existence. In truth, apart from God, the wounding that life inflicts is incurable. God has decreed that only Christ in us can survive.

The Wounds of a Prayer Warrior
Intercessors live on the frontier of change. We are positioned to stand between the needs of man and the provision of God. Because we are the agents of redemption, Satan will always seek the means to offend, discourage, silence, or otherwise steal the strength of our prayers. The wounding we receive must be interpreted in light of God's promise to reverse the effects of evil and make injustice work for our good (see Rom. 8:28). Since spiritual assaults are inevitable, we must discover how God uses our wounds as the means to greater power. This was exactly how Christ brought redemption to the world.

Jesus knew that maintaining love and forgiveness in the midst of suffering was the key that unlocked the power of redemption. Isaiah 53:11 tells us, "By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities."

Jesus possessed revelation knowledge into the mystery of God. He knew that the secret to unleashing world-transforming power was found at the cross, in suffering. At the cross, payment for sin was made. As Christ forgave His enemies, heaven's power rent the temple veil in two. Christ's stripes purchased our healing. I am not just talking about suffering, but the suffering of love.

The terrible offense of the cross became the place of redemption for the world. Yet, remember, Jesus calls us to a cross as well (see Matt. 16:24). Wounding is simply an altar upon which our sacrifice to God is prepared.

Listen again to Isaiah's prophetic description of Jesus' life. His words at first seem startling, but as we read, we discover a most profound truth concerning the power of woundedness. He wrote, "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand" (Isa. 53:10).

How did the power of God's pleasure prosper in Christ's hand? During His times of crushing, woundedness and devastation, instead of retaliating, Jesus rendered Himself "as a guilt offering."

The crushing is not a disaster; it is an opportunity. You see, our purposeful love may or may not touch the sinner's heart, but it always touches the heart of God. We are crushed by people, but we need to allow the crushing to ascend as an offering to God. The greatest benefit of all is the effect our mercy has on the Father. If we truly want to be instruments of God's good pleasure, then it is redemption, not wrath, that must prosper in our hands. If we are Christ-followers, we must offer ourselves as an offering for the guilt of others.

Conformed to the Lamb
When Christ encounters conflict, though He is the Lion of Judah, He comes as the Lamb of God. Even when He is outwardly stern, His heart is always mindful that He is the "guilt offering." Thus, Jesus not only asks the Father to forgive those who have wounded Him, but also numbers Himself with the transgressors and intercedes for them (see Isa. 53:12). He does this because the Father takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezek. 33:11), and it is the pleasure of God that Jesus seeks.

Is this not the wonder and mystery, yes, and the power, of Christ's cross? In anguish and sorrow, wounded in heart and soul, still He offered Himself for His executioners' sins. Without visible evidence of success, deemed a sinner and a failure before man, He courageously held true to mercy. In the depth of terrible crushing, He let love attain its most glorious perfection. He uttered the immortal words, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Christ could have escaped. He told Peter as the Romans came to arrest Him, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). In less than a heartbeat, the skies would have been flooded with thousands of warring angels. Yes, Jesus could have escaped, but mankind would have perished. Christ chose to go to hell for us rather than return to heaven without us. Instead of condemning mankind, He rendered "Himself as a guilt offering" (Isa. 53:10, italics mine). He prayed the mercy prayer, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34).

Jesus said, "He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also" (John 14:12). We assume He meant that we would work His miracles, but Jesus did not limit His definition of "works" to the miraculous. The works He did---the redemptive life, the mercy cry, the identification with sinners, rendering Himself a guilt offering---all the works He did, we will "do also."

Thus, because He lives within us, we see that Isaiah 53 does not apply exclusively to Jesus; it also becomes the blueprint for Christ in us. Indeed, was this not part of His reward, that He would see His offspring? (see Isa.. 53:10) Beloved, we are the progeny of Christ!

Read these words from Paul's heart:

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col. 1:24).

What did the apostle mean? Did not Christ fully pay mankind's debts once and for all? Did Paul imply that we now take Jesus' place? No, we will never take Jesus' place. It means that Jesus has come to take our place. The Son of God manifests all the aspects of His redemptive, sacrificial life through us. Indeed, "as He is, so also are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).

Paul not only identified with Christ in his personal salvation, but he was also consumed with Christ's purpose. He wrote, "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).

For those who blame others for the decline of our nation, to be a follower of the Lamb, you must render yourself as an offering for their sin. By your wounds they shall be healed.

What a wondrous reality is the "fellowship of His sufferings." Here, in choosing to yoke our existence with Christ's purpose, we find true friendship with Jesus. This is intimacy with Christ. The sufferings of Christ are not the sorrows typically endured by mankind; they are the afflictions of love. They bring us closer to Jesus. We learn how precious is the gift of woundedness.

Let's pray:
Father, I see You have had no other purpose in my life but to manifest through me the nature of Your Son. I receive the gift of woundedness. In response, in surrender to Christ, I render myself an offering for those You've used to crush me. May the fragrance of my worship remind You of Jesus, and may You forgive, sprinkle and cleanse the world around me.

Ask of Me
by Francis Frangipane

We live in unparalleled times. Not since the first century have more Scriptures been fulfilled in a single generation. Each unfolding word brings down another mountain; it lifts another valley. In truth, the way is being prepared for our King’s return into this world.

The Great Revolt
The Lord forewarned that, during the end-time, “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Dan. 12:4). Contrast our time with any other in history: Not only are we traveling farther and more frequently, but we do so in a world inundated with increasing knowledge. It has been our privilege to behold the prophetic return of Israel to its land (see Jer. 16:14–15), and our misfortune to live when “the earth is . . . polluted by its inhabitants” (Isa. 24:5).

As though Jesus were reading a news summary of recent years, His prophecies of two thousand years ago clearly describe our times. Thus, we are compelled to discern accurately the significant era in which we live. Indeed, of the many prophetic fulfillments of our day, one in particular rises with undimmed candor. I am speaking of what the Bible calls the “apostasy.” You will recall Paul’s warning:

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first” (2 Thess. 2:3).

The apostasy has traditionally been described as a time of deception and massive falling away from authentic faith in Christ. Depending upon your specific view, sometime before or after the apostasy the rapture of the church will occur. However, the concept of apostasy as merely “a falling away” is incomplete. The original Greek word for apostasy, apostasia, when used in classical Greek literature, meant “a political revolt.” From this we understand that the end-time apostasy is not just a time of sinfulness or large scale backsliding; it is actually a time of open defiance and warlike aggression against divine moral foundations. In other words, the apostasia is a political insurrection against the laws of God. 

This interpretation of the apostasy is not an isolated view. The new International Version, Revised Standard Version, Philips Translation, and New English Bible all render apostasia as “the rebellion.” The Living Bible interprets the apostasy as the “great rebellion,” while the Jerusalem Bible assigns a proper name to this era: “The Great Revolt.”

As we consider the fulfillment of so many other prophecies, let us carefully observe: Mankind has entered an era of open revolt and outright rebellion—an apostasy—against the moral standards of God.

Today, we are witnessing a large-scale rebellion against godliness and moral values. Indeed, this brazen attitude has had a name for itself since the 1960s: the sexual revolution. And “revolution” is exactly what it is. Our moral standards have not only been challenged, they have been replaced by a non-standard. Indeed, the great rebellion seeks to legitimize and then mainstream every perversity known to man!

There is much to say on behalf of those trapped in perversity and who hate sin’s affect on their lives. We must be compassionate toward them and not strident; many are sitting in our churches afraid to even speak of their need lest they be disowned. I am not speaking with reference to the victims of this advance, but of those who are engaged in a mutiny against the sway of God in our nation. They argue the only standard Americans have is the standard of individual freedom. In their view, freedom itself is the “god” ruling America, with self-indulgence sitting as chief counsel.

Yet, the God of heaven desires the nations of the world. Though the apostasy will certainly intensify, we must remember it is only one of many prophecies unfolding in our day. The same Divine Word that warned of the Great Rebellion also assures us that ultimately God’s kingdom shall crush the demonic influences in our world (see Dan. 2:44).

Yes, evil shall mature into full rebellion, but good is also ripening into full Christlikeness! (see Matt. 13:40–43; John 17:22–23). True, the apostasy shall reveal the nature of Satan, but the true church shall manifest the nature of Christ! Our king is not only coming in the skies; He is coming “to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10). What seems to be Satan’s hour, full of darkness and rebellion, is simply the opportunity for grace to abound to the glory of God in the church!

Seated with Christ!
The Second Psalm, perhaps more then any other Bible text, accurately portrays the spirit of our time. Indeed, it also proclaims our correct response to Satan’s bold advance. Although it was quoted by the early church (see Acts 4:25–26), God has set its full realization for the end of this age.

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’” (Ps. 2:1–3).

Although “the rebellion” reveals itself worldwide in many ways, in America many of our leaders have certainly been counseling together “against the Lord” in their recent decisions. We see it in the legal protection offered the gay movement and the shelter provided for satanic rock music. Again, our anti-censorship laws, like armor plating, have been established to defend sin against the Lord, shielding the perversity of our entertainment industry. The virulent cry of those in rebellion hammers relentlessly upon the fetters of moral restraint!

This railing against God has not gone unnoticed in heaven. Is the Almighty confounded? Has fear concerning recent developments gripped the Lord’s heart? No. The Psalm continues,

“He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury” (Ps 2:4–5).

The Lord laughs at the foolishness of those in full revolt, as they imagine God’s judgments cannot reach them. Why then, you ask, does the Lord delay His full judgment? In part, the Lord waits for us, His church. For while the world shall demand, and receive, the reign of hell, the goal of the praying church shall be for the reign of heaven. You see, all of God’s prophecies shall be fulfilled: those concerning evil and also those concerning righteousness. The Lord has purposed to have a “bride without spot or wrinkle” and a “kingdom” of wheat without tares. The transformation of the church will be fulfilled as surely as every other prophecy occurring before the Lord’s return. .

Thus, with great fear and holy trembling, we must review what God has promised concerning us! Let us remember, the Lord is not alone in the heavens. According to His Word, He has seated us with Him in the heavenly places (see Eph. 2:6). It is time for our identity as Christians to shift. Our nationalities only define our ambassador status; our true citizenship is in heaven (see Phil. 3:20). And if God is laughing at the mocking of those in the rebellion, let us also, as His subjects, share His confidence!
Thus, He commands us to sit with Him in the completeness of His purpose. He requires us not only to live without fear but to stand in prayer for these very nations that defy Him!

Listen again to this Second Psalm, for in the very context of worldwide rebellion against the Lord, it records the most remarkable discourse: “Ask of Me,” the Father says to the Son, “and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Ps. 2:8).

When I first came to Christ in 1970, churches in America were deeply divided and rather cold in organized prayer. Today, leaders of denominations are working together, and it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million American churches are moving toward deeper unity and increased prayer for this nation. Jesus has asked the Father for the United States, and in response, the prayer movement has been born!

As Christ’s church, we do not deserve a national revival, but Jesus does! As His representatives, in His name and virtue, we ask of the Father for America! More than an expression of faith, our prayer is actually an act of obedience: We are commanded to ask God for the nations!

Therefore, while the perverse strive toward complete rejection of God, even as their mocking words fill the air, the Almighty’s unchangeable promise to His Son (and by extension, His church as Christ’s body) is “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations!’’

As violence, New Age religions and witchcraft flourish in our schools, ask God for this nation. While all restraint is removed from the entertainment industry, ask God for this nation! While perversity dresses in normalcy, ask God for America! While abortion remains protected by laws, ask God with confidence, with boldness, and with faith for our land! Where you see injustice in any form, ask God for His kingdom to manifest on earth!

“He who sits in the heavens laughs.”

Put away fear and discouragement; repent of fretting. The more we accept our place in the divine plan, the more we shall laugh at the enemies’ plans. The faith that relentlessly asks God, pleases God. Now, as the fullness of the times unfolds, as the world around us clothes itself in prophetic fulfillments, let us put away unbelief; let us repent for withdrawal. It is a time to boldly ask of God. As He has promised: He will give the nations as an inheritance to Christ!

Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, how blessed we are that as evil matures into full rebellion, Your church matures into full Christlikeness. Teach me to pray for my inheritance, my nation. Use me to stand in the gap until my people become Your people


 

The Day the Lord Has Made
by Francis Frangipane


At any given moment there exists, at the doorway to the future, two possible realities. The first realm is a darkened world full of the consequences of sin. Its ongoing rebellion toward God, coupled with the unredeemed events of the past, makes this reality a living extension of hell. Here, conflicts escalate into wars and become more devastating; in this infected world, morality degrades into depravity. Yes, and among those who would seek to make a difference, the grip of fear immobilizes their actions. It is of this demonically manipulated world that the Scripture tells us to walk circumspectly for "the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16).

Yet, there is another reality, a different "day," that is also accessible to mankind. This transcendent realm is the "prayed for" version of the first reality. It, too, stands ready to reveal itself. The distresses of life are mostly the same but the outcomes are different. This realm is full of miracles, heavenly reversals of evil plots, and divine intervention. Here, sin is confronted, demonic strongholds toppled, and iniquity is redeemed by the power of Christ. The enemy, who came in one way, flees seven ways in the brightness of this unfolding reality. Scripture has a name for this realm as well. It is called "the day which the Lord has made," and we cannot help but to "rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24).

Since time began, both of these realities have always existed. The Scriptures bear witness to numerous occasions when people have cried out to God and found the Almighty a willing ally in transforming their culture. When the Israelites humbled themselves, repented and prayed, and sought again the face of God, the Lord intervened, restored their land, and scattered their enemies.
Yet, this promise was not for Israel only. Consider also the ancient Ninevites. When they humbled themselves and prayed, the day of mercy dawned upon them as well. In just three days, their entire society went from a people cursed to a people revived, prosperous and blessed. The key that unlocked the transcendent day was their attitude toward God.

Recent Elections
I'm talking about walking into either of two realities, and I am talking to those evangelical Christians who may be discouraged by the outcome of recent elections in America. My friends, let me remind you: the future of our nation is not determined by an election, but by the faith of the elect. If we continue to pursue God, humble ourselves, and persevere in our intercession, God can turn this nation toward Him in remarkable and powerful ways.

Yet, let me qualify my observation that Christians may be discouraged. I should have said, "A number of white Christians are depressed." It would be wrong to say whites were disappointed due to racial reasons (many would have voted for a man of color like Alan Keyes). Their concerns were due to the pro-choice stand of Barack Obama. Yet, the fact is, president-elect Obama's victory has filled many African Americans with a profound sense of joy. Indeed, the election of a black president by a majority of Americans from all backgrounds says that the American dream is coming to pass.

This dream is embodied in our national Pledge of Allegiance. Remember, our allegiance is not merely to the flag but for the "republic for which it stands." We are stating our commitment to this amazing vision, that America would truly become "one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

That succinctly worded pledge is a commitment to seeing America in revival! Yes, we must still fight for liberty and justice for the unborn, but let us remember this breakthrough of racial healing has long been on the heart of God. Hope is rising for many who were bound by hopelessness. Although there will always be extremists and racists on both sides of the cultural divide, we are at a new beginning in America.

The fact is, regardless of who was elected president, the problems facing America are staggering. Threats of economic collapse, conflicts around the world, plus the possibility of a new cold war all await the president-elect. We must pray aggressively about these major issues.

So, my appeal is that we not be unbelieving as this new day unfolds. For the outcome of this day is determined by how the church responds. Let us, therefore, lift our eyes to the possibilities of God. We have a great opportunity to stand in the gap and intercede for our new president. If we stay the course, we will enter the day the Lord has made, and breakthroughs previously unimaginable will come.

Many Questions
I know that what I am presenting will offend the political and even moral sensibilities of some of my friends. Yet the path that leads to life is narrow, and I am presenting to you the response that Christ has offered me: I rejoice with my brethren of color and choose to be an intercessor, not just a critic for the new president.

Many will ask, What about Obama's staunch pro-choice voting record?

Yes, this grieves me as well. Yet, I was a Christian for several years before the Holy Spirit revealed to me the horror of abortion. It happened in a moment. Perhaps someone was praying for me, but God touched my heart and I saw it for what it was. Likewise, I believe God can get through to our new president. Let's take faith that Jesus Christ could lift president Obama's consciousness to the "pay grade" where abortion becomes reprehensible to him.

Let me also say that America did not suddenly turn liberal; I believe the majority of Americans in our nation are still right of center. Even in California, voters banned gay marriage. Democrats won because they fielded many candidates that were not liberal but moderates and centrists. They drew upon the discouraged independent and moderate Republican voters, people who felt betrayed or at least let down by the Republican leadership.

What about Israel? Will the new president turn against the Jews?

The first cabinet position chosen by president-elect Obama was given to Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is a hard charger, very clever Chicago politician. While partisan, he also is more a centrist rather than a left-wing extremist. What you may not have known about him is that he is Jewish. His father immigrated to America from Jerusalem and was a former member of the Irgun, a militant Zionist group active in the British Mandate of Palestine between 1931 and 1948. There is no guarantee that Emanuel will defend Israel, but for those of us who see the possibilities created by divine influence, it is not hard to pray for continued support of Israel by America. I might be wrong, but I do not believe Rahm Emanuel, whose family is very active in their Chicago synagogue, would abandon the Jews or Jerusalem. I think we can pray with confidence that his counsel as chief of staff would be to stand with Israel during these difficult times.

Both Wings
You have heard me say many times that I believe the great eagle spoken of in Revelation 12 is possibly a prophetic reference to the United States. The fact is, the eagle, which Scripture describes as a place of refuge and protection, needs both wings to fly: the right wing and the left wing. What if this election offers us the possibility to heal the divisions between races?
I'm not saying I agree politically or morally with everything that Barack Obama believes, but you'll remember that one of his initial plans was to bring God and religion into the Democratic Party. He fought the influences of those in his party who had rejected Christianity and he sought to make the Democratic Party a place where faith could exist and even flourish.

For those who fear we have elected the antichrist, let me remind you that the evidence that identifies the antichrist is that he dies from a wound in the head and then is miraculously raised to life (see Rev. 13). Until such a sign exists, we should pray for our leaders with confidence.

I do not believe this is a time to despair; it is time to pray with vision and with hope. If all you see is a "cloud the size of a man's hand," then pray with the faith of Elijah that a mighty outpouring of grace may fall and heal our nation. Let us give God the chance to bring into our world a blessed, prayed-for reality.

One last thing about Rahm Emanuel: His family chose the surname Emanuel when they were fighting for Israel's freedom in Palestine (see personal life:
Rahm Emanuel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
). The name Emanuel means, "God with us."

I am not naive to assume revival will come easy, but it will never come if we lose faith. Beloved, trust God. All things are possible, even seeing these very days transformed into the day the Lord has made.

Where a Desolate Soul Finds God
by Francis Frangipane


Jesus gave the last hours of this age a poignant headline. He called this period "The Great Tribulation." The word rendered tribulation means "grievous affliction or distress; pressure or burden upon the spirit." As we move closer toward the end of this age, we should expect that catastrophic distresses and pressures on man shall increase.

Added to the increasing stress of our times is the decreasing desire of government and society in general to restrain moral decadence. We live in a time when a significant portion of our society is in open and defiant rebellion toward God. The prophetic words of Psalm 2 are being fulfilled before our eyes: World and local leaders "take their stand and the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed" (v. 2). As they renounce moral values, their militant cry is, "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!" (v. 3).

Jesus warned of this day, saying, "Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12, NKJV). If you are one who has resisted the increasing darkness, you know how intense and multifaceted the battle is. Whether you are fighting to remedy an injustice in your community or just trying to keep your family together, barely do we make headway in one area before five other areas are breeched.

In spite of breakthroughs occurring in several cities, many good people have grown weary. They are just going through the motions. The prophet Daniel warned of a time when the enemy would "…wear down the saints of the Highest One" (Dan. 7:25). To emerge victorious in this day, we must climb into the reality given to us by God in Psalm 91. There is place of replenishing life---a fountain of eternal life where we can abide. The Bible calls this place the shelter of the Most High.

Elijah: a Man Like Us
Elijah was a man with passions like ours, and he fought in a spiritual war similar to ours. In his battle for the soul of Israel, he stood against the wiles of Jezebel and her husband, King Ahab. Yet his most intense battle was not against visible foes but against personal discouragement.

As bold as Elijah was, he lived as a fugitive moving in and out of caves and places of hiding. Jezebel had murdered nearly all of the Lord's prophets, replacing their godly influence with the dark, satanic oppression accompanying the priests of Baal and the Asherah. A new initiative, however, had come from the Lord: Both Elijah and the prophets of Baal were to build altars, each to the deity they individually served. The God who answered with fire would be acknowledged as Lord over the nation.

King Ahab and all Israel came to the confrontation. Try as they may, the priests of Baal could draw no response from their demonic idol, Baal. In dramatic contrast, at Elijah's prayer, fire immediately fell from heaven and consumed his sacrifice. This was Elijah's greatest victory. And when the Israelites saw the display of God's power, they bowed to the ground saying, "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God" (1 Kings 18:39).

But the Lord was not finished. After Elijah had the priests of Baal executed, he went to the top of Mount Carmel, and, kneeling face down, he prayed seven times for rain until the Lord brought a great downpour that ended a devastating three-year drought. On this one day, both fire and rain miraculously fell from heaven!

Perhaps if this tremendous day had occurred at almost any other time in Israel's history, the nation would have repented, but it did not. Baal worship should have ended, but it continued. In fact, nothing changed. Instead of the revival that Elijah envisioned, the opposite occurred: an enraged Jezebel vowed to kill the Lord's prophet, spurring Elijah to flee into the wilderness. There Elijah collapsed, exhausted and despondent, beneath a juniper tree. "It is enough; now O Lord," the weary prophet prayed, "take my life, for I am not better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:4).

Elijah had offered the Lord his very best effort. This day had been the culminating event of his life. Elijah had prayed that Israel would know the Lord was their God and that, in response, the Lord would turn Israel's "heart back again" (1 Kings 18:37). Yet, like the prophets before him, Elijah could not trigger revival for Israel. Discouragement overwhelmed him. He had had enough.

Have you been to the point of spiritual or emotional exhaustion where you too have said, "It is enough"? Perhaps you were frustrated by your own inability to effect positive change in your family or you've fasted and prayed for your church or society but no visible change occurred. You gave your all but found little success. Disheartened and weary like Elijah, all your resources were spent.

Elijah laid down and slept. As he did, an angel touched him and said, "Arise, eat" (1 Kings 19:5). At his head were bread and water. Elijah, weary with life itself, ate and withdrew back into sleep.

Once more the angel touched him. "Arise," he said "Eat, because the journey is too great for you" (v. 7). For all our visions, plans, and programs, the journey before each of us is also "too great." Indeed our journey is divinely designed to be too great for us. The Lord has no plan where we succeed without Him. Life is so constructed to drive us to God.

Back to Our Foundations
"So [Elijah] arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God" (1 Kings 19:8).

The Lord gave Elijah strength, not to send him back to battle but to bring him back to basics. If we become more consumed with our task than we are with our love for God, our lives will eventually become brittle and desolate. To restore our souls, the Lord brings us back to the essentials of our faith. Indeed, He might even stop our labors completely and direct us to the simpler realities of prayer, time in the Word, and worship. He reminds us that, of all He calls us to accomplish, His greatest commandment is to love Him with all our "heart…soul…mind…and…strength" (Mark 12:30). Without this focus, we lose touch with God's presence; we are outside the shelter of the Most High.

The Lord brought Elijah to "Horeb, the mountain of God." In Hebrew, Horeb means "desolation."[Hebrew: Charab - to make desolate.] The barren environment mirrored Elijah's soul. Yet to God, Horeb was actually a place where the issues of a man's heart were flushed to the surface. There is no theater at Horeb, no acting. It is the place of unembellished honesty and core-to-surface transparency.

How Did You Get Here?
Perhaps Elijah's greatest virtue was his zeal. Indeed, twice in his communication with God, Elijah speaks of having been "very zealous" for the Lord. But zeal unaccompanied by wisdom eventually becomes its own god. It compels us toward expectations that are unrealistic and outside the timing and anointing of the Lord.

To remain balanced, zeal must be reined in and harnessed by strategic encounters with the living God. Otherwise we become frustrated with people and discouraged with delays. We step outside our place of strength and spiritual protection.

Elijah had come to Horeb and lodged there in a cave. Soon the Word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (v. 9). This is one of the most important questions God will ever ask us. His question probes the reality of our spiritual state: "How did your service to Me become dry and desolate?" God wants us to know that when we fail to esteem Him as our first love, we will always find a desert awaiting us.

Our primary purpose in life must be to abide in Christ. Otherwise we can become so consumed with the deteriorating condition of the world that we fail to see the deteriorating condition of our own soul. In His love, the Lord stops us and forces us to look honestly at our heart: Is this existence that I now live the abundant life promised me from Christ?

Let's speak candidly. We have nothing to prove and no need to pretend. We can abandon the internal mechanisms of defensiveness and pride. If we are disappointed, we are free to express it; if frustrated, we can admit it. We must simply and truthfully evaluate, without rationalization, our true spiritual condition.

Lord, reveal to me my heart. Bring to the surface of my consciousness those disappointments and heartaches, as well as my sins and failures. Remove Remove the cargo of oppression from my soul. Help me, Master, to lie still as You perform heart surgery on me.

Transparency is the outer garment of humility, and humility draws the grace of God to our hearts. Is not intimacy with God the very thing we most neglect? And is not the Lord alone our source of strength in battle? If the enemy can distract us from our time alone with God, he will isolate us from the help that comes from God alone.

Let us, therefore, approach the living God without any garment other than transparency.

A Fresh Anointing
As the pressures of this age escalate, we will soon discover that yesterday's anointing will not suffice for today's battles. The Lord brought a new beginning to Elijah's life at Horeb---one that would ultimately release a "double portion" of power to Elijah's successor, Elisha. Under this new anointing, Jezebel would be destroyed, Baal worship abolished, and the only period of revival the northern tribes ever experienced would begin.

To reach a similar place of breakthrough, it will take more than the momentum of our own zeal. We should not be surprised if God calls us to pass through our own Horeb.

How will we recognize this place? Horeb is the voice of personal desolation; it is the desperate compelling of our heart to possess more of God. We must now listen carefully to the voice of God. For it is at Horeb that He brings us deeper into Himself. It is here, under the canopy of His compassion, that we discover the purpose of our brokenness: our desolation is, in fact, a time of preparation.

The Lord is about to bring a new beginning to you. When you return to the battle, you shall war from the shelter of the Most High.

Lord Jesus, apart from You, my life is dry and desolate. Forgive me for trying to do Your will without abiding in Your presence. I desperately need You, Lord. This day, I commit my heart to return to my first love. Teach me, Lord, to consider intimacy with You the greatest measure of my success. Let me see Your glory; reveal to me Your goodness. Guide me, Oh Holy Spirit, into the spiritual fortress of the presence of God. Amen.

With the Glance of Your Eyes
by Francis Frangipane


"Who is this that grows like the dawn, as beautiful as the full moon, as pure as the sun, as awesome as an army with banners?" (Song of Sol. 6:10).

In spite of all the controversy and strife in our world, regardless of the clashing opinions in today's religious wars, the focus of Christ still remains upon His bride. It is our quest to turn our gaze toward Him.

Most of us sincerely love the Lord and are thankful for all He has done. However, too many are more comfortable celebrating what Jesus has done than accepting who He desires to be to us. We sing of His victories and teach of His mercies, yet rarely do we quiet our hearts and surrender to His presence. We want Him near enough to protect us but not so close that our consciousness is captured by His presence.

As awesome and liberating as it is to know what Jesus has done for us, until we actually surrender ourselves to Him, our religion will never be more than a "history lesson." Religion is not enough. It satisfies neither us nor Christ. Jesus wants to also know us.

You say, But He does know us! In His omniscience, He knows everything. But in His love, He seeks to know us as beings living in unbroken union with Him. He has the right to our souls, our secrets, and our dreams. He wants the person we are when no one else is looking. Yet, He will not force Himself. This is not the way of love.

This interpenetration of our lives in Him and His life in us is the only destiny with which Christ is content. At the end of the age, everything short of oneness with Christ will appear as sin.

God is Love
I know the fear of the Lord and that it is the beginning of true knowledge. But, like the apostle John, I have also Acome to know and have believed the love which God has for us" (1 John 4:16). God is love. Let us consider that the apostle who fell before Jesus as a dead man on the Isle of Pathos, later wrote, "There is no fear in love" (1 John 4:18).

The Lord knows our fear of God is a strong deterrent from sin and a powerful ally in walking uprightly. Yet, to draw near to Him we must know more than the fear of God; we must believe in "the love which God has for us." God's love is perfect. It "casts out fear, because fear involves punishment." John tells us that "the one who fears is not perfected in love" (v. 18).

When it comes to entering the presence of God, it is to be expected that fear, guilt, or shame should seek to hold us hostage. But as we believe in the love God has for us, in the brightness of His mercy the shadows of our past cannot exist.

The Heart of God
Last week I asked, If Christ were in the room, would you enter? How would you enter? We spoke of our sin, fear and shame being barriers. These are due to our perception of ourselves. Yet, when the thought first awakened within you that you could enter His presence, something also awakened in Him. He says,

"You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes" (Song of Sol. 4:9).

Your glance, even if it was no more than the briefest anticipation of being with Him, made His heart beat faster. The King James Version reads, "Thou hast ravished my heart." Jesus is not returning simply to destroy wickedness; He is coming for a bride. At the end of the age our task is not simply to prepare for the rapture or the tribulation but for Christ!

You see, there is nothing more important to Jesus Christ than His bride, the church. He died for her. He lives to make intercession for her. His love proved itself capable and worthy of winning our full redemption. Our most noble task is to surrender to the love that reaches to us.

Longing for Jesus
How shall we respond? I am thinking of Mary Magdalene's love for Jesus. Yes, here in the love Jesus has for Mary, and in her response, we see flashes of Christ's love for the church.

Mary is at Jesus' empty tomb. The apostles came, looked into the sepulcher, and went away bewildered. But Mary lingered, weeping. It is noteworthy that Jesus did not immediately come to the apostles; He came first to a woman. This tells us Jesus responds to love more than position; He comes first to those who want Him most. The apostles went away wondering, but there was something in Mary's inconsolably broken heart that Jesus Himself was drawn to.

In her sorrow she did not recognize Him. He said, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" (John 20:15). Blinded by her tears, she supposes Jesus is the gardener.

"'Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, 'Rabboni!' (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, 'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father'" (John 20:15-17).

The instant Mary sees the Lord she clings to Him. And here is the most astounding event: Christ interrupted His ascent to answer this woman's love! Jesus said, "Stop clinging to Me . . . I have not yet ascended." In His next appearance, Jesus appears to the disciples. He tells them, "Touch me." For Mary, He broke protocol; whatever He meant in saying, "I have not yet ascended," He stopped His progression to be with her!

I am staggered by this response of Christ to Mary's longing. This is the nature of His love. His passion for His bride rules His every thought and action! We are the "joy set before Him" (Heb. 12:2). For us, He endured the anguish of the cross. In so doing, Jesus demonstrated that His love for the church is the highest, most powerful law of His kingdom!

It is His passion for the church that compels Him to come for us in His second coming. Yet, as He broke protocol for Mary, so He reveals His heart to us. If we will be satisfied with nothing less than Christ, it is Christ we shall possess. He will come to us. Of all the marvels in this universe, the greatest is the love Christ has for His church. Though He is standing behind our walls, the glance of our eyes makes His heart beat faster!

Oh Lord Jesus, forgive me for using Your gifts for myself, while withholding myself from Your love. Lord, I will love You with a perfect love, for my love is the love with which You first loved me.
 

Standing Behind Our Wall
by Francis Frangipane

The sense of distance we often feel between Christ and ourselves is an illusion. As we enter the days prior to Christ's Second Coming, the Lord shall begin to remove that falsehood. Indeed, He promises, "In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (John 14:20).

The Scriptures tell us that Christ is the vine, we are the branches; He is the head, we are His body; He is the Lord and we are His temple. From start to finish, the Bible declares the Lord not only has a dwelling in heaven, but that He also abides perpetually in redemptive union with His people. The ever-present focus of His activity is to guide us into oneness with Himself.

Thus, for all that the Holy Spirit has come to establish in our lives, whether through gifts, virtue or power, His highest purpose is to lead us into the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit labors ceaselessly to establish intimacy between ourselves and the Lord Jesus. Someone once said that intimacy means "into-me-see." This holy transparency fills the letters and words of the Bible with the heartthrob of God. Like sheep, we actually hear the Shepherd's voice speaking to our spirits, bringing comfort, correction and direction (see John 10:27).

Not only are we privileged to know Christ's teachings, He is so close to us in spirit that we can discern the tone of His voice as He instructs us. This is heart-to-heart intimacy. Listen to His wonderful promise:

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15).

Jesus says, "I know My own, and My own know Me." How intimate is this relationship? The union between Christ and our hearts is of the same quality as His union with the Father. He says it is "even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father."

Yet, the sense of distance between Jesus Christ and us persists. You may have prayed, "Lord, You said You are with us forever but I feel alone. I cannot perceive You." If Christ is within us, how can we find the living flame of His presence?

In the Song of Solomon, this quest to find the secret place of His presence is given wonderful expression. The bride says, "Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag" (Song of Sol. 2:8-9).

This is our Lord, full of vitality! He is "climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills." To see Him on mountains, though, is to behold Him from afar. He is still distant. How do we live in a moment-by-moment sense of His indwelling presence? We still ask, "Where within me are You, Lord, within me?"

The bride continues,

"Behold, he is standing behind our wall, he is looking through the windows, he is peering through the lattice" (Song of Sol. 2:9).

Yes, Christ dwells within us, but He is standing behind our "walls." The walls between us and the Savior are primarily the work of unrenewed minds and hardened hearts. We have barricaded ourselves behind fears and carnal attitudes; we are held hostage by sin and worldly distractions.

Yet these barriers can be eliminated. To the degree they are removed, we possess oneness with Christ and experience true spiritual advancement.

Removing the Walls
Even now, let us pursue the removal of these barriers. How? Imagine that, even as you are reading, the Lord Himself has quietly entered a nearby room. You look, and suddenly the room is vibrant and alive, shimmering with waves of light. Instantly, your senses are flooded with His holy presence as the living, probing light enters you and descends into your heart. The darkness that shrouded your inner sin nature is gone and your heart is exposed.

My first question: Knowing that Jesus Christ is in the room, would you enter?

If you could not bring yourself to move toward the room, what would be your reason? If it is because you feel you have failed the Lord too many times, then shame has become a "wall" between you and Christ. If fear keeps you distant, then fear is the barrier between God and you; if an unrepentant heart is keeping you from intimacy with Christ, then heart hardness is your cause of isolation.

Remember, the pure in heart see God (see Matt. 5:8). If we repent of our wrong attitudes and sins; if, instead of shame and fear, we clothe ourselves with the garments of praise and salvation, the barriers between ourselves and the Lord shall be removed.

But let me ask you a second question: How would you enter Christ's presence?

It is my opinion that we would not pick up tambourines and dance into His glory. No. When the greatest apostles and prophets beheld Him, His presence caused each to fall face down as a dead man before Him. For me, it would be with great trembling that I would approach the room of His presence. I would inch my way closer.

How can we break the sense of distance between ourselves and Christ? In the same way we would repent of sin and shame before entering the room, let us turn our gaze toward His living glory. In trembling obedience, let us enter the fire of His presence for, in truth, He is closer than the room next door. He is, even now, standing behind our wall.

Lord Jesus, I remove the wall created by my fears, sin, and shame. Master, with all my heart I desire to enter Your glory, to stand in Your presence and love You. Receive me now as I bow before Your glory.


The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, The Days of His Presence. For more information on this book, please visit the Arrow Bookstore.

www.frangipane.org

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
by Francis Frangipane


Consumer Confidence Sinks to 16-year-plus Low, so warned the headline of a recent Associated Press article. The article continued, “U.S. consumers are the gloomiest they've been since the tail end of the last prolonged recession. Inflation, sinking home values and soaring gas prices have pushed confidence to the lowest level since 1992.”

You can feel the gloom seeping into our culture right now. Look at the stock market. the market is a barometer of the confidence investors have for the future. Nine months ago the stock market had climbed to 14,198. Today, it is down almost 3,000 points to 11,570. Two things control the mood of Wall Street: fear and greed. When times are good, the market climbs, but when people are fearful, their spending becomes conservative causing the market to drop.

But, is gloominess justified? The article said that consumer confidence is at “the lowest level since 1992.” Does anyone remember 1992? In December of 1991 the Soviet Union had collapsed. Suddenly, the Cold War was over and America had won. Our values, vision and strength had prevailed against godless communism.  A “new normal” existed with unbelievable potential, yet most Americans were still so conditioned by the threat of nuclear war that six months into 1992 consumer confidence was lower than it is today.

What happened next? Well, in spite of the cloud of gloom over most of civilization, investors began to realize that the world had become a better place. As a result, the longest economic boom in American history began. Christian missionaries also recognized the opportunity and began the greatest surge in evangelism since Christ. Missiologists were amazed! Since 1992 more people have given their lives to Christ than the sum of all those converted since the first century!

So job losses, floods, fires and other disasters seem to be multiplying in our days. Yes, times are rough. Yet, while these are hard times, God still is working all things for good. “Hard” times do not mean “bad” times. It just means we must apply faith, keep listening to God, and for heaven’s sake, not lose our joy. Times of darkness are actually when the leaders of tomorrow are being forged. If you see light while others see gloom, your faith will inspire others to follow you into the future.

A Time of Great Potential
Personally, I believe we are on the brink of many new breakthroughs, both in the natural realm and also in the kingdom of God. Major breakthroughs are about to occur in the next three to five years. I’m not telling you to invest in the stock market, but I am saying, “Don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Heb. 10:35).

Consider technology. New sciences are developing energy sources that have zero emissions and are utilizing resources that are abundantly available. Oil will still be necessary, but the idea we were running out of oil is wrong. Huge oil fields offshore in Brazil and also in the upper Dakotas and Canada offer hope for lower energy costs. New breakthroughs are also emerging in medical research. Health cures for many of mankind’s most devastating diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease, are on the horizon. These discoveries have the potential to be as stunning as Jonas Salk’s vaccine in eliminating polio.

One may ask, what about Muslim extremism? Of course, we cannot relax our guard. The enemy is never more dangerous than when his end is near. However, for all the criticism leveled at President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, I believe the bulk of the terrorist challenge we faced seven years ago has been effectively countered. The fact is, the al Qaeda led jihad against the West has failed. Bin Laden’s dream of leading a worldwide uprising against America has morphed into his own worst nightmare: He is despised both in and out of Islam.

“Al Qaeda has lost considerable popularity because its indiscriminate violence has provoked a backlash among Muslims, who have been its principal victims. Al Qaeda has murdered more Muslims than non-Muslims, more Afghans than Americans. Also more Iraqis than Americans,” says James Phillips, Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

Today, the vast majority of Muslims consider bin Laden a false prophet and a heretic. Additionally, many high profile Muslim clerics are now teaching that the Koran does not call for military jihad, especially against enemies that possess vastly superior military strength. Yes, there is still Iran, and we must finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally speaking, nearly every Muslim nation in the world has taken its stand against al Qaeda and radical Islam. Each is arresting radicals and putting them in jail.

People on the Islamic street are quietly realizing the disproportional consequences of their war against the West. They know that when Muslim extremists bomb two buildings in America, America conquers two Muslim nations in the Middle East. Moderate Muslims may not love us, but they have come to fear making America their enemy. We can thank President Bush for his passion to defend America.

Although peace is itself a worthy goal, the real outcome of the defeat of al Qaeda is a Muslim world that is seeking ways to accept the West without importing our wantonness. The shift is from confrontation to understanding the differences in our cultures and respecting them. And, this is good news for the spread of the Gospel.

Locally
You say, You don’t understand my problem. No, but I understand my problems. Here in Cedar Rapids we are dealing with the effects of a “500-year” flood. We can succumb to darkness and retreat into gloom, or instead, we can fix our eyes upon God and follow Him into citywide transformation. It may take a couple years, but the river of mud that overflowed the banks of the Cedar River has been countered by a river of life bringing healing, help and hope to the city.

Indeed, the church here was united; thousands of volunteers had truly gird themselves to serve. Even so, we have grown deeper in our unity and compassion. God has been able to export into our city something that, in many ways, is like heaven to those in need.

The testimony of a united, serving church has touched every level of government disaster relief. They have all stated the same thing: They’ve never seen churches working so selflessly or in such unity before. A new realignment has been created between the kingdom of God and our community. So, yes, our immediate circumstances are staggering, yet our eyes are on Christ and the power of His kingdom.
 To all, I say, stay encouraged. Don’t be afraid of the dark! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

 

For Dreams to Come True
by Francis Frangipane



Just because we walk and talk does not mean we are truly awake. Zechariah was not sleeping when an angel roused him “as a man who is awakened from his sleep” (Zech. 4:1).

Perhaps we too need to be shaken from our slumber to possess the promises of God! Amazingly, in spite of all the signs, wonders, and warnings announcing that we are truly in the last days, Jesus also said there is a mysterious drowsiness that we have to overcome. Indeed, immediately after highlighting the various evidences of the end (see Matt. 24), He compares the church to virgins who “all got drowsy and began to sleep” (Matt. 25:5).

Virgins sleeping at the end of the age: This seems incomprehensible with all the signs in the heavens and wonders upon the earth, not to mention the increasing presence of Christ. Yet this phenomenon is something we each battle: the tendency to become spiritually drowsy and lose our focus as we wait for the Lord’s return.

There is a subtle activity of the enemy that dulls our perception and seduces our zeal. Our vision takes a backseat to other less important aspects of life. From the beginning, the voice of Satan has had this lulling effect on mankind. Eve’s excuse for disobedience was, “The serpent hath caused me to forget” (Gen. 3:13 Young’s Literal Trans.).

This sense of spiritual forgetfulness, of drowsiness, is the cloud of blindness that we each must discern and overcome. It was in regard to this that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart through the following dream.

There was a temple standing in an open field. My view of the temple was from its side, about 200 yards away. I could not see its front, yet it must have been completely open because great light flashed out from the inside; it pulsed like lightning, yet was solid like sunlight. The block of light issued straight out, and I knew this light was the glory of God.

The temple was so close that I knew that with a little effort I could enter the glory of God. His holy presence was clearly within my reach. There were also others directly in front of me that I recognized as people from church. Everyone seemed very busy. And while the temple and its light were visible and readily accessible to all, every head was bent downward and turned away from the light; each was occupied with other things.

I heard one person say, “I have to do laundry.” Another said, “I have to go to work.” I could see people reading newspapers, watching televisions, and eating. I was sure everyone could see the light if they wanted to — even more sure that we all knew His glory was near.

There were even a few people reading the Bible and praying, but everyone maintained the downward thrust of their gaze; each had a mental barrier of some kind between themselves and the place of God’s presence. No one, in fact, seemed capable of standing up, turning, and steadfastly walking into the very near glory of God.

As I watched, suddenly my wife lifted her head and beheld the temple in the field. She stood and walked without pausing toward the open front. As she drew closer to the light, a garment of glory formed and thickened around her; the closer she went, the more dense the light surrounding her became until she stepped in front of the temple and turned completely toward the blazing face of God.

Oh! How jealous I felt. My wife had entered the glory of God before me! At the same time I realized that there was nothing stopping me from approaching God’s presence — nothing except the pile of things to do and responsibilities that, in truth, ruled my life more than the voice of God.

Pushing the weight of these pressures from me, I determined to rise and enter the temple myself. But, to my great regret, in my dream as I rose up, I suddenly woke up!

The longing and disappointment within me seemed unbearable. I had been so close to entering God’s presence. How I wanted to enter the temple and be swallowed up in His glory!

I cried, “Lord, why did You let me wake up?”

Instantly, the word of the Lord responded to my cry. He said, “I will not have My servant’s life fulfilled by a dream. If you want your dream to come true, you have to wake up.”

Breaking Passivity; Setting Priorities
Beloved, today, God is awakening us to the reality of His presence. The promises the Lord gives us in the Scriptures must become more to us than dream-like realities only reserved for the hereafter. Moses frequented the glory of God! Israel’s seventy elders ate and drank in God’s resplendent glory (see Ex. 24: 9-11). Jesus unveiled God’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration! Paul says that we all can behold the glory of God and be transformed by it (see 2 Cor. 3:18).

For this reason, the Scripture says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). If we truly want Christ to “shine” upon us, we must arise from the distractions that entomb us in lethargy and spiritual darkness.

Right at this moment, the presence of the living God is near enough to hear the whisper of your heart. But if we want our dream of standing in the presence of God to come true, we must wake up.

When Average Men Follow Christ
By Francis Frangipane



Before we doubt whether we are the caliber of the first disciples, here is a fact sheet compiled from over 200 New Testament Scriptures concerning those whom Jesus first called.

THE DISCIPLES... came to Christ, believed in Him, followed Him.

They...
dined with Him, often became hungry, often didn't have time to eat, twice fed the multitudes.

They...
received special authority to heal and deliver, became Jesus' confidants, were often rebuked and corrected, were entrusted with the mysteries of God's Kingdom.

They...
did what was not lawful on the Sabbath, broke the traditions of the elders, entered the Kingdom of God and walked in God's power.

They...
were frightened, fell on their faces, were much afraid, were very astonished, they marveled, they were indignant and they rejoiced.

They...
became weary on a number of occasions, grumbled and withdrew, some stopped walking with Jesus; even after the resurrection some still doubted, they wrote the New Testament and died for their faith.

They...
were taught to pray for the Kingdom to come and for laborers for the harvest, yet slept while Jesus prayed; they spent ten days in continuous prayer before Pentecost, and prayed corporately every day afterward at 3:00 p.m..

They...
forgot provisions, made commitments they could not keep, individuals begged them to heal people they could not heal, they attempted to exorcise demons that would not leave, they rebuked parents bringing children to be blessed, abandoned Jesus in His deepest need, they were frequently jealous and ambitious, and they turned the world upside down after the resurrection.

They...
had a tendency to invent doctrines, tried to command fire to fall on the Samaritans, put a limit on how many times to forgive, presumed John would not die, wanted to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, became the tabernacle of God on earth after Pentecost.

They...
prepared cities for the arrival of Jesus, prepared the Passover for the last supper, and were prepared by God to represent Christ; ultimately, they were prepared to die for the Lord.

They...
remembered what Jesus taught, received the great commission, faced terrible opposition from principalities and powers, Jews and Gentiles, yet they made disciples of all nations.

Let us read the words of Christ as though we were sitting as Jesus’ feet learning. What did Jesus say concerning love, spiritual authority, or the power of faith? It is time to not be overwhelmed by our flaws and weaknesses. Rather, let us obey all Jesus taught and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, even as His first disciples were.

 

The Full Price
By Francis Frangipane
 

King David and the elders of Israel were all dressed in sackcloth. They had come, each lamenting in deep repentance, to a particular mountain overlooking Jerusalem. David had sinned by taking an unauthorized census. His heart had drifted from its abiding trust in God to trusting in the strength and numbers of men. This was a serious rebellion for a man like David. Worse, David's sin had awakened the Lord's wrath and the nation was under severe judgment (see 1 Chron. 21).

Yet, the angel of the Lord appeared to David and his men and instructed them to build an altar to the Lord on a nearby threshing floor. This is not just another passing event in Israel's history; David was about to step into a pivotal moment in the unfolding of God's will in the earth. For this particular mountain was actually Mount Moriah, the very place where centuries earlier Abraham, Israel's ancestral father, came to offer Isaac in an act of supreme worship to God. It is likely that David was actually standing within a short walk of the very place where Abraham would have offered Isaac to God had not the Lord stopped him.

So David isn't standing on just any mountain, but upon Mt. Moriah, where God tested and proved the devotion of His servant (see Genesis 22). Six centuries have passed, and while nothing visible remains of Abraham's altar, the memory of Abraham and Isaac journeying to Moriah in unquestioning worship is a living reality burning brightly in the heart of God.

The Jebusites
When the angel tells David to build an altar on the nearby threshing floor, it must be noted that the land and the threshing floor belong to a man identified as Ornan (1 Chron. 21:18; "Araunah" in 2 Sam. 24:18). Remarkably, Ornan is a Jebusite. He is one of the few surviving Jebusites, who were long-standing enemies of Israel, and he is living outside of Jerusalem on Mt. Moriah.

When David became king, he conquered the Jebusites, captured their chief city, Jebus, and renamed it Jerusalem. Only a few Jebusites still lived in the area; among them is Ornan, who owns the threshing floor next to where David is standing. Ornan was watching King David, along with Israel's elders, as they knelt to the ground before God. Incredibly, this Jebusite also beholds the angel of the Lord, with sword in hand, hovering between heaven and earth.

It must have been an amazing scene. Terrified of both the angel and the king, Ornan creeps out from the threshing floor and bows to the ground before the king, willingly offering to David not only his threshing floor, but also "the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for wood and the wheat for the grain offering." Ornan says, "I will give it all" (1 Chron. 21:23). Yet David refused.

Remember, Ornan is a Jebusite, not a Jew. He had no right to this land, especially since God had given it all to Israel, including the land of the Jebusites (see Exodus 13:5). As a conquering king, David could justify taking the threshing floor, yet listen careful to David's words. He is speaking to a Jebusite when he says, "I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing" (1 Chron. 21:24).

Just like Abraham before him, David will not offer to God that which cost him nothing. He will pay the full price.

The Temple of God
"Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite" (2 Chron. 3:1).

When Solomon built the temple, he chose this site: the place where Abraham offered Isaac and where David, in sackcloth, paid "the full price." Today, for true Christians, Christ Himself is our temple. Certainly, of all men, Jesus paid "the full price."

Furthermore, through our union with Christ and one another, we too have become a temple of God. Yet, let us not measure ourselves by lowered standards, for God reveals the spiritual DNA of the temple as it manifest in history---in Abraham, in David and in Christ, who all paid the full price of surrender. Such is the standard for us as well.

Beloved, at the revelation of God even the gentile Ornan, a Jebusite, willingly offers his property and, though refused, participates as an example of those who truly become the temple of God.

Today, the spiritual temple of God is being rebuilt in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and Jew and Gentile are uniting in a holy habitation of the Lord. Yet this unity is not just a gathering of peoples, but an ascending of the nations up the holy hill of the Lord (Ps. 15, 24; Is 2:2). As our forebears exemplified, let us not offer to God that which is superficial or costs us nothing. For Jesus' sake, let us present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service of worship (see Romans 12:1).

In a world intoxicated with self-gratification and deception, I am saying there are costs to becoming Christlike. Let us not offer to God that which is another's nor present to God a sacrifice which costs us nothing. Yes, salvation is free, but to possess Christ's life, let us put away a life of compromise. By the grace of God, let us pay the full price.

Lord Jesus, I desire to be fully given to You. Forgive me for offering borrowed gifts that cost me little. I want to pay the full price. Lord, make me a willing sacrifice. May my life be a true sacrifice, born of Your grace and appropriate in the building of Your house. Amen.

 

 

When Kings Go Out to Battle
By Francis Frangipane


Beware of a Passive Spirit
There are many examples of David's valor. As a young man, for instance, while others trembled, David was ready and eager to face Goliath. David is an example of one whom God chose, whose passions for God sustained him for most of his life.

Yet David also provides an example of what happens to good people when they go passive when they should be fighting. For there was an occasion when David did not pursue his enemies and the consequences were grave. It happened because he allowed a passive spirit to subdue his will.

"Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem" (2 Sam.11:1).

During a time of war, the king allowed a passive spirit to immobilize his soul. Soon we find this great warrior king almost helpless to resist the unfolding spiritual attack.

"Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance" (2 Sam. 11:2).

The woman was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. From the moment David accepted the influence of that passive spirit, his resistance was weakened; a paralysis of conscience occurred. Scripture says that "when evening came David arose from his bed." Perhaps it was customary to rest in the afternoon, but it strikes me as inconsistent for David to nap while his men fought. It is possible that this nap was not a response to a bodily need but an expression of the slumber that gripped his soul. He was in bed until "evening."

This heaviness of soul resting on David was actually part of a larger, synchronized spiritual attack. The other part of that battle was the quiet, inner prompting that stirred Bathsheba to bathe in a place where David could see her. Finally, unable to resist, and in defiance of his noble qualities, David "sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her" (2 Sam. 11:4).

Dear friend, remember: This terrible moral failure was not driven by David's lust or flagrant rebellion to God. A passive spirit introduced David to his sin! The problem was simply that, in a time when the kings went forth to war, David stayed at home.

We ourselves are in a time of war. The Spirit of God is calling us to fight for our souls as well as our families, cities and nations. Indeed, God's Word reveals that "The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies" (Isa. 42:13).

Is that holy fight in you? Is there a war cry in your spirit? If you are born again, that cry is within you, even if it has been muted by lethargy.

We will never succeed as overcomers without carrying in our spirits the war cry of God. We must stop resisting the call to prayer; we must embrace the reality of spiritual warfare; and we must fight with the weapons of warfare that God has given us, both for our own progress and also on behalf of those we love.

Know, however, that the moment you accept a passive spirit, you should anticipate that a temptation appropriate to your weakness will soon follow. It may not be Bathsheba; it may be pornography on the Internet. Or it may be a coworker who begins to look attractive at a time when you and your spouse are struggling. Whatever the area of weakness in your life, Satan will attack that area. It will likely not be a bold frontal assault; if you first drop your guard and relax your fight, he will disarm you with a passive spirit. If the enemy succeeds in his assault, you will find yourself wrapped up in something that can devastate you and your loved ones.

One may argue, "I'm walking with God. I'm a bond-servant of the Lord. I'm not vulnerable." Remember what the Lord warned the church in Thyatira: "I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols" (Rev. 2:20) .

Jesus was concerned, not only for the corrupting influence of Jezebel in the world; He was concerned that the leaders of the church had grown tolerant. More, her seductions not only targeted the wayward or new believers, but she led God's bond-servants astray.

Although it does not identify this seductive spirit by name, Proverbs warns of the temptations of the Jezebel spirit. Speaking of "the woman of folly," she calls out "to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight: Whoever is naive, let him turn in here" (see Prov. 9:14-18).

Who is this spirit after? Those "who are making their paths straight."

Beloved, it is springtime here in the northern hemisphere. It is that time of the year when seduction begins to call out "to those who pass by." Let us not become passive in a time of war. Rather, let us fight for our nation, our cities, our families and, especially, our own souls.

It is time for kings to go to war.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 

The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, This Day We Fight (published by Chosen Books). For more information on this book, please visit the Arrow Bookstore at www.arrowbookstore.com. For reprint permission, please contact the publisher.
 

 

Grace Works!
By Francis Frangipane

Whether we realize it or not, most Christians of Protestant lineage carry in their doctrinal heritage the revelation of Martin Luther, that "the just shall live by faith." For whatever flaws may have otherwise been in Luther's life, his contribution remains a living revelation in the consciousness of the modern Church.

Today, we know we are saved by grace and justified by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. The Lord's grace remains a consistent, liberating power in our lives. If I fall, grace does not retreat; rather, it lifts me up. If I become virtuous, I know virtue is truly the result of grace working in me.

We must never forget that salvation is the gift of God. As it is written, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).

God knew us before we were born. Before we knew Him, He was working in us in secret, drawing us to Himself. He led us to someone who then helped us find Christ. Of course, we told others that we made a "decision for Jesus," but in truth, it was God who made a decision for us before the foundation of the world.

So, we can thank God in Christ for liberating us from a "works based" salvation, thanking also Paul for explaining grace so well in his epistles, and Luther for persevering to see this great truth restored. It is obvious why "salvation by grace" is the inspiration behind most of our greatest hymns.

Salvation and Good Works
Christ delivered us from a religion about God and brought us into a family fathered by God. We are not working for acceptance or to earn our salvation. Such a difference is profound.

Yet, the revelation that salvation is not based on our works should not be interpreted as though the family of God is a "work-free zone." God has not liberated us from the realm of works, only from self-generated, religious "dead works." As new creations, the Holy Spirit dwells in us in an eternal relationship. His presence is a living reality, capable of speaking to us, inspiring and directing our lives to fulfill God-inspired works.

Thus, just after Paul explained our salvation is not "of works," he writes: "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).

We are not saved by our works, but neither are we saved from works. The truth is, we have been "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand." So we are saved by faith, but God has a plan for us that requires we work with Him to see it come to pass.

Destiny
Our destiny doesn’t just happen; it is connected to our fulfilling the "works, which God prepared beforehand." God is producing something in each of us that fits into the grand scheme of His will on earth. It may be a life vocation or a prayer ministry or feeding the poor or developing spiritual gifts or editing for a Christian writer or raising godly children. The list is as endless as it is varied.

But whatever God's will is for us, Paul says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

"God is at work in you." This is such an amazing reality. It does, indeed, inspire fear and trembling, yet it is also the source of great confidence. For if it is God who is working in us, He will soon be working through us. It will look like us working, but it will really be God manifesting His works through us.

You see, our lives are the outworking of God’s grace. Our task is to seek Him, to study His Word, to minister to Him through prayer and worship, and to draw close to Him so we can discern what He is doing in us. Then make His inner working visible through us.

This is exactly how Jesus revealed the Father. He said, ". . . the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10). Again, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working" (John 5:17). And again, "We must work the works of Him who sent Me . . . " (John 9:4).

There should be God-inspired ideas, love-activated thoughts bubbling up into our minds from the redemptive Spirit of God. His inner working will ultimately affect every area of our lives. He will reach to others; He will work through us to reveal Jesus. These are the "good works" that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

He whose grace led us to Christ will also conform us to Christ as we obey Him. Yes, grace works!


www.frangipane.org

 

 

WRESTLING WITH CHOICES

Lloyd Pulley, Calvary Chapel - Old Bridge, NJ

In high school, I learned at least one important lesson. I was a very successful wrestler at the time, largely due to my coach's influence. One day in particular, he gave me some prudent advice. I was trying to get down to a lower weight class and had been complaining about how hard it was to qualify in that class. Wisely, my coach never argued with me (it is hard to lose weight). He simply said to me,

 
"You know, Lloyd, it comes down to this: Whatever you want the most, that is what you're going to do. If you really want to wrestle at that weight class, then you won't eat too much, and you'll qualify. But if you really want to eat, then that's what you'll do, and you won't be able to wrestle at that weight class. You simply have to make up your mind, and do what you want the most."


 
What I learned from his instruction was that whether I wrestle or not was really my own choice. And he was absolutely right. I would do whatever I valued the most. I could fight and complain, or I could cheat and sneak food, but in the end I would simply be choosing not to qualify. Instead, I chose to cut the weight because what I wanted most was to wrestle at the lower weight class.

It was a great lesson for me, and it is a principle that we can apply spiritually as well. Every choice that we make reveals what is most important to us. These are the days that God has ordained for us to live for Him. Now is our chance to qualify in His weight class! All He asks is that we would be willing. So, what do you want the most? Is it to live for Jesus? Or does something else have a hold of your heart? The answers can only be found by honestly evaluating the way you are living your life. Ask yourself:

 
  • Am I abiding in the Lord, through His Word and prayer?
  • Am I developing a deeper desire for the things of God?
  • Am I filled, and being filled, with the Spirit?
  • Am I experiencing victory over sin and temptation?
  • Am I willingly yielding my life to His every day?
It's really simple: God allows each of us the freedom to choose whether or not we will yield to His Spirit. It is our choice every day and in every circumstance. The question is: Are we willing to allow Him to have His way in our lives?
 
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  Romans 12:1-2
 

 

Francis Frangipane:

"A Door Opens Before Us Into His Presence--When We Behold How HE LOVES US"
 

"Our healing comes when we behold how He loves us."

Our capacity to actually dwell in Christ's presence is based upon knowing the true nature of God. If we see Him as a loving Father, we will draw near; if He seems to be a harsh judge, we will withdraw. Indeed, everything that defines us is influenced by our perception of God.

If we do not believe God cares about us, we will be overly focused on caring for ourselves. If we feel insignificant or ignored by God, we will exhaust ourselves by seeking significance from men. However, once we realize that God truly loves us, that He desires we draw near to Him, a door opens before us into His presence. Here, in the shelter of the Most High, we can find rest and renewed power for our souls.

God's love is not a reality distant from our needs. The Bible reveals that the Lord is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). He feels the pain of what we experience on earth. He participates in the life we live, for "in Him we live, and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). He is not removed from our need; we are His Body. He is one with us.

The truth is, we are not alone in our battles. However, if we believe we are alone--if we accept the lie that God does not care--our darkened thinking will isolate us from the loving commitment of God.

Beloved, even in our times of rebellion, the heart of God is not far. Consider the Lord's relationship with Israel. Though Israel had sinned and was suffering oppressive consequences, the Lord wasn't far. We read that when the Lord could bear the misery of Israel no longer (Judges 10:16), He raised up deliverers. God wasn't distant; He was with them, actually bearing their very misery!

At Lazarus' tomb, Jesus wept. Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus; He knew it six days before He called Lazarus back from death. He wept because they were weeping.

Do you know that the Spirit of God actually feels our heartache? He is with us in our conflicts and near us in our fears. At the tomb of Lazarus, some would suggest that Christ's weeping was really over the unbelief of His disciples. I think not. When the Lord wept over Lazarus, those who saw Christ saw a man touched by the sorrows of others. They remarked, "Behold how He loved him!" (John 11:36).

Our healing comes when we behold how He loves us. We are raised from the dead when He comes to our tomb and calls us by name out of death.

We must personalize God's love. He gave His Son for my sins, His word for my guidance, and His Spirit for my strength. If the Almighty is for me, who can be against me?

Dear friend, with wide-eyed wonder, let us behold how He loves us, and be healed of our isolation.

 

The Credibility Factor
by Francis Frangipane


I appreciate and defend the origins of our many denominations. Most were born as godly men fought against the sin and spiritual apostasy of their times. Their heroic stand preserved (or in some cases, restored) the truth of God in an otherwise dark world. From my heart, I thank God for our denominational heritage.

Today, however, the need to remain divided from other evangelical congregations is unjustified. We can remain unique churches with unique callings and a unique spiritual heritage, yet we can be united spiritually, and even functionally, with other congregations in our communities.

Knowing Christ has called for unity in His church, many leaders today are re-examining the legitimacy of division in the church. Today's heroes are not isolating themselves from other churches; rather, they are working with others to repair the breaches, seeking to build the citywide church on the foundation of Christ alone.

Yet, our traditions of division have taken on the garments of orthodoxy; they appear biblical, but they are not. The various divisions in the history of the church were stages in restoration meant to preserve truth, not isolate it.

Is Christ Divided?
Every true Christian believes the Bible is God's sacred, eternal word. Indeed, heaven and earth will pass away, but God's word will endure forever. What was relative and powerful in the first century ought to be just as powerful today. Listen, therefore, to what Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:

"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul,' and 'I of Apollos,' and 'I of Cephas,' and 'I of Christ.' Has Christ been divided?" (1 Cor. 1:10-13a).

How strange that we smugly look upon the divisions in the Corinthian church. We boldly criticize their carnality. But why was it wrong in the first century to say, “I am of Paul” (or Apollos), but permissible in these last days to say, I am of Luther or Wesley or of the Baptists or Pentecostals?

Again, please remember, I am not suggesting we should strive for unity with churches that do not believe in Christ or God's word or the Holy Spirit or the virgin birth or the second coming. However, I am saying that, within the sphere of the born-again, living church of Jesus Christ, divisions are unbiblical and wrong.

The apostle later continued, "For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" (1 Cor. 3:3).

The credibility of the church is that we are not "mere men," creatures born of women without spiritual vision or destiny. We have been born again of one Spirit from above. Within our spirits is the actual spiritual substance of Christ Himself.

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor 3:16).

We are the temple of God. Our churches, like the stones of the temple, are to be laid side-by-side, building us together "into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).

Paul went on to issue a warning which every Christian should heed. He said,

"If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy" (1 Cor. 3:17).

We have attempted to use this verse to condemn such things as cigarette smoking and sexual vices, and on an individual basis, there are obvious consequences to these sins. However, Paul is speaking here of more than the sins of excess and immoral pleasure. The apostle is warning against allowing division in the temple of God, the church. He says, "If any man destroys the temple of God" (through jealousy and strife), "God will destroy him." The context is plainly speaking in regard to divisions in the church!

When pure Christianity degenerates into divided camps of ambitious people, it literally destroys the harmony, power and blessing of the "temple of God." The individual who brings or supports such carnal divisions in the church has positioned himself in a very dangerous place before God. The temple of God is holy. Our unity together is holy. Our love for one another is holy, for the Father Himself dwells in the resting place of caring attitudes and loving relationships. Collectively, we are the dwelling place of God on earth.

The warning is severe: "If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him."

Yes, there are times when church leaders sin and confusion enters the dynamics of church life. So, let’s make room for failings and transitions. But let us not lose sight of the fact that the living God is a God of order; He will not dwell in ruins! Because He is a God of love, He will work with us to rebuild, but He will not sanction our fallen condition with power. He will not lend His credibility to our disorder.

How Does Disunity Affect You?
When Nehemiah, living among the Jewish exiles, heard of the condition of Jerusalem and its temple, he "sat down and wept and mourned for days." The fallen condition of the temple thrust him into an extended position of "fasting and praying before the God of heaven" (Neh. 1:4). The modern Jews also weep as they face the Wailing Wall, lamenting over the ruins of their temple. Paul mourned when he saw the ruined condition in Corinth. He said, "For I am afraid ... that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned" (2 Cor. 12:20-21). And Jesus Himself wept over the divisions of Jerusalem, lamenting, "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matt. 23:37).

This mourning concerning the disunified condition of the Father's house ought to be in our hearts as well. Yet, for most of us, not only have we failed to mourn our situation, we have not even grasped that our disunity, jealousy and strife is a fallen state! How far we have fallen and how little we know it!

While the redemption of man was always motivating Jesus, remember, His most ardent desire was His zeal for His Father's house; He was consumed with it (see John 2:17). Building the house of God --- the born-again, praying, loving, citywide church --- is still Christ's highest priority. The world is His harvest; the church is His bride. His love for the church was the basis of His last recorded prayer: that we would be one. It is still His highest passion today. For, until we are united in Him, and one with one another, our testimony lacks credibility. The world will not believe that God has sent Christ if our lives are splintered with the same divisions that infect the world (see John 17:20-23).

Privileged To Become Christlike
There were many reasons why Jerusalem fell to Babylon during Jeremiah's day, but underlying them all was the spiritual apostasy of the religious leaders. God Himself would have defended a humble, praying city, but in Jerusalem the spiritual leaders were corrupt. Listen, therefore, to Jeremiah's fearful revelation:

"The adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem" because of "the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests" (see Lam. 4:12-13).

Do we see this? Israel's enemies entered Jerusalem because the spiritual leaders were unrepentantly full of sin. Oh God, help us to see and accept that the future of our cities exists in the corporate relationship the spiritual leaders have with You and one another. Jesus said that any city, any house "divided against itself" cannot stand (Matt. 12:25). The place of spiritual protection of a community has its origins in the quality of life that exists in the spiritual leadership of that community: a vibrant, praying, united church will move that city toward the blessing of God; a divided, sinful leadership will allow the adversary to enter the city's gates.

The path narrows for leadership until our only choice is to become Christlike in everything. However, Christlike leadership in the church can transform the world around it! You see, our cities are in disorder because the church is in disorder. James tells us that where there is jealousy and strife, "there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16).

Our selfish ambitions have taken our eyes off the will and purposes of God for our cities. We have become jealous of one another. Consequently, the "disorder," lawlessness and "every evil thing" we see in our society are, at least in part, rooted in the soil of a misdirected and distracted church community.

Because of this, the church has lost a measure of its credibility. How can we expect the world to hear our message of love when we, as Christ's body, fail to love each other? We have no right to condemn the world for its pride and arrogance when we, the body of Christ, still refuse to humble ourselves and work with the other churches in our neighborhoods.

Beloved, over the years the world has seen many incredible ministries. However, the time of the "incredible" has passed; the hour for the credible is being established.

* * * * *

The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, The House of the Lord (published by Creation House).

The Baptism of Love
by Francis Frangipane


To Dwell Upon God
It is hard for us in this anxious, fearful age to quiet our souls and actually dwell upon God in our hearts. We can engage ourselves with Bible study or other acts of obedience; in varying degrees we know how to witness, exhort and bless. We know how to analyze these things, and even perfect them; but to lift our souls above the material world and consciously ponder God Himself seems beyond the reach of our Christian experience.

Yet, to actually grasp the substance of God is to enter a spiritual place of immunity; it is to receive into our spirits the victory Christ won for us, which is oneness with God in Christ.

Thus, we cannot content ourselves merely with the tasks we are called to perform. Ultimately, we will discover that study and church attendance are but forms which have little satisfaction in and of themselves. These activities must become what the Lord has ordained them to be: means through which we seek and find God. Our pleasure will be found not in the mechanics of spiritual disciplines, but that these disciplines bring us closer to God.

Paul's cry was, "That I may know Him!" (Phil. 3:10). It was this desire to know Jesus that produced Paul's knowledge of salvation, church order, evangelism and end-time events. Out of his heart's passion to know God came revelation, the writing of Scriptures and knowledge of the Eternal. Paul's knowledge was based upon his experience with Christ.

On the other hand, we have contented ourselves not with seeking the face of God, but with studying the facts of God. We are satisfied with a religion about Christ without the reality of Christ.

The Bible is the historical record of man's experiences with the Almighty. Out of personal encounters people had with the living God, our theological perspectives have developed. But knowledge about God is only the first step toward entering the presence of God. As much as the Bible is a book of truths, it is also a map to God. As Christians, we study and debate the map yet too often fail to make the journey.

Love Surpasses Knowledge
There is a place greater than knowledge; it is a simple, yet eternally profound place where we actually abide in Christ's love. This is, indeed, the shelter of the Most High.

Remember the apostle's prayer was that we each would "know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge." As important as knowledge is, love "surpasses knowledge." Doctrinal knowledge is the framework, the vehicle, that opens the door toward divine realities, but love causes us to be "filled up to all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19).

There is a dwelling place of love that God desires us to enter. It is a place where our knowledge of God is fulfilled by the substance of God. Listen to the Amplified Bible's rendering of this verse: "May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [that you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!" (Eph. 3:17-19).

Is this not our goal, to be rooted deeply in love, to grasp the breadth, length, height and depth of God's love and to know for ourselves the deep, personal love of Christ? Can any goal be more wonderful? Indeed, to be filled and flooded with God Himself is the very hope of the gospel!

You see, God cannot truly be known without, in some way, also being experienced. If we had never seen a sunrise or a starry night sky, could any description substitute for our own eyes beholding the expansive beauty? Awe comes from seeing and encountering, not merely from knowing that somewhere a beautiful sky exists.

Likewise, to truly know God we must seek Him until we pass through the outer, informational realm about God and actually find for ourselves the living presence of the Lord Himself. This is the "upward call" of God in Christ Jesus. It draws us through our doctrines into the immediacy of the divine presence. The journey leaves us in the place of transcendent surrender, where we listen to His voice and, from listening, ascend into His love.

The earth's last great move of God shall be distinguished by an outpouring from Christ of irresistible desire for His people. To those who truly yearn for His appearing there shall come, in ever-increasing waves, seasons of renewal from the presence of the Lord (see Acts 3:19-21). Intimacy with Christ shall be restored to its highest level since the first century.

Many on the outside of this move of God, as well as those touched and healed by it, will look and marvel: How did these common people obtain such power? For they shall see miracles similar to when Jesus Christ walked the earth. Multitudes will be drawn into the valley of decision. For them, truly, the kingdom of God will be at hand. But for those whom the Lord has drawn to Himself, there will be no mystery as to how He empowered them. Having returned to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ, they will have received the baptism of love.

 

To Set the Captive Free
by Francis Frangipane


During the last hours of this age a great army shall arise; it shall consist of many who were formerly lame and spiritually oppressed. Indeed, a multitude that is last now, will become first to enter His glory.

When we consider the waning hours of this age --- the times of judgment, glory and terror --- we must keep our eyes upon the grace and purposes of God. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Christ never ceases to be the Redeemer of mankind, even during times of divine judgment.

We may wonder, Isn't He coming with great wrath? Yes. But the "Lion" who alone is worthy to "open the book" is always also a "Lamb standing, as if slain" (Rev. 5:5-6). Christ will not cease being the Redeemer, even in the day of His wrath; in wrath, He remembers mercy (Hab. 3:1-2).

In truth, many who have repeatedly failed the Lord during the past years will discover a new grace in the days ahead. The coming days, for many, will be days of restoration and healing.

‘"In that day," declares the Lord, "I will assemble the lame and gather the outcasts, even those whom I have afflicted"' (Mic. 4:6).

We think, and fear, that the Lord's justice requires He mete out punishment to those who have fallen into bondage; certainly sin itself has grievous consequences. However, the Lord's mercy triumphs over judgement (James 2:13). God sees all things through the lens of restoration and redemption.

He says, "Behold, I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors, I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth" (Zeph. 3:19).

You see, God deals not just with our sin, but He also confronts our oppressors. We are not God's enemies, the devil is. We may, however, be a primary battleground in the war between heaven and hell! Yes, when we sin we must be responsible to repent, but it is the devil that seeks to steal us from the Lord; and it is the Lord who desires to rescue us from the devil. Ultimately, the war is really between them; we must choose whose side we are on.

Consider: Jesus began His ministry with a prophecy that came from the prophet Isaiah. The text He quoted perfectly defined both His mission and His nature: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me," He said, "because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Isa. 61:1-2).

God, the Eternal Father, sent His Son to earth, He anointed Him with power so that Jesus could proclaim liberty to captives and bring freedom to prisoners. When one is incarcerated by sin, he is locked in a prison not made of concrete and steel, but consisting of accusation, fear, shame, regret, and the addiction of sin itself. Ruling this prison is a demonic "strong man" (see Luke 11:21). When Jesus comes, He overpowers this strongman. Christ pays our "fines," and sets us free. He did not come to condemn prisoners, but to release them.

Note also that Jesus ended this prophecy from Isaiah in the middle of a sentence. Isaiah's promise continues as it describes the complete purpose of God in Christ. It reads, "To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God" (Isa. 61:2). I love that Christ proclaims a favorable year, but only a day of vengeance. Such is the balance of Christ's heart: Anger lasts for a night, His mercy endures for a lifetime.

Yet, there is a dimension to the vengeance of God that actually is born of mercy. Indeed, for the victims of injustice or spiritual attack, the vengeance of God is often a time when captives are set free. Consider: it is specifically during the "day of vengeance" that Christ comes "to comfort all who mourn . . . giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting." It is also a time that our spiritual potential is released and destiny accelerated, when those who were oppressed become "oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isa. 61:2-3).

God's wrath comes to destroy that which has been destroying us! The struggle of many Christians has not just been with sin, but with the demonic reinforcement of sin. The enemy robs us of joy, strength and health, leaving us more vulnerable to depression and sin. Christ comforts our mourning by disarming the demonic side of our struggle.

The Lord frees us so we can free others. Of those whom He has just comforted, He says, "Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations, and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations" (Isa. 61:4).

It is not as a theorist that I write, but as one who was, himself, a "former devastation" whom God delivered. Today, I'm part of that army God is using to spiritually rebuild the ancient ruins and help repair the ruined cities. Do not give up on your loved ones. In the days ahead, addicts of all kinds shall become some of the most effective witnesses of divine grace; many gang members and homosexuals will pass through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and, as new creatures in Christ, be used mightily by God in the days ahead.

Whether the victim of oppression is a loved one, a friend or even yourself, the Lord is here to bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to prisoners. He has come, not to condemn, but to set the captive free.

 

W

Standing After The Storm
by Francis Frangipane

"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3)

Just as there are foundations that are dug and laid for buildings, so there are spiritual foundations upon which we can build a stable spiritual life. If our foundations are destroyed, or if we try to build our lives upon an incomplete foundation, to that degree we compromise our ability to stand during life’s storms.

I’ve known many people who could prophesy or pray for the sick or sing beautifully in church, but inwardly their spiritual lives were unstable. As soon as difficulties arose, they fell apart. Why? As "together" as they seemed, they had something missing from their inner foundation. They crumbled during the storm.

Jesus put it this way:

"Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built" (Luke 6: 47-48).

The question isn’t "if" a storm is coming, but when. Storms are part of life. Everyone will experience them. Life has a way of going from calm and peaceful to suddenly turning turbulent or adversarial. The only way one’s house can stand during these times is if it is well built.

Jesus is saying that our "house" represents our spiritual life, and in building this life, the foundation is the most important part of the structure. Everything else we build, whether in ministry or gifting or calling, is built upon the inner, hidden foundation laid by Christ.

The problem is compounded because you can’t build your house in a storm. Your house must be built before the storm comes. Thus, Jesus concluded His warning,

"But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great" (Luke 6:49).

I shudder when I recall the many people --- good people, mind you --- whose house "collapsed" in the storm of temptation or adversity. How true the Savior’s words are: "and the ruin of [their] house was great."

Storms Are Coming
As a spiritual father, I am concerned about the church. In America today it has almost become a joke how dysfunctional we have become. People are proud that their lives are unstructured, as though "undisciplined" was synonymous with "humility." May I speak candidly? I think that God defines "undisciplined", not as a form of humility, but a form of disobedience.

I’m not becoming legalistic; I’m calling us to obedience. Jesus said in His Great Commission to the church we were to make disciples "who obey everything" Jesus "commanded" the first disciples (Matt. 28:20 NIV). Yes, there is a time when people need to be loved and healed. However, there is another time when we need to respond to God’s love. In fact, it is His love that wants to rebuild our lives on a foundation that can withstand the battles and be victorious!

What, specifically am I meaning when I speak of spiritual foundations? Old attitudes must be excavated from our souls and Christlike attitudes structured. Trusting in ourselves must go; trusting completely in Christ must be established. Pride must be uprooted; true humility established. Worry, fear and sin must go and prayer must be established. You see, God calls us to walk as redeemers, patterning our lives after the example of Christ. Upon these traits we can unite with other Christians in our cities until, functionally, we become "a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).

I am talking about more than having right doctrines. I’m speaking of right attitudes, biblically correct vision and theologically accurate faith, so we actually reveal the life of Christ to the unsaved world around us.

The vision of Christlikeness should be the focus of both leadership and congregations. This has been the Father’s purpose from the beginning of time and it remains His unchanging goal at the end of the age (See Gen. 1:26-27 and Rom. 8:28-29). If we build upon the foundations of Christ, we will certainly be found standing after the storm.

 

 

Enter Their Gates With Thanksgiving
By Francis Frangipane


For the last several messages, the Holy Spirit has been urging us to deal with issues of the heart. We’ve focused on issues like cold love, anger, grumbling and betrayal. Now, I’d like to share what I believe is a means to discovering the life of God. I am speaking of possessing a thankful heart. It is truly a place of immunity from the demonic and fleshly storms that come our way in life.

Of course, there are some people that test not only our character but also our sanity. I remember visiting a church and seeing a sign in the pastor’s office over the door. It read, “Everyone who walks through this door makes me happy: some when they enter the room and others when they leave.”

Well, that’s one way to keep our spirits up, but it’s not exactly what I mean. I’m saying we can be thankful that God is with us no matter who walks through the door. In fact, the Bible tells us to “rejoice always . . . [and] in everything give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:16, 18). The Word doesn’t say thank God for everything, but thank Him in everything. In every battle there is a place where we can find God. In every conflict there exists a spiritual means to ascend into God’s presence, where we can ride out the storm.

A thankful spirit sustains us when we otherwise would faint. It makes us alive to the awareness of God’s nearness. The truth is, that no matter what trial we are in, God is there with us. A thankful spirit acknowledges Him, identifying His blessings and appropriating His gifts; gratitude escorts us into the presence of God.

Even Trouble-Makers
The value of gratitude goes beyond transforming our hearts, it can also transform the people who are near us. Certainly, we can see what’s wrong with people, but have we ever actually thanked God for them, even the trouble-makers? You see, without them, we would never mature spiritually! They thrust us out of ourselves, causing us to rely more completely upon the help of God.

Yet, gratitude is actually a form of spiritual warfare, especially when it comes to healing human relationships. True, there are times when, for a variety of reasons, people are not open to us and they shun our initiatives for peace or reconciliation. However, I believe if we were more genuinely appreciative of them, in time they might relax their guard and open up.

You see, not only is Jerusalem surrounded by walls and gates, our souls also are protected by barriers; we too have walls and gates surrounding our lives. We have “eye gates” and “ear gates” that allow influences into our soul. But we are not open to everyone. We’ve learned to protect ourselves instinctively from emotionally damaging people. On the other hand, the words of loving, appreciative people inspire us to drop our guard and let them in. Just as God requires we enter His gates with thanksgiving, so it is with human nature, for we are made in God’s image. If we expect others to open up to us, it is important we express our gratitude for the good we see in them.

Of course, people do not have to be perfect for us to appreciate godly elements in their character or personality. When I voice my gratitude for a specific quality or virtue that I see in another, I affirm and strengthen that virtue. By so doing, I also gain their trust.

For example, if you're not thankful for your teenagers, your disappointment with them will push them away from you. The Bible says that a “false balance is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 11:1). Sometimes we can be so focused on the negatives in our kids that we drive them away. We communicate with anger and disgust, weary of the battle we’ve been having with them. Yet, if we take time and sincerely communicate the things we appreciate about them (and those things are there. You must just find them), your teens will relax their guard.

Parents, as an experiment, dismiss for several weeks the obligatory criticisms you usually express when you and your kids are together. Instead, tell them the things you appreciate about them. You see, each of us needs to know we are appreciated at least for something. Even God responds positively to praise! Such reinforcement empowers our desires to do well and increases our sense of self-worth and value.

Acceptance: Oxygen For The Soul
Because God has designed us to be social creatures, we each enter the world with an innate desire for acceptance. By appreciating our loved ones, we affirm and help settle their quest for acceptance, without which they might otherwise be compelled toward ungodly associations. Just as when property appreciates it increases in value, so when we appreciate our loved ones, destructive tendencies created by self-hatred and fear of rejection diminish proportionally. By appreciating what we see as right in people, their soul nurses on the life of love and acceptance.

You see, there's something like radar inside the human heart that senses the displeasure of others. Displeasure and ingratitude are like a repellant to human relationships. People think, if I can't measure up – if you can't see anything good in me – I'll go where people will accept me as I am. Thanksgiving brings our loved ones closer to us rather than driving them away.

At the same time, I know people in marriages that, every time they get together, they wind up discussing what's wrong with their relationship. Why not take a few weeks and shift the focus to appreciating what's right in each other?

Some of us have been ungrateful, gossiping and grumbling. So, for those in particular, I’m calling for a thirty-day fast. From what? Let’s fast from ingratitude. For the next thirty days, each time you would have complained, grumbled or been ungrateful about something or someone, focus instead on things for which you are thankful. Make a list of at least seven people in your world that you know fairly well and write down seven things in each of their lives for which you are appreciative. Over the next two or three weeks, tell them how much you appreciate this or that quality you’ve observed in them. Finally, let’s see if most of these very people do not begin to automatically open up when you draw near; let’s see if you can’t enter their gates with thanksgiving.

 

 

Declaring War on Ungratefulness and Grumbling
By Francis Frangipane


From my earliest Christian years I've heard questions about Jesus' comment concerning Judas Iscariot: "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70)

What did Jesus mean? Was Judas genetically a devil and not a man? (Jesus didn't say Judas had a devil, He said he was a devil). Can a devil actually live among people as a human? While I am no scholar in ancient Greek, I think truth is better served reading the literal translation of this verse. The word translated as "devil," diabolos, is the same word translated elsewhere in the New Testament as "slanderer" or "malicious gossip" (see 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 3:3).

When Jesus says that Judas is a devil, He is saying one of you is a "false accuser," a "slanderer," a "malicious gossip." Judas could not keep his negative perspective to himself.

Remember, just before Judas delivered Jesus to the Pharisees, he was offended that Jesus allowed a expensive ointment to be lavished on His hair. Judas indignantly complained: "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?" (John 12:5). His words spread strife among the other apostles as well (Matt. 26:8). Judas said, in effect, Who permitted this thoughtless luxury? Well, it was Jesus. The woman had anointed Him for His burial. Yet, to Judas this was an extravagance that Jesus shouldn't have taken. In the angry mind of Judas Iscariot, here was justification to go to the chief priests. He had grounds to break ranks with Christ (Matt. 26:14-15).

God Has a Problem With Grumblers
Betrayal is never a sudden thing; rather, it is an accumulative response to the unresolved anger and disappointment one feels toward another. The offenses we do not transfer to God in surrendered prayer inevitably decay and become a venom we transfer to others through gossip. In the process, we embrace slander, but we feel justified. We become malicious gossips, but in our minds we're only communicating a "truth," a character flaw, that we self-righteously "discerned."

To understand Judas' betrayal of Christ, we must unearth its source: Judas Iscariot was grumbler. When we lose sight of the many things for which we should be thankful, we become murmurers and complainers, increasingly darkened by a thought-life engendered by hell.

Beware when your anger toward another Christian has led you to gossip about him or her, especially if you are embittered and are now sowing criticisms about him to others. Yes, beware: you are no longer being conformed to Christ, but are actually becoming more like Judas than Jesus.

Grumblers Everywhere
Of course, this grumbling attitude was not isolated to Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Many would-be disciples and Jewish leaders were also infected with murmuring. Consider: there were miracles everywhere, Christ had just fed the 5000, when a very large crowd of His disciples began to find fault. Yet, even though Jesus warned, "Do not grumble among yourselves" (John 6:43), still the crowd persisted. Remember, these were Christ's disciples, and they were not grumbling at a sinner, but the only sinless man who ever lived.

"But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this," asked, "Does this cause you to stumble?" (John 6:61). And then, the grumbling spirit continued until "many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore" (John 6:66).

Grumbling caused people to stop seeing and appreciating miracles. It caused disciples to be offended by Jesus' teaching and stop walking with Him.

As it was then, so it is today. Grumbling will ultimately cause you to stop walking with Jesus. It is a killer. You see, incredibly, not just the Pharisees and Judas Iscariot found fault with Jesus, even His disciples grumbled at times. Heaven was manifest in their midst and all they were focused on was what they perceived was wrong. That's what a grumbling attitude can do.

This poison of ingratitude is prevalent in the church today. Paul warned that, "in the last days . . . men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips" (2 Timothy 3:1-9). You get the point: "men will be . . . malicious gossips" or devils. They will be given to destroying one another with their words.

The Thankful Heart
Personally, I've declared war on grumbling. An unthankful heart is an enemy to God's will. Can you join me with this? Can you crucify a murmuring spirit? We have received too much from God to allow ourselves opportunities for ingratitude and unbelief! We have received too many gifts and privileges to allow grumbling to disqualify us of our destiny.

The thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggles as refining tools. My prayer is for each of us to possess the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. I want to drive that little, ugly grumbling demon away from our hearts, and replace it with a living awareness of the goodness of God!

Paul warned,"Nor let us . . . grumble, as [Israel] did, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:9-10). The moment we open ourselves to grumbling, we simultaneously open up to destruction.

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable . . . is right, whatever is pure . . . lovely . . . of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8). Remember, Paul was writing to people in the ancient Roman world. It was full of evil, full of injustice, full of reasons to grumble and be upset; but instead, God calls His people to a higher realm, where we dwell on the things that are above.

You say, "Who then will point out all the things that are wrong with life?"

Oh, there are plenty of volunteers for that task. Better to ask, "How can I attain the blessed life Jesus came to give me?"

You say, "But the world is wicked. We need to decry and defeat evil." Yes, and I totally agree, I often decry evil myself. But I must live and offer a better life if I am going to defeat evil. God doesn't want His people to be grumbling about the difficult conditions of existence. He wants us to be mercy-motivated, redemption-orientated, prayer-empowered ambassadors of heaven.

If we are merely complaining about what's wrong with the people around us, we should beware: we may actually be more like followers of Judas rather than Jesus.

When Trust is Established
by Francis Frangipane


The Problem With Anger
Unresolved anger can consume a soul; it can become a literal hell not only for the embittered person, but for those who live with them as well. Thus, Jesus strongly warned of anger's terrible impact. He said,

"The ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell" (Matt. 5:21-22).

Anger is a systemic poison: it affects every area of our existence. Not only can it destroy one's life on earth, it can make us "guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." Who among us has not known the wrestling in our minds over an offense? Who has never felt the unrelenting churning of wounded emotions or the self-destructive tension generated by anger?

For some, anger abides brooding, yet hidden, beneath a polite veneer. Like a vicious dog waiting behind the door of a nice home, so inner rage attacks without warning when anyone gets too close. Yet, as awful as anger is, the embittered person often feels anger is warranted in light of the threat of an offense. The worse evil, however, is the spirit of deception that justifies the angry soul, that presumes the anger of man is actually attaining the righteousness of God, thus imprisoning the embittered soul, isolating it from true repentance.

Jesus warns that unresolved anger is very grave. It threatens to drive the soul into hell; it is physically depleting, and the person carrying anger feels justified. According to Jesus, the angry person has, within his heart, committed a sin equal to murder. Anger is a very serious offense indeed.

Reconciliation Is More Important Than Ritual
If you know someone who is carrying unresolved anger toward you or someone else, Jesus tells us we are not to simply ignore their condition. In fact, He plainly tells us He expects us to do something about it. Remarkably, just after warning about anger's hellish consequences, in the very next verse He says,

"If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering" (v.23).

Jesus requires us to actually leave our offering, exit the "church service," and do what we can to reconcile with our offended brother. To the Son of God, reconciliation is more important than fulfilling our religious service.

The Lord knows that if we do not engage in some process toward healing, our offended brother will transfer his anger to others. Hebrews 12:14,15 says, "Pursue peace with all men . . . See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." One angry person not only jeopardizes their own soul, but their root of bitterness can spread and "many be defiled."

Thus, when the church becomes a place of anger instead of redemption, it is not a little thing to the Lord. Indeed, Scripture says the final result is “many [are] defiled.” Unresolved anger is actually a primary tool which Satan uses to break down marriages, destroy families, splinter churches and divide cultures within a community.

The Lord calls His church to reverse the curse of injustice and anger upon our society. We are heaven’s agents of transformation and reconciliation. In fact, the Lord calls us not only to go to the one who, for whatever reason, may be offended by us, but He desires we actually become ministers of reconciliation who inspire others to bring healing to every strata of human relationships.

Wounded In Pursuit Of Oneness
When I speak of healing the riff between people, I realize there are some people who are habitually offended. No matter what we do, they are irreconcilable. Perhaps, in time, they will be more open. Still, the Lord commands us, “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18). Hebrews calls us to “pursue peace with all men” (Heb.12:14). According to Jesus Christ, if we remember someone has something against us, we are to actually leave our offering at the altar and go be reconciled with our brother (Matt. 5:24).

Our inter-personal relationships are a primary concern to the Lord. Remember, the issue is not limited to whether you have something against someone, but whether they have something against you. You may be completely innocent. The offended person may actually be the guilty party. But the Lord calls us to care about relationships. Indeed, it is amazing how often a simple phone call, an act of love or a gentle answer can soften the heart of an offended person.

The Bible says, “pursue peace with all men.” “Pursue” means we aggressively take the initiative to make things right. It means we act on behalf of heaven rather than allow another’s anger to serve the purpose of hell.

However, we must be realistic. When we reach out to a deeply offended person, they will likely be repulsed by our first efforts. Scripture tells us, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Prov. 18:19). If a person has been hurt, they will need trust to be restored and this process of initiating trust can actually be painful to both parties. A wounded person may lash out. You may feel like the process of restoring the offended person is simply too great a price to pay.

Let me share an insight I recently received from the Lord about the basic nature of relationships and reconciliation. My wife and I were bird-sitting our oldest daughter's pet conure. A conure is about half the size of a parrot with similar coloring. However, this creature was hostile. Each time I'd touch the cage, it would squawk and try to bite me. After several initiatives at being nice, I concluded, "Who needs this? If I'm going to be attacked, I can be attacked at church." I made a silent evaluation that we had been given a “killer conure.” Obviously, I concluded, this bird came from the wrong side of the tracks.

My wife, however, decided she was going to love this bird. Even though it was just as aggressive toward her as it was with me, my wife relentlessly kept loving the bird. Each time she fed it by hand, the bird attacked, taking chunks of skin with each bite. Denise would yell in pain, then instantly return to talking softly, reaching into the cage with food. After a week, the bird finally began to relax. Her survival instincts, based on my wife’s gentle response to being attacked, convinced the bird that Denise was not a predator, but a friend. Soon, it permitted Denise to reach into its cage without attacking her; a couple more days and I discovered this aggressive little finger-eater perched lovingly upon my wife's shoulder, its little round head snuggled warmly against her neck, cooing in her ear.

Denise won the heart of this little bird: it loved, because she first loved it. You see, the problem with the bird was not aggression, but fear. My wife allowed herself to be wounded so that trust could be established; when wounded, she did not retaliate, and she won its trust. As I watched this little drama unfold, I saw something basic, yet profound, concerning God's relationship with us. Trust is not an accident; it is the result of love that pays a price.

Isn't this the way of the Lord with our own hearts? He came to us, yet we wounded Him. We crucified God’s Son. Yet instead of retaliating, Jesus forgave us. He proved over and over again that His love was safe, that He is not our enemy. We expect judgment but receive mercy; we sin, yet He works to restore us to Himself. It is His kindness, the Scriptures say, that lead us to repentance (Rom.2:4). He repeatedly shows Himself trustworthy, merciful and loving, knowing that, in time, we will come to rest in His goodness. And as we do, we let Him reach into our cage; we climb upon His hand, and He carries us on His shoulder.

I recognized that this attitude, which I saw in my wife, was actually the Lord's heart. As He has been to us, so He wants us to be toward others, even those who are hostile and alienated from us. Trust must be established before love can heal. We must be willing to let ourselves be wounded, even repeatedly if necessary, in pursuit of healing relationships. We must prove, not just in word, but in deed, that we are trustworthy. Whether we face divisions in families, churches or between races, only when trust is established, can healing begin.

 

Beware of the Stronghold of Cold Love
By Francis Frangipane
(En Español)

Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you.

Guard Against Unforgiveness!
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12). A major area of spiritual warfare that has come against the church is the sphere of church relationships. Satan knows that a church divided against itself cannot stand. We may enjoy temporary blessings and seasonal breakthroughs, but to win a citywide war, Jesus is raising up a united, citywide church. An earmark of this corporate, overcoming church will be its commitment to love. Yet, because of the increasing iniquity in the end of this age, true Christian love will be severely assaulted.

There is no spiritual unity, and hence no lasting victory, without love. Love is a passion for oneness. Bitterness, on the other hand, is characterized by a noticeable lack of love. This cold love is a demonic stronghold. In our generation cold love is becoming increasingly more common. It shuts down the power of prayer and disables the flow of healing and outreach. In fact, where there is persistent and hardened unforgiveness in a person or church, the demonic world (known in Matthew 18:34 as "torturers") has unhindered access.

The Scriptures warn that even a little root of bitterness springing up in a person's life can defile many (see Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge. Another's thoughtlessness or cruelty may have wounded us deeply. It is inevitable that, in a world of increasing harshness and cruelty, we will at some point be hurt. But if we fail to react with love and forgiveness, if we retain in our spirit the debt the offender owes, that offense will rob our hearts of their capacity to love. Imperceptibly, we will become a member of the majority of end-time Christians whose love is growing cold.

Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love. To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us. Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies. If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test. Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam. We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love. Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment. Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God's answer for your pain. God gives you a way out: love!

As we embrace God's love and begin to walk in Christlike forgiveness, we are actually pulling down the stronghold of cold love in our lives. Because of this experience, we will soon possess more of the love of Christ than we had previously.

Love Without Commitment Is Not Love
And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.---Matthew 24:10-12

Allow me to be perfectly clear: there is no such thing as love without commitment. The measure of one's love is found in the depth of his or her commitment to others. How often we have heard people say, "I loved once, but I was hurt." Or, "I was committed to Christian service, but they used me." When someone withdraws his commitment to a relationship, he is withdrawing his love. It is not one's commitment that grows cold; it is their love. It may not seem like they have become cold---they may still attend church, sing and look "Christian"---but inside they have become hard and separated from others. They have withdrawn from love. Because their commitment is shallow, they will be easily offended.

Jesus said, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come" (Matt. 18:7). In your walk there will be times when even good people have bad days. As long as you live on earth, there will never be a time when "stumbling blocks" cease to be found upon your path. People do not stumble over boulders but over stones---little things. To stumble is to stop walking and fall. Have you stumbled over someone's weakness or sin lately? Have you gotten back up and continued loving as you did before, or has that fall caused you to withdraw somewhat from walking after love? To preserve the quality of love in your heart, you must forgive those who have caused you to stumble.

Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God. You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) and allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God. You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear: "The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20). You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them. Love is your only choice.

What do I mean by love? First, I do not merely mean "tough love." I mean gentle, affectionate, sensitive, open, persistent love. God will be tough when He needs to be, and we will be firm when He tells us to be, but beneath our firmness must be an underground river of love waiting to spring into action. By love, I mean a compassion that is empowered by faith and prayer to see God's best come forth in the people I love. When I have love for someone, I have predetermined that I am going to stand with them, regardless of what they are going through. I am committed.

We each need people who love us, who are committed to us in spite of our imperfections. The fullness of Christ will not come without Christians standing with each other in love. We are not talking about salvation, but growing in salvation until we care for each other, even as Christ has committed Himself to us.

Many people will stumble over little faults and human weaknesses. These minor things are quickly pumped up by the enemy into great big problems. Oh, how frail are the excuses people use to justify withdrawing from others. In reality, these problems, often with a church or pastor, are a smokescreen which masks the person's lack of love.

We need to overcome our hang-ups about commitment, for no one will attain the fullness of God's purposes on earth without being committed to imperfect people along the way.

"Well, as soon as I find a church that believes as I do, I will be committed." This is a dangerous excuse, because as soon as you decide you do not want to forgive, or God begins to deal with the quality of your love, you will blame your withdrawing on some minor doctrinal difference. The kingdom of God is not based on mere doctrines, it is founded upon relationships---relationships with God and, because of God, with one another. Doctrines only help define those relationships. We are not anti-doctrine, but we are against empty doctrines which seem like virtues but are simply excuses that justify cold love.

The Greatest Commandments
An expert in the Law once asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. His reply was wonderful: " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' " (Mark 12:30-31). Jesus said that the second commandment is like the first. When you love God, your love for others will actually be like your love for God. The more you unconditionally love God, the more you will unconditionally love others.

To those whose attitude is, "I am content with just Jesus and me," I say it is wonderful you found Jesus. But you cannot truly have Jesus and simultaneously not do what He says. The outgrowth of love and faith in Christ is love and faith like Christ's, which means we are committed, even as He is, to His people.

You see, the kingdom of God is most perfectly revealed in our relationships with one another. We are being perfected into a unit (see John 17). To have the kingdom, we must be committed to one another as individuals and as churches. If Christ accepts us while we are still imperfect, we must also accept one another. The people who possess the kingdom of God in its reality are people who overcome the obstacles of each other's faults. They help each other become what God has called them to be: the living body of Jesus Christ.

Remember, the goal of pulling down the stronghold of cold love is to see the oneness of Christ's body revealed. You will be challenged in this, but if you persist, you will discover the height and depth, the length and breadth of Christ's love. You will become a body filled and flooded with God Himself.

www.frangipane.org

“This Time I Will Praise the Lord”

Disappointments Are Inevitable
We cannot pass through life without getting hurt. Pain and disappointment in this world are inevitable. But how we handle our setbacks shapes our character and prepares us for eternity. Our attitudes are the pivotal factor determining the level of our immunity from strife.

Regardless of the hardships we have faced, and in spite of the mistakes we have made, the end of our lives can either be full of praise and thanksgiving---or full of misery and complaint. In the final analysis, what we have experienced in life will be as rich as the desires we have had fulfilled or as painful as the things we regret.

The Bible tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12). Those deep disappointments in life have a way of never leaving us; they enter our hearts like fire and then harden into our nature like lava. Setbacks can leave us cautious about new ventures and suspicious of new friends.

Our woundedness restricts our openness. We are fearful we will be hurt again by new relationships. Gradually, unless we learn to handle heartache correctly, we become embittered and resentful cynics. We lose the joy of being alive.

The Source of Fulfillment
It is our own desires and the degree of their fulfillment that produce either joy or sorrow in our lives. Even basic desires for marriage or friends can enslave us if they consume our attention. Are these desires evil? No, but if having our desires fulfilled is the main reason we have come to Christ, it is possible our lives simply will not improve until our priorities change.

The Lord is concerned about fulfilling our desires, but to do so He must pry our fingers off our lives and turn our hearts toward Him. Indeed, the reason we are alive is not to fulfill our desires but to become His worshipers.

Personal fulfillment can become an idol; it can develop into such an obsession that we are living for happiness more than living for God. Thus, part of our salvation includes having our desires prioritized by Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, He put it this way: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself” (Matt. 6:33-34). God wants to, and will, satisfy us beyond our dreams, but not before He is first in our hearts.

A wonderful example of this can be seen in the life of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. Leah was unattractive, unwanted, and unloved by her husband. Jacob had served Laban, Leah’s father, seven years for Rachel, who was Leah’s younger sister. On their wedding night, however, Laban put Leah in the nuptial tent instead of Rachel. Although Jacob actually did marry Rachel a week later, he had to work another seven years for her. So Jacob had two wives who were sisters.

The Scriptures tell us that Rachel was loved by Jacob, but Leah was hated: “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated . . . ” (Gen. 29:31, KJV).

We must understand this about the nature of God: The Lord is drawn to those who hurt. “The Lord saw . . . Leah.” What wonderful words! In the same way water descends and fills that which is lowest, so Christ reaches first to the afflicted to fill the lowliest and comfort them.

The Lord saw that Leah was unloved. He saw her pain, loneliness, and heartache. Leah, though unloved by Jacob, was deeply loved by the Lord, and He gave her a son. Leah’s reaction was predictable. She said, “Surely now my husband will love me” (v. 32).

Worse than living your life alone is to be married to someone who hates you, as was Leah. How Leah wished that Jacob might share the love he had for Rachel with her. Who could blame her? Leah’s desires were justified. She had given him a firstborn son. In her mind, if the Lord could open her womb, He could also open Jacob’s heart. But the time was not yet; Jacob still did not love her.

Twice more Leah gave birth to sons, and each time her desire was for her husband. She said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (v. 34). Yet, Jacob’s heart did not desire her.

For Leah, as well as for us, there is a lesson here: You cannot make another person love you. In fact, the more pressure you place upon others to accept you, the more likely they are to reject you instead. Leah’s concept of fulfillment was based on attaining Jacob’s love and now her problem was worsening. For not only was she unattractive to Jacob, but her jealousies were adding to her lack of loveliness.

Three times we read in this text that the Lord saw and heard that Leah was unloved. He had seen her affliction. Through all her striving for Jacob and her disappointment with her marital relationship, the Lord was tenderly wooing Leah to Himself.

As Leah became pregnant a fourth time, a miracle of grace occurred within her. She gradually became aware that, while she had not been the focus of her husband’s love, she was loved by God. And as this fourth pregnancy drew near to completion, she drew nearer and nearer to God. She became a worshiper of the Almighty.

Now as she gave birth to another son, she said, “This time I will praise the Lord” (v. 35). She named that child Judah, which means “praise.” It was from the tribe of Judah that Christ was born.

Leah had been seeking self-fulfillment and found only heartache and pain. But as she became a worshiper of God, she entered life’s highest fulfillment: She began to please God.

It is right here that the human soul truly begins to change and enter God’s stronghold. As she found fulfillment in God, He began to remove from her the jealousies, insecurities, and heartaches that life had conveyed to her. A true inner beauty started growing in Leah; she became a woman at rest.

Likewise, we each have character defects that we are reluctant or unable to face. Others have seen these things in us, but they have lacked the courage to tell us. Both physically and personally, these flaws in our nature are what leave us anxious, threatened, and unfulfilled.

It is not counsel or classes on success or self-esteem that we need; we simply need to discover God’s love for us. As we begin to praise Him in all things, we simultaneously put on the garments of salvation. We are actually being saved from that which would otherwise have destroyed us!

Disappointments and heartaches cannot cling to us, for we are worshipers of God! And, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). If we continue to love God, nothing we experience can ultimately turn out harmful!

The Tree of Life
You will remember the verse we quoted, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12). The verse concludes with, “but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” As our desires are fulfilled, we are fulfilled. Since it is the fulfillment of our desires that fills us with satisfaction, the secret to a rewarding life is to commit our desires to God.

Let Him choose the times and means of our fulfillment, allowing the Lord to prepare us for Himself along the way. The truth is that in ourselves we are incomplete; but in Christ we have been made complete (Col. 2:10).

You say, “That’s easy for you to say. You have a wonderful wife and family. You are blessed. But you don’t understand my problems.” Yes, I do. My wonderful marriage was very difficult for the first few years. We struggled with many things in our relationship. My wife and I both came to the place where we were unfulfilled in each other. But, like Leah, we both looked to God and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” In fact, we named our second child the very name Leah gave to her fourth---Judah.

For us, as for Leah, our lives were turned around as we chose to delight in God in spite of being unfulfilled with each other. As we became His worshipers, He began to work on our hearts until we were not only more pleasing to Him, we were also pleasing to each other! What I am relating to you is the very thing that saved and blessed our marriage!

Psalms 37:4 reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” As you delight in God, you change. The negative effects of disappointment and grief fall off. As love and joy from God begin to fulfill us, our very souls are restored and beautified. Yes, delight yourself with Jesus and your self-destructive tendencies will actually begin to vanish. Christ will beautify your life from the inside out.

The Outcome Of Leah’s Life
What happened with Leah? Well, the long years came and went. In time, Rachel and then Leah died. Jacob, on his deathbed, spoke to his sons: “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave . . . which Abraham bought . . . for a burial site. There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah” (Gen. 49:29-31).

Jacob had buried Leah in the ancestral place of honor! Oh how those words, though few, say so much! They tell us that God had beautified this afflicted one with salvation. After Leah found fulfillment in God, God gave her fulfillment in Jacob. Over the years, inner peace and spiritual beauty shone forth from Leah; Jacob was knit to her in love. It is not hard to imagine that when Leah died, she left smiling, with the praises of God upon her lips.

Become a worshiper of God! As you surrender your desires to Him, as you put Him first, He will take what you give Him and make it beautiful in its time. He will take what has been bent and imbalanced within you and make you stand upright in His light and glory.

Therefore, this day speak to your soul. Tell the areas of unfulfillment within you that this time you will praise the Lord!

Lord, I am a Leah, unlovely and always seeking the love of those who have rejected me. How foolish I have been. How blind. There is no love, no fulfillment in this life apart from You. You are the Tree of Life that satisfies all desires; You are the Healer of my heart. I love You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

God’s Army of Worshipers
by Francis Frangipane

When the Scriptures refer to the “heavenly host,” we usually think of “choirs of angels.” The word “host” in the Bible meant “army” (Josh. 5:13-14). It is an important truth: the hosts of heaven are worshiping armies. Indeed, no one can do warfare who is not first a worshiper of God.

The Central Issue in Tribulation: Worship
One does not have to penetrate deeply into the Revelation of John to discover that both God and the devil are seeking worshipers (see Rev. 7:11; 13:4; 14:7,11). Time and time again the line is drawn between those who “worship the beast and his image” and those who worship God.

In the last great battle before Jesus returns, the outcome of every man’s life shall be weighed upon a scale of worship: in the midst of warfare and battles to whom will we bow, God or Satan?

Yet, while this warfare shall culminate in the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom on earth (see Rev. 11:15), we must realize the essence of this battle is the central issue in our warfare today. Will we faithfully worship God during satanic assault and temptation? True worship must emerge now in the context of our daily lives, for no man will worship through the great battles of tomorrow who complains in the mere skirmishes of today.

You will remember that the Lord’s call to the Israelites was a call to worship and serve Him in the wilderness (see Ex. 7:16). Indeed, when Moses first spoke of God’s loving concern, we read that the Hebrews “bowed low and worshiped” (Ex. 4:31). But when trials and pressures came, they fell quickly into murmuring, complaining and blatant rebellion. Their worship was superficial, self-serving and conditional---a form without a heart of worship.

This same condition of shallow worship prevails in much of Christianity today. If a message is given that speaks of the Lord’s great care for His people, with eagerness do we bow low and worship. But as soon as the pressures of daily living arise or temptations come, how quickly we rebel against God and resist His dealings! The enemy has easy access to the soul that is not protected by true worship of the Almighty! Indeed, the Lord’s purpose with Israel in the wilderness was to perfect true worship, which is based upon the reality of God, not circumstances. The Lord knows that the heart that will worship Him in the wilderness of affliction will continue to worship in the promised land of plenty.

Without true worship of God, there can be no victory in warfare. For what we bleed when we are wounded by satanic assault or difficult circumstances is the true measure of our worship. You see, what comes out of our hearts during times of pressure is in us, but hidden during times of ease. If you are a true worshiper, your spirit will exude worship to God no matter what battle you are fighting. In warfare, worship creates a wall of fire around the soul.

Protecting Your Heart Through Worship
Most of us understand the basic dynamics of the human soul. We have been taught, and rightly so, that the soul is the combination of our mind, will and emotions. Generally speaking, when the enemy comes against the church, he targets any of these three areas. We must see that the protection of these areas is of vital importance in our war against Satan.

To further illuminate the nature of this battle, let us add that, in addition to the mind, the will and the emotions, the soul is made of events and how we responded to those events. Who we are today is the sum of what we have encountered in life and our subsequent reactions. Abuses and afflictions hammer us one way, encouragement and praise inflate us another. Our reaction to each event, whether that event was positive or negative, is poured into the creative marrow of our individuality, where it is blended into the nature of our character.

What we call memory is actually our spirit gazing at the substance of our soul. With few exceptions, those events that we remember the most have also shaped us the most. Indeed, the reason our natural minds cannot forget certain incidents is because those events have literally become part of our nature.

Our soul, its strengths and weaknesses, has been shaped by how well or poorly we handled our past experiences. When Scripture commands us to not look back and to “forget . . . what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13; see Luke 9:62), it is saying we must undo the consequences that have come from our unchristlike reactions. With God, this is not impossible, for although the events of our lives are irreversible, our reactions to those events can still be changed. As our wrong reactions to the past change, we change. In other words, although we cannot alter the past, we can put our past upon the “altar” as an act of worship. A worshiping heart truly allows God to restore the soul.

All of us receive a portion of both good and evil in this world. But for life to be good, God, who is the essence of life, must reach into our experiences and redeem us from our negative reactions. The channel through which the Lord extends Himself, even into our past, is our love and worship of Him.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). The key for the fulfillment of this verse is that we become lovers of God in our spirits. Bad things become good for “those who love God.” When we are given to loving Him, all that we have passed through in life is washed and redeemed in that love. Bad becomes good by the power of God.

Therefore, it is essential to both the salvation of our souls and our protection in warfare that we be worshipers. The ship which safely carries us through the storms of adversity is worship.
Psalm 84 expresses in praise to God the wonderful effect worship has upon the soul. “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca [weeping] they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings” (vv. 5-6).

If you are “ever praising” God (Ps. 84:4), your worship of God will transform the negative assault of the enemy into “a spring” of sweet refreshing waters. No matter what befalls a worshiper, their “valley of weeping” always becomes a spring covered “with blessings.” You cannot successfully engage in warfare, nor pass safely through the wilderness of this life, without first becoming a worshiper of God.

Worship: The Purpose of Creation 
We were created for God’s pleasure. We were not created to live for ourselves but for Him. And while the Lord desires that we enjoy His gifts and His people, He would have us know we were created first for His pleasure. In these closing moments of this age, the Lord will have a people whose purpose for living is to please God with their lives. In them, God finds His own reward for creating man. They are His worshipers. They are on earth only to please God, and when He is pleased, they also are pleased.

The Lord takes them farther and through more pain and conflicts than other men. Outwardly, they often seem “smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4). Yet to God, they are His beloved. When they are crushed, like the petals of a flower, they exude a worship, the fragrance of which is so beautiful and rare that angels weep in quiet awe at their surrender. They are the Lord’s purpose for creation.

One would think that God would protect them, guarding them in such a way that they would not be marred. Instead, they are marred more than others. Indeed, the Lord seems pleased to crush them, putting them to grief. For in the midst of their physical and emotional pain, their loyalty to Christ grows pure and perfect. And in the face of persecutions, their love and worship toward God become all-consuming.

Would that all Christ’s servants were so perfectly surrendered. Yet God finds His pleasure in us all. But as the days of the kingdom draw near and the warfare at the end of this age increases, those who have been created solely for the worship of God will come forth in the power and glory of the Son. With the high praises of God in their mouth, they will execute upon His enemies the judgment written (see Ps. 149). They will lead as generals in the Lord’s army of worshipers.

www.frangipane.org

This message was originally written by Pastor Frangipane's oldest daughter, Joy. It since has become part of the material in Francis' book, This Day We Fight (published by Chosen Books). Being mindful of the warfare ensnaring many of our readers' children, we thought this word would be particularly timely. The book can be ordered at www.arrowpublications.com.

Your Children Will Return
by Joy Frangipane Marion

No one can tell me that fathers and daughters can't have close relationships, or even become best friends. People are almost envious of the love my dad and I share. The only time we argue is about who loves who the most. But our relationship was not always this warm. There was a time when I felt I had lost my ability to love my father. I was a teenage Christian in a public high school. My Christian background made me different. I was new, craving acceptance. My father's rules seemed to be the source of my rejections.

Fueled by my insecurities, in my eyes my dad became the root of my problems. While I set an adequate standard and struggled to live by it, he was strict. I was angry because he refused to back down from the standard he knew was right. He refused to appeal to my ignorance in order to keep my acceptance.

Things were going from bad to worse during those years. We hit bottom the day I looked him square in the eyes and told him that I hated him. They were harsh words, but it was a hard time. I didn't really hate him. I hated me. I felt I wasn't bad enough to be accepted by my friends and not good enough to be accepted at home. When these feelings take over your life, you search for something--anything--to blame. I chose my father. He carried the blunt of my pain. He even became my enemy.

In my heart I knew I didn't hate him. I was angry and confused. I felt he wasn't concerned with how I felt. It seemed he had made no room for compromise with my situation. He risked losing my love to save my soul.

It was a hard time for us both. He suffered the pain of rejection as I did. He suffered the hurt and the loss, but from a different angle. His fear of the Lord withstood his fear of pain. He loved me, but he had a higher obligation than my favor and my approval. I'm sure at times he wondered if he was doing the right thing. There must of been times when he felt like his prayers were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back at his feet.

At times I'm sure he considered lowering his standards. It would have made things so much easier than wrestling with the power of an independent, strong-willed child. These considerations may have come, but he never gave in to them. He stood firm and prayed harder.

The prayers of a righteous man availeth much. Many times he cried out to the Lord in anguish and in frustration: "What have I done wrong?" My father has a wonderful ministry to God in prayer. I think I had something to do with the character God worked in him during those days. Before he ever prayed for cities and nations he was on his face praying for me.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” That verse was a promise that he would hold on to. "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" was another promise he stood upon. He had given me to the Lord, set a godly standard and held God to His word.

At the same time, I was wrestling with my salvation. My desire to be accepted by my non-Christian friends at school warred against my desire to be with the Lord. James speaks of a double-minded person being unstable in all of their ways. I was completely unstable. I walked on a line between heaven and hell. I wanted the best of both worlds and was satisfied in neither.

Although I had been brought up in the church, the world had taken its toll on me. My eyes had been blinded to the sin in my own life, further separating me from God and parents. It was so hard for me to see my way out.

When a child is brought up in a Christian home, regardless of what may happen, there is a seed that has been planted in their heart that continues to grow. It's an amazing seed because it can grow in the dark without water; it can even bloom in adversity. The reason we can never outrun God is because He is that seed growing within us. Once you have tasted the presence of the Lord, nothing satisfies you like He can. Sometimes those who seem to be running the hardest from God are doing so because He is so close to them.

On the outside my witness was weak, and I was in bondage to my unsaved friends. But inside, my heart cried for oneness with the Lord. I hated my double-mindedness as much as my father did. My whole life I wanted strong Christian friends to save the world with me. I wanted the support, I just never had it. I did the best I could, but I lost my sensitivity to sin, and the more I was with non-Christian people the more deceived I became.

Paul warns, "Do not be deceived. What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?" I didn't realize the impact my unsaved friends had on me. The more I was with them the more I conformed to them. When I look back, I know, unless my parents had been praying for me, I would have been on my way to hell.

Sin has a way of moving in and taking control. But love is as strong as death and many waters cannot quench love; love never fails. And prayer is the highest power through which love is released. I had to relearn how to love. My love had become completely self-centered and conditional. I had failed to realize that my father and my Lord loved me unconditionally. I had only to try. I had only to bridge the communication gap to understand that God had loved me before I was even aware of His standards. And my dad loved me for me alone, not for something I had to become.

My relationship with my father is wonderful, and that's the truth. God has proven faithful in the working of both our lives. The Lord has bridged the gap and filled it with love. It took me leaving my environment and being planted with Christian people who faithfully loved me. It also took my will to change, but it did happen.

Listen, please don't give up on your teenagers. Don't sacrifice God's standards of righteousness to appeal to their carnal nature. They can't respect you for it and God won't honor it. Your children were not consecrated to Satan; they were dedicated to the Lord. He has had His hand on them and He will not forget them. He has heard your prayers and He is faithful to your cries. He is God.

Prayer works. I'm living proof of it. I look back now and see how many times nothing but the miraculous dedication of loving parents took me out of hopeless situations. The Lord will not forsake His children. He will not turn His back on them. We are never too far from His reach. Believe the promises of the Lord. He is not a liar. He honors a steadfast heart. Hold on. Your children will come back to the Lord.


www.frangipane.org

Rule In The Midst Of Your Enemies!
By Francis Frangipane

True peace does not come from extreme indifference, nor does it originate from becoming so "spiritual" that you fail to notice the world around you. Peace is the fruit of being confident in God's love; it is born of the revelation that, regardless of the battle, "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). You are not self-assured, you are God-assured.

The God Of Peace Will Crush Satan
To wage effective spiritual warfare, we must understand and use spiritual authority. Spiritual authority, however, is not forcing your will upon another person. When you have spiritual authority, you have established God's peace in an area that once was full of conflict and oppression. Therefore, to truly be able to move in authority, we must first have peace.

The apostle Paul taught, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Rom. 16:20). When we maintain peace during warfare, it is a crushing deathblow to satanic oppression and fear. Our victory never comes from our emotions or our intellect. Our victory comes by refusing to judge by what our eyes see or our ears hear and by trusting that what God has promised will come to pass.

We will never know Christ's victory in its fullness until we stop reacting humanly to our circumstances. When you truly have authority over something you can look at that thing without worry, fear or intimidation. Your peace is the proof of your victory. Jesus' authority over the violent storm (see Matthew 8:23-27) was the exercise and expansion of His peace over the elements. He did not fight against the storm, nor did He fear it. He faced its fury and subdued it with His authority in perfect peace. In Pilate's court, in a world stirred to an emotional frenzy by the powers of hell, a holy tranquility surrounded Christ---peace that was born out of His resolve to do God's will no matter what the cost. His Spirit emanated a calm that perfectly represented the peace at God's throne. In a matter of moments it was no longer Jesus who was on trial, but Satan, Pilate and the religious establishment in Israel.

Satan's arsenal consists of such things as fear, worry, doubt and self-pity. Every one of these weapons robs us of peace and leaves us troubled inside. Do you want to discern where the enemy is coming against you? In the network of your relationships, wherever you do not have peace, you have war. Conversely, wherever you have peace, you have victory. When Satan hurls his darts against you, the more peace you have during adversity, the more truly you are walking in Christ's victory.

Paul tells us to be "in no way alarmed by your opponents---which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you" (Phil. 1:28). Your peace, your immovable stand upon the Word of God is a sign that you are positioned correctly in focused submission to the will of God. The very fact that you are "in no way alarmed" by your adversary is a sign that you have authority over him.

Peacemakers Are Sons Of God
Peace is spirit power. Peace is an attribute of the Holy Spirit, and when you are walking in peace, you are walking in power. A peacemaker is not merely someone who protests against war; he is one who is inwardly so yielded to Christ in spirit and purpose that he can be called a son of God (see Matthew 5:9). Where he goes, God goes and where God goes, he goes. He is fearless, calm and bold. Peace emanates from him the way light and heat radiate from fire.

In the battles of life, your peace is actually a weapon. Indeed, your confidence declares that you are not falling for the lies of the devil. You see, the first step toward having spiritual authority over the adversary is having peace in spite of our circumstances. When Jesus confronted the devil, He did not confront Satan with His emotions or in fear. Knowing that the devil was a liar, He simply refused to be influenced by any other voice than God's. His peace overwhelmed Satan. His authority then shattered the lie, which sent demons fleeing.

Rest Before Rule
In the 23rd Psalm, David declared, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me" (v. 4). There is a place of walking with God where you simply "fear no evil." During his lifetime, David faced many enemies including a lion, a bear and a giant. In this psalm he stood in the "shadow of death" itself, yet he feared no evil. David's trust was in the Lord. He said, "You are with me." Because God is with you, every adversity you face will unfold in victory as you maintain your faith in God. David continued, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies" (v. 5). The battle you are in will soon become a meal to you, an experience that will nourish and build you up spiritually.

Only God's peace will quell your fleshly reactions in battle. The source of God's peace is God Himself. Indeed, "before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal" (Rev. 4:6). The glass sea is a symbol: there are no ripples, no waves, no anxieties troubling God. The Lord is never worried, never in a hurry nor without an answer. The sea around Him is perfectly still and totally calm. All our victories flow out from being seated here with Him.

God is our Father. The heavenly Jerusalem is our mother, the birthplace of our new nature (see Galatians 4:26). And you, you are a beloved child of God, part of the Father's family and a member of His household (see Ephesians 2:19). You must know by revelation that you are not struggling to get into heaven; rather, you were born there in spiritual rebirth (see John 3:1-8 AMP). Let your heart be settled and positioned correctly in your relationship with the Almighty.

To those who have been born again from above, He says, "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet" (Ps. 110:1). Before you go into warfare, recognize that it is not you that the devil is afraid of; it is Christ in you! We have been raised up and seated with Christ in heavenly places (see Ephesians 2:6). This is why the Holy Spirit continues to speak to us that worship of God is our first response in battle. Position yourself in the presence of God. Sit, at rest, in the knowledge that Christ has already made your enemies the footstool for your feet. From a position of rest, the Word of the Lord continues, "The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies' " (Ps. 110:2).

Rest precedes rule. Peace precedes power. Do not seek to rule over the devil until you are submitting to God's rule over you. The focal point of all victory comes from seeking God until you find Him, and having found Him, allowing His presence to fill your spirit with His peace. From full assurance at His right hand, as you rest in His victory, so will you rule in the midst of your enemies.

Perfectly Weak
by Francis Frangipane

I personally love this one!

According to the scriptures, Moses was “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians.” Indeed, as a prince in Egypt, Moses had grown to be a “man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). Thus, it is hard to equate this eloquent and cultured man with the stammering shepherd who, at 80 years old, was overwhelmed with his inadequacies, so much so that he pleaded with God to choose someone else.

Consider: The Lord took a self-assured world leader and reduced his opinion of himself until he possessed no confidence in himself. And it was in this state of mind that God decided to use him. Having been thoroughly convinced of his unfitness for leadership, Moses was now qualified to lead.

Remarkably, the Lord would ultimately reveal Himself to Moses (and all Israel as well) as Jehovah-Rapha: “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Yes, God is a healer, yet, there are times when God's hands wound before they heal. Indeed, He must cripple our self-confidence before we truly become God-confident. He breaks and drains us of pride so that we who once were full of self might, instead, be filled with God.

The Lord called Moses to return to Egypt as His spokesman. In response Moses pleaded, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10).

Never been eloquent? What about Egypt? “Moses the Eloquent” has become “Moses the Stammerer.” The identity of a sophisticated leader, a prince who knew the highest tiers of Egyptian culture, no longer functions in Moses. This new, simpler man has only one memory of Egypt: failure. God has so humbled His servant that he cannot even remember his days of powerful words and mighty deeds.

For Moses, the very mention of the word Egypt floods his mind with weakness; Moses fears returning to the place of his humiliation, especially to lead. Yet, God has not called him to be a leader, but a servant. And, to be a servant, one need not be eloquent, but obedient.

It Was God's Idea
Moses is sure his particular weakness, stammering, will disqualify him. How can a man who cannot speak for himself speak for God? Yet, not only is the Lord unhindered by human weakness, He asks, “Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Ex. 4:11). Amazingly, the Lord not only accommodates Moses' condition, He takes credit for it!

It is a profound thought: God stripped Moses of his worldly place and training, burdened him with a heavy and slow tongue, and then commanded him to serve Him in this specific area of weakness: speaking!

The Lord could have instantly healed Moses! He could have given him oratory skills greater than what he possessed in Egypt, but He did nothing to cure Moses.

The slow speech is God's idea!

Perhaps we have spent too much time blaming the devil for certain limitations that actually have their origins in God. What truly matters with the Almighty is not the eloquence of our words, but His power to fulfill them. It's a fitting combination: stammering words backed up with immutable power. “I...will be with your mouth” (Ex. 4:12). This is the alliance that makes for victory.

Why is the Lord so attracted to the lowly? He knows the weaker His servant, the more genuinely he will give glory to God. So the Lord kept Moses weak, and maintained his weakness throughout the wilderness. Forget Charlton Heston’s version of Moses, there is no record of God having healed Moses’ stammer. Standing before the regalia of Pharaoh's court, Moses spoke with a slow tongue. Later, when the horses and chariots of Pharaoh's army furiously cornered the fleeing Hebrews, Moses lifted his voice and proclaimed, “Sta-sta-stand by a-a-and see t-the s-s-salvation of the L-l-lord!”

Who would not be tempted to plead, “Hurry Lord; heal his stutter!” Yet, the Red Sea parted. God was never troubled by His servant's flawed oratory skills. This is the glory of the cross: self is crucified by it so that Christ may be revealed in power.

The fact is, the Lord seeks those who know their flaws. Paul testifies that “God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. . .the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

“That no man may boast before God.” Our weaknesses are an asset. God has chosen you, not because of your strength, but because you are weak. I am not talking about our sinfulness, but our weaknesses and lack of pedigree. Do not excuse yourself from God's calling because you think you are a “nothing.” You are making progress, passing everyone who thinks they are something when they are nothing.

Before God, we are all nothing, and we can do nothing of lasting value apart from Him. It is in our lowliness that God's glory rises to its greatest heights.

Perhaps your last place of service to the Lord seemed to be a complete failure. Yet, it is possible that the Lord has simply been making you perfectly weak, so He might manifest Himself perfectly strong within you.

 
 

 

Even Sodom!
By Francis Frangipane

It is not God who hinders the healing of our land. Rather it is our apathy, our own unbelief, that keeps us from grasping the potential offered in the Gospel of Christ! Do not marvel when I say entire cities can be saved. The Scripture tells us that nations will come to our light and kings to the brightness of our rising! (Isaiah 60:1-3)

ALL WE LACK IS CHRISTLIKENESS!
"He then began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent" (Matt. 11:20). Jesus has a word to say, not only to us as individuals, but to entire cities as well. In anger He rebuked Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matt. 11:21); with tears, He cried out to Jerusalem (Luke 13:34). If He expected cities to repent in the first century, He expects cities today to repent as well.

It was in this very context of reproving cities, however, that Jesus made a statement which unveiled the scope of God's redemptive power. Listen to His rebuke, but also to its hidden promise. He said, "For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matt. 11:21).

Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities known for their debauchery and sin. Yet, Jesus said that His life, revealed in power, can bring even the vilest of cities, places which ought to be destroyed, to "sackcloth and ashes." The strategy, therefore, to win our cities is for the church to reveal Christ's life in power. Yes, the revelation of Christ in us as individuals, and the power of Christ displayed corporately through us, can turn our worst cities back toward God!

Today, many cities are ripe for revival. What hinders the turning of the people's hearts? Part of the answer lies with the church, with our sins of self-righteousness, indifference and unbelief. The Lord said if His people would humble themselves and pray, seek His face and turn from evil, He would then heal their land (see 2 Chron. 7:14). The future does not belong to the world; it belongs to the transformed church. Indeed, let us never forget: God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4). With this in mind, Paul taught that entreaties and prayers should be made on behalf of all men, "for kings and all who are in authority" (1 Tim. 2:1-4). The sacrifice of Christ provides for the salvation of all men. Heaven waits only for the church to act.

One may say, "But, that was then. Our cities are worse. They are beyond redemption." Not so. Jesus continued His rebuke of cities, saying, "If the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day" (Matt. 11:23). Amazingly, when Christ is manifested in power, Jesus said even Sodom could find repentance!

I have heard many ministers compare Los Angeles or New York to Sodom. Good. These cities have seen hell, now let the church show them heaven. They need to see Jesus revealed in His church. The promise of Christ is that even Sodom could repent in the atmosphere and revelation of Christ's power. If there is hope for Sodom, there is hope for your city as well!

THE OBSTRUCTION TO REVIVAL: COMPLACENCY
When we picture cities, we tend to see skylines and factories, streets and schools. Jesus, however, sees people. He beholds husbands arguing with wives while their children tremble in fear. He sees drugs being sold on playgrounds and teenagers having abortions. He suffers at the bedside of the infirm. The heart of Christ grieves with the loneliness of the elderly and identifies with the struggles of the handicapped.

Yes, the eyes of the Lord probe the spirit and humanity of the city. From His eternal perspective, He also beholds the most terrible event known to man. He sees the overwhelming horror, the utter despair an unsaved person experiences as he realizes he is, indeed, dead and going to hell. And, in the midst of it all, He sees the church---His church, purchased at the cost of His own precious blood---sitting comfortably and amused, remote control in hand, watching television.

Jesus does not have a problem with the hot or cold dimensions of life. It is the lukewarm that He will spew from His mouth (Rev. 3:15-16). What stopped the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum---communities that already had the blessing of Christ's healing---from embracing ongoing renewal? They assumed Christ's love was given only to enrich them. All they saw were the rewards of Christ without understanding His requirements.

The church today is frighteningly similar in attitude to these ancient cities. The majority of the first century saints gave their lives to Christ with the full knowledge they would face persecution, suffering and, possibly, death for their faith. Such was the character and vision of the church in the first century.

The main emphasis of much of our Christianity, however, is to help believers become "normal." So much of our contemporary teaching keeps alive the very nature Jesus calls us to crucify! We need to reevaluate our preaching. Are we preaching the cross and the call to follow Jesus? What are we training our people to become?

Please hear me, the Father's goal is not merely to bless us, but to transform us into the image of His Son! He desires to use us to turn our cities back to Him. But God has made no provision for the healing of our land apart from us becoming Christlike! Once we realize this vital truth, we shall return to the source of New Testament Christianity, and our cities will have hope for redemption. When the church demonstrates the love and power of Christ, repentance and revival can occur even in a place like Sodom.

Lord, forgive us for our unbelief and apathy. You have promised that even Sodom would come to You at the revelation of Your character and power. Transform us, Lord Jesus, for the sake of your glory and the renewal of our cities.

Unoffendable
Part Two
Francis Frangipane


“Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another . . . and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:10-12 KJV).

The Sequence That Leads To Apostasy
In our last teaching we looked at offenses and examined the lethal effect an offended spirit could have upon our lives. We discussed how the only way to not be permanently offended was to attain the unoffendable heart of Jesus Christ.

Attaining Christ’s heart is not a minor issue. Remember, Jesus warned that, in the last days, “many” would be offended. A wounded spirit is not the same thing as an offended spirit - an offense occurs when we do not process our wounds in a Christlike manner. Indeed, an offended spirit, left unattended and brooding in our minds, will soon manifest as betrayal, hatred and cold love. Jesus said offenses would be the ultimate cause that leads many to fall from faith. Listen well: Jesus linked the real cause of apostasy not to wrong doctrines, but wrong reactions.

Aren’t right doctrines important? Of course, but we can have right information and still have a wrong response. Doctrinal information can be upgraded and refined, but Proverbs warns that someone “offended is harder to be won than a strong city,” and “contentions” between people “are like the bars of a castle” (Prov. 18:19).

Yes, beware of false leaders, but more deceitful than false prophets or teachers is our own heart when it is offended (Jer. 17:9). Are you living with an offended heart? If so, you are gradually slipping away from true Christianity, which is known for its agape love.

Thus, dealing with an offended heart is vital in maintaining ongoing spiritual maturity. For this reason, we need to look again at the things that offend us.

False Expectations
Unrealistic or exaggerated expectations inevitably will cause others to fall short and offend us. Some desire their spouse or pastor or friends to meet their every need. However, at the deepest level, our soul was created to find its security in God, not man. When the Almighty truly becomes our security, our peace flows from our awareness of His love and unlimited capabilities. As people who put their confidence in God, we can live comfortably with imperfect people around us.

Still, the very power of our expectations can choke out the sweetness of a personal relationship. Suppose that, instead of burdening people with our expectations, we simply learned to appreciate them for themselves - no strings attached. What if we approach family and friends with gratitude for what they are doing rather than disappointment for what they failed to do?

Suppose that a husband, instead of expecting a full course dinner from his wife each night, learned to appreciate whatever she was able to offer him? Then, instead of his failed expectation degrading into an offense, there would be a living, sincere appreciation for the food his wife prepared. I know we have arrangements by common consent, but in reality, a wife is under no obligation to cook special meals or do housekeeping. You did not marry her to be your housekeeper, but to become one with her.

Or imagine a husband who works a long, tiring job. However, his wife expects that he will work another two hours at home or go shopping with her or listen attentively about her problems. What if, instead, she welcomed him at the door and sincerely thanked him for daily giving himself to support their family? What if she met him, not with demands, but with appreciation? Perhaps she might even massage his shoulders and, because of love, have his favorite meal prepared.

You see, expectations can seem like legitimate aspects of a relationship, but they can also cause us to be disappointed and offended when people fall short. I have known situations in the past where my expectations actually blinded me to the efforts being made by a loved one. They were trying to improve in an area I was unaware of because my focus was preset upon a different expectation. I should have been grateful and encouraging.

Of course, today I discuss issues and expectations with those close to me, but the weight of my expectation is not on others, but upon myself to be Christlike and sensitive to those around me. I put a premium upon enjoying the uniqueness of others, sincerely thanking God for their contribution to my life.

When God Himself Offends Us
The fact is, false expectations can become a source of many deep offenses. However, one of the worst offenses we can suffer is when God Himself purposely offends us.

In 2 Kings 5, we read the story of when Naaman, a Syrian general, sought to be healed of leprosy by Elisha, the prophet. When Naaman and his entourage arrived at Elisha’s house, Elisha didn’t greet him personally, but instead sent his servant with a word/cure for Naaman. It was a simple assignment for the military leader: wash seven times in the Jordan River. However, the cure offended Naaman. Why didn’t the prophet himself come out? Why this muddy Jordan? Scripture says that “Naaman was furious.”

An offended spirit is an angry spirit. In this case, Naaman was beyond mad; he was furious. Do you find that you are always mad at a particular person? It’s because they have offended you and you haven’t forgiven them. Naaman was offended at Elisha, but what was the real cause of Naaman’s offense? Listen to his words. He said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper’” (v. 11).

Catch the phrase, “Behold, I thought . . .” In truth, Naaman was not offended by Elisha, but by his own failed expectations. He probably spent many hours envisioning the moment of healing. He even pictured himself testifying of how the man of God healed him. When it didn’t happen according to his plan, he was offended.

Friends, before the Lord heals you or assigns you some new, elevated position of service, He will often offend you. Why? What is it that gets offended in us? Usually, it is our pride. We come to God desiring physical healing, but the Lord wants us not only to be healed, but to be humble. Yes, God heals us through our faith, but there our times when our own pride keeps us from receiving the method of God’s healing. The Lord offends us to humble us, so He can give us grace. Faith works through grace, but God only gives grace to the humble.

Look at how often Jesus offended people before He healed them. Once, He actually spit on the ground, made mud and put it on a blind man’s eyes, and then told him to walk across town that way! Imagine if you were next in the healing line and saw what the guy before you had to do. Admit it, we each would be looking for another healing ministry, one that is a little less offensive! On another occasion He told a woman who came seeking her daughter’s healing that she was an unclean dog; another time, He stuck His fingers in the ears of a man to heal his deafness. The Lord often offended people before He healed them.

If we would learn to humble ourselves in the offense, we would discover that the apparent offense was, in realty, a door that led into the manifest power of God. When Jesus called the Canaanite woman a “dog,” instead of being offended, she said, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs” (Matt. 15:27). When Jesus told the man to walk across town with mud in his eyes, the man didn’t argue or ask for a more dignified healing; he humbled himself and came back seeing. When Elisha told Naaman to dip in the Jordan seven times, the offense wounded him. Yet, when he humbled himself, his leprosy was replaced with the skin of a little child. His skin became as a child, because his heart, through humility, became as a child.

Maybe you haven’t received your healing or breakthrough yet because to walk the path set before you is beneath your dignity. Maybe you need to get rid of your dignity and go to that Pentecostal or Baptist church you’ve been making fun of, then ask them to pray for you. God wants to heal you, but He also wants to renew and transform you with His grace.

Overcome Offenses
When we study what Jesus taught, it is obvious that He came to make us “unoffendable.” Consider: He says that if someone slaps you on one cheek, offer him the other. He said to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. What He’s really doing is showing us how an unoffendable heart of love overcomes all adversity.

We pray, “Lord, I want to change.” To answer our prayer, He sometimes must put us in situations that perfectly offend us. The offense itself awakens our need of grace. Thus, the Lord precipitates change by first offending the area of our soul He desires to transform. He does not expect us to merely survive this adversity, but to become Christlike in it. Ask Joseph in the Old Testament: the “land of offense” became the land of his anointing and power. Listen my friends: the destiny God has for man unfolds or dies at the junction of offense. How we handle offense is the key to our tomorrow.

“Those who love [God’s] law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Ps. 119:165).

Lord, grant me that new creation heart that can walk as Jesus walked, through a world of offenses without stumbling. I want to see everything as an opportunity to pray, everything as an opportunity to become Christlike. Lord help me to interpret offenses as opportunities that lead to transformations. Grant me, Lord Jesus, the pulse and beat of Your unoffendable heart. Amen.
 

Unoffendable
By Francis Frangipane

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).

God has a new heart for us that cannot be offended, an “unoffendable” heart. Beloved, possessing an unoffendable heart is not an option or a luxury; it’s not a little thing. Consider: Jesus warns that, as we near the end of the age, a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith. Listen carefully to His warning:

"Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another . . . and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:10-12 KJV).

“Many” will be offended; the love of “many” will grow cold. My prayer is that we will hear His words with holy fear.

When we allow an offense to remain in our hearts, it causes serious spiritual consequences. In the above verse Jesus named three dangerous results: betrayal, hatred and cold love. When we are offended with someone, even someone we care for, we must go to them. Otherwise, we begin to betray that relationship, talking maliciously behind their back to others, exposing their weaknesses and sins. We may mask our betrayal by saying we are just looking for advice or counsel, but when we look back, we see we have spoken negatively to far too many people. Our real goal was not to get spiritual help for ourselves but to seek revenge toward the one who offended us. How is such action not a manifestation of hatred? For an offended soul, cold love, betrayal and hatred go hand-in-hand.

People don’t usually stumble over boulders; they stumble over stones, relatively small things. It may be that the personality of someone in authority bothers us and soon we are offended. Or, a friend or family member fails to meet our expectations, and we take an offense into our soul. Beloved, if we will “endure to the end,” we will have to confront the things that bother us.

When Jesus warns that we need endurance, He is saying that it is easier to begin the race than finish it. Between now and the day you die, there will be major times of offense that you will need to overcome. You might be in such a time right now. Do not minimize the danger of harboring an offense.

No one plans on falling away; no one ever says, “Today, I think I’ll try to develop a hardened, cold heart.” Such things enter our souls through stealth and it is only naiveté that assumes it couldn’t happen to us. I know many people who consistently become offended about one thing or another. Instead of dealing with the offenses, these people carry them until the weight disables their walk with God. You may be doing fine today, but I guarantee you, tomorrow something will happen that will inevitably disappoint or wound you; some injustice will strike you, demanding you retaliate in the flesh.

The Root Of Offense
An offense can strike at our virtues or sins, our values or our pride. It can penetrate and wound any dimension of the soul, both good and evil. I once brought a series of messages about gossip. Most people saw their sin and repented, but a core group of gossips were greatly offended and ultimately left the church. When the Holy Spirit exposes sin in someone’s soul, if we refuse the opportunity to repent, we often become offended at the person who brought the teaching. Instead of humbling our hearts, we are outraged at the pastor or teachers in the church. Truthfully, most of the time, I have no idea who specifically needs to hear what I’m teaching, but God knows.

Paul told Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” (see 2 Tim. 4:2). He didn’t say, “exhort, exhort, exhort,” but exhortation is what we receive in most churches. Certainly, we need to be encouraged, but there are also times, beloved, when we need to be reproved and rebuked. Today, there are preachers who are afraid to preach truth for fear people will react and leave the church. The end result is a church of easily offended people who cannot grow beyond their inability to accept correction.

People don’t change by exhortation alone. There are areas in all of us that need to be confronted and disciplined. The pastor who refuses to discipline and correct those in sin is in disobedience to God. He is unable to lead people into any truly transforming changes in their lives; they will not “endure to the end” if they cannot be corrected (see Matt. 24).

We need to become a people who say, “Lord, show me what needs to change in me.” I’m talking about growing up. A wise man will receive a rebuke and he will prosper. But a fool rejects his father’s discipline (see Prov. 15:5).

Personal Offense
An offense can wound our pride when we are not recognized for our good works or ministry. This happened to my wife and I long ago while in California. We were young pastors at a conference when the main leader decided to personally greet each minister and wife. He greeted the couple on our right and then turned to his staff to ask a question. A moment later he returned, but passed us by and went to the couple on our left. Everyone around us saw we were bypassed. We were embarrassed and offended. But my wife wisely observed that we could allow this thing to hurt us or we could see it as an investment in sensitivity toward other people’s feelings. The offense taught us how others feel when they are ignored. Do you see this? You must make that offense become an opportunity to become more Christlike.

The occasions for taking offense are practically endless. Indeed, we are daily given the opportunity to either be offended by something or to possess an unoffendable heart. The Lord’s promise is that He’s given us a new heart: a soft, entreatable heart that can be filled with His Spirit and abound with His love.

Lord, forgive me for being so easily offended and for carrying offenses. Father, my heart is foolish and weak. Grant me the unoffendable heart of Jesus Christ. Amen.
 

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The Sword of the Spirit
Francis Frangipane


Christ not only came to set captives free, He came to train and empower the recently freed to be warriors. We may not always walk perfectly, but because God causes all things to work for good, we still can walk triumphantly. How can we, imperfect Christians, walk triumphantly? The Bible says we overcome "because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of [our] testimony, and [we do] not love [our lives] even when faced with death" (Rev. 12:11).

These three things - Christ's atoning blood, our testimony of God's eternal word and choosing to not love our own lives - secure us in the place of victory. We are a covenant people, a people purchased for God from every nation. Yes, we still sin, but God has placed the iniquity of us all upon His Son, Jesus Christ (Isa. 53). When the enemy comes to accuse and condemn us for our failures, we must remind ourselves that every sin we have ever committed has been nailed to Christ's cross. The entire "certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us," has been paid in full by the blood of Jesus Christ! (Col. 2:14).

As much as we need the blood of Christ, to functionalize our victory, we also need a living knowledge of God's word. Many Christians are awakened spiritually, but they do not know God's promises in the Bible. To be successful, we must know God's word, believe it and speak it with faith when we pray. We overcome by the "word of our testimony."

Third, in our world of excess and self-gratification, we must learn the wisdom and power of carrying the cross ("they did not love their life"). By becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ, the cross keeps us focused on our transformation. It also keeps us from the quicksand of self-pity, gratuitous over-indulgence and unforgiveness.

To aid your fight of faith, we've prepared a brief collection of Scriptures. Remember, God's word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it (Isa. 55:11). Let us, therefore, "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23). Don't murmur when you pray, proclaim the word of God with authority. Indeed, the Holy Spirit tells us to take up "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). If we advance protected by the blood of the Lamb; if we war armed with the word of God; and if shoulder in our hearts the cross of Christ, we will truly be "more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37 KJV).

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The following are just a few of the many mighty promises of God. We urge you to print these verses, memorize them and pass them on to your friends and fellow intercessors.

Spiritual Warfare Verses
"The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies" (Isa. 42:13).

"Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matt.16:18).

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you" (Luke 10:19).

"You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down" (Ps. 91:13).

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place" (2 Cor. 2:14).

"Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? Surely, thus says the Lord, 'Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons'" (Isa. 49:24-25).

"Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18:18).

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph 6:17).

"The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

"I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and I did not turn back until they were consumed. I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet. For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me" (Ps. 18:37-40).

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own homestead, his possessions are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied, and distributes his plunder" (Luke 11:21-22).

"Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out" (John 12:31).

"The ruler of this world has been judged" (John 16:11).

"He ... disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Col. 2:15).

"'No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,' declares the LORD" (Isa. 54:17).

"You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

"Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

"All authority has been given me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

Divine Shelter of God
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Ps. 18:2).

"He who was born of God keeps [us] and the evil one does not touch [us]" (1 John 5:18).

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1).

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Rom. 8:28).

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV).

"If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23).

"My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:2-4).

"The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever" (Ps. 121:5-8).

"Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; the snare is broken and we have escaped" (Ps. 124:7).

Fear
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Ps. 23:4).

"Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16).

"Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Heb. 2:14-15).

Deliverance, Forgiveness and Salvation
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord'" (Luke 4:17-19).

"He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:19).

"Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

"Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us" (Rom. 8:34).

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

"He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5).

"You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance" (Ps. 32:7).

"For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence" (Ps. 91:3).

Peace
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Rom. 16:20).

"In no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God" (Phil. 1:28).

"Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet" (Ps. 110:1).

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10 KJV).

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7).

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety" (Ps. 4:8).

"For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 'In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.' But you were not willing" (Isa. 30:15).

The Power of the New Covenant
"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death" (Rev. 12:11).

"He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14).

"And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins'" (Matt. 26:26-28).

"As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you" (Zech 9:11-12).

Healing
"Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried" (Isa. 53:4).

"But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed" (Isa. 53:5).

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8).

"The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them" (Matt. 4:24).

Family
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).

"For I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons" (Isa. 49:25).

"'And it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'that I will pour forth of my spirit on all mankind ; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams'" (Acts 2:17).

Discernment

"The devil . . . was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

"But he who is spiritual appraises all things" (1 Cor. 2:15).

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty strength. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the devil's strategies. For our struggle is not against a human opponent, but against rulers, against authorities, against cosmic powers in the darkness around us, against evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm. For this reason, take up the whole armor of God so that you may be able to take a stand in that evil day. And when you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. And having put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. In addition (above all), to all of these, having taken up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Also take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times with every kind of prayer and request there is. For the same reason be alert with every kind of effort and request for all the saints" (Eph. 6:10-18).

Door of Hope
Francis Frangipane

We tend to boast in the power of faith while minimizing the value of hope. Yet, “faith is the substance of the things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1 KJV). Without first having a living hope in God, our faith is meaningless. Indeed, the first stage of transformation is the awakening of hope.

Yet, even after we come to Christ, we still fail. Often, a downward spiral occurs when sin opens the door to condemnation, and condemnation smothers the voice of hope. Consider the story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. The Lord was about to prosper Israel with the wealth of the Canaanites, but only if the spoils of their first battle at Jericho were dedicated fully to God. One man, Achan, however, defied the Lord's edict. He took silver, gold, and a garment from Shinar, and then hid the spoils in his tent. As a result of his sin, thirty-six Israelites died in their next battle - defeated and humiliated by the tiny city of Ai.

After the Lord exposed Achan as the perpetrator, Joshua took him, along with his family and possessions, and brought them all to a valley. There, Israel's leader said, "'Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.' And all Israel stoned them with stones; . . . Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day" (Josh. 7:25-26).

The word Achor meant "troubling." It represented the trouble and pain one person’s sin exacted on many others. Certainly, the most terrible thing Achan experienced was that his sin caused his wife and children to die with him. As they huddled together awaiting this horrible judgment, the guilt and regret flooding Achan's mind must have been insufferable.

Personal Failure
In time, the valley of Achor came to symbolize the worst of punishments. It was a place of death and desolation. Today, of course, we do not stone those whose sin or irresponsibility has caused others grief. Still, sin has consequences, and though we may not be physically stoned for our failure, the effects of public condemnation can be just as crushing to the human spirit. The fact is, too many of us have known a personal valley of Achor, where our moral negligence or ill-advised actions caused another's suffering.

Perhaps you committed adultery, and since then, your spouse and children are devastated. It might be that your anxious or careless driving caused an accident, resulting in great suffering or possibly even another person's death. Or maybe your lack of Christian example has caused your children to turn from God. The possible ways of falling are endless, but the result is nearly always the same: it is as though a curse rests on your life.

It is bad enough that your own heart condemns you. There are also those individuals who know your failure, whose chorus of criticisms convince you of your hopeless nature. Public censure, cold looks and judgmental attitudes have the same effect on your soul as Achan's stoning had on his flesh, only what dies in you is hope. Where once you could look with anticipation toward the future, now heartache and regret block your view.

Only virtue, made pure and strong by true repentance, can displace the burden of self-condemnation. Thus, the only correct response to wrong actions and their consequences is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, the enemy has many Christians trapped in unbelief and self-condemnation. They know what they did was wrong and they hate it, but they cannot unburden themselves of the guilt. Remember, our Redeemer came to proclaim liberty to those who are "prisoners" (see Isa. 61:1). Is He speaking only of those who are incarcerated in jails? No, His mission is for all of us who are prisoners of our past failures. God wants us to learn from our mistakes, not be held captive to them. Jesus came to deliver and restore those whose dreams lie buried in the valley of Achor.

Personal Tragedy
The burdens we carry may have nothing to do with moral failure. They might have come from any number of life's calamities.

One of the worst ordeals for the soul is the death of a loved one. Such a loss can leave us excessively burdened and trapped in the past. The story of Abraham's father, Terah, gives us an insightful picture of a man who could not depart from the loss of a loved one.

Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor and Haran. The Bible tells us, "Haran died in the presence of his father" (Gen. 11:28). To lose your son can produce terrible heartache; to have him die in your arms can be utterly devastating.

In time, Terah took his family and left Ur of the Chaldeans in search of a new destiny in Canaan. En route, however, Terah had to pass through a city with the same name as his deceased son, Haran. Instead of continuing on to Canaan, the Scripture says Terah "went as far as Haran, and settled there" (v. 31).

Longing for a deceased loved one is normal. However, life's tragedies also have a way of obligating us to a false loyalty which prohibits the release of our pain. Without notice, a face in an airport or a song on the radio floods our hearts and, suddenly, we are overcome by sorrow. How quickly we reenter the place of our grief; how easy it is to settle there!

"And Terah died in Haran" (v. 32). Not only did Terah settle in Haran, he died there. The wording is both prophetic and significant. Perhaps it was a false sense of guilt that held him hostage: If only I had done such and such my son would not have died! Whatever the reason, Terah was never able to live beyond Haran's death.

We must also see that, as painful as the loss of a loved one is, we cannot permit the wounds of our past to nullify what God has for us in our future. Even if we enter limping, we must not settle for something outside our destiny. God's grace is here now. With His help, we must choose to journey on to Canaan or we, too, will die in Haran.

A Time For Healing

These two things, personal failure and personal tragedy, can place cruel burdens of oppression and guilt upon our souls. God's response to our need is that, in addition to forgiving our sins, He has laid on Christ "the guilt of us all" (Isa. 53:6 NAB). Whether our guilt is justified or not, it must be lifted from our shoulders and placed on Christ.

Today, a renewal is occurring in various parts of the world; God is restoring joy to His people. Many whom the Lord has touched were weighed down - just like you might be - with either moral failure or tragedy. In the very place where our deferred hopes produced heart sickness Christ is here "to bind up the brokenhearted" (Isa. 61:1). Where once sorrow and heaviness reigned, He gives a "garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting" (Isa. 61:3).

No longer will church attendance be a penance for your failures. From now on you shall enter His gates with thanksgiving. Indeed, to every Christian struggling with an unbearable burden, the Lord says, You are still My bride.

Indeed, speaking of this very valley of troubling, the Lord has promised: “I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth” (Hosea 2:14-15).

The fruitfulness of God's blessing, from this day forward, shall increase in your life. And there in "the valley of Achor," the scene of your deepest wounds or worst failures, the Lord has placed for you a "door of hope." His goal is nothing less than to restore to you the song of the Lord, that you might sing again "as in the days of [your] youth."

Purity and Commitment
Francis Frangipane

I dreamt I was the pastor of a small orphanage in Asia. The orphanage owned an old pickup truck that was in need of repair; I was lying on my side examining the undercarriage when, suddenly, soldiers pulled into our little compound and jumped out of their vehicles. They were looking for me, “the American missionary.” If they found me, it meant I would be tortured and imprisoned. Since they hadn’t harmed any of the children or other workers, I felt my best recourse was to simply lie still, as I was somewhat hidden, and pray they left quickly.

I could see their boots as they walked toward the other side of the truck where I was lying. I had a glass of water in my hand. However, when I tried to put it down onto the pavement, it began to rattle, so I stopped and held it in midair. Soon, my hand was trembling because of the awkward way I was lying and also because of the nearness of the troops. Suddenly, I felt two hands firmly touch the sides of my middle back. The hands calmed and strengthened me. They were the hands of a friend of mine, a recent convert to Christ, who was one of the workers at the orphanage. As was the custom in this Asian culture, this young believer had taken a spiritual name that represented one’s new nature in Christ; that name was “Purity and Commitment.”

The soldiers left and peace returned to the mission. Yet, the touch of the hands that had steadied me, also roused me from my sleep. And as I stirred, I awakened to the most exquisite fragrance. It was unlike any fragrance I've ever known. Its sweetness not only filled the room, but it washed the air like the cleansing after a thunderstorm. I honestly have never known any fragrance more beautiful or captivating.

As I waited before the Lord, the Holy Spirit warned that difficult tests were coming. In some lands there will be martial law and increased government crackdowns on Christians; in other places, temptations of the flesh would increase. These days will be difficult for many Christians. He said we will be tempted, but if we embrace “purity and commitment” as our friend, we would find new strength steadying us in our time of need.

Finally, as the fragrance continued in the room, I understood that this was what the Lord inhaled when His children stayed committed to Him during battle. I realized that, when we purpose to stay pure in spite of temptation, we literally become “a fragrance of Christ to God . . .” (2 Cor. 2:15).

Deliverance From Bitterness
Francis Frangipane

There are two conditions of the heart no one can hide: one is when the heart is filled with love and the other when we are infected with bitterness. Either condition can take over our thoughts and both can filter our entire view of life. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must make our highest quest to possess hearts full of God’s love. Indeed, how successful we are at revealing Christ’s love is the true measure of our spirituality.

Thus, love cannot long exist as an unexpressed or hidden secret. If love is real, it will be seen in a thousand manifestations reaching to the heart of its beloved. Love, which is in truth passion for oneness, is too powerful to be contained by mere discipline or self-control. Indeed, is not love boldly displayed in its unrequited gifts, and is it not heard in its many encouragements and expressions of concern? Is it not tangible in its unabashed enjoyment of time spent with those it loves?

Bitterness, too, cannot be hidden. A bitter soul is not seeking oneness, but justice. It is driven by the unresolved theft of its peace, personhood or possessions. Bitterness is not just a wound seeking healing, it is a prosecuting attorney building a case against the guilty. Because a bitter soul is conjoined to the injustice committed against it, it perpetually is listening to the voice of its heartache and, thus, perpetually wounded by the unforgiven offense.

Dear friends, Jesus said He came to give us life in abundance. He said He was anointed and sent to proclaim release to prisoners and freedom to captives (John 10:10; Luke 4:18). If we feel we have been spiritually incarcerated by a bitter experience or an injustice, God is not seeking to condemn us for it, but to save us from it. Even now, His Spirit is reaching to release us from this unbearable burden of the past.

How Do We Become Free?
In my thirty-seven years of walking with the Lord, there have been times that I have been slandered, defrauded or unfairly attacked. I have had plenty of opportunities to be embittered by injustice. Not every wound was healed instantly nor each injustice swiftly remedied. Jesus said, “By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:19). The Message translation renders this: “Staying with it - that's what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry; you'll be saved.” In the final analysis, being wounded or suffering loss is not the issue – Paul said he “suffered the loss of all things.” The real issue is that we “may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Let me also say, I know people whom the Lord simply touched and healed. Yes, often the Lord will simply remedy the offending situation itself, thus bringing healing. Let us make room for the vastness of God’s grace. Indeed, Hebrews 2:18 reveals that since Christ “Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” For no other reason except that He loves us, He will “come to the aid of those” who are embattled. Let us always make room for such grace.

At the same time, I have also recognized that God’s highest goal for me is my conformity to Christ. (See Rom. 8:28-29). God heals me so He can conform me to Christ, and sometimes He reverses that process: He conforms me to Christ so He can heal me. In other words, my deliverance came as I appropriated Christ’s love and learned to entrust myself to God even when I was wounded by injustice.

Consider this issue of trusting God. Peter tells us, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Sometimes my healing from wounding and possible bitterness came, not because restitution was made to me by the person who hurt me, but because I learned to entrust myself to God who judges righteously. To trust that God will vindicate me in His time and in His way is a sign of spiritual maturity. It’s really the only way we can avoid responding to reviling with reviling and allowing a wound to fester into bitterness.

There are other times when a lingering conflict would become an oppression upon my soul. Again, as an antidote to becoming bitter, Jesus taught, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad (Luke adds, “and leap for joy”), for your reward in heaven is great” (Matt. 5:11-12).

If you have been unfairly treated, if some injustice has soiled your name or threatens your future because of your faith in Christ, one antidote is to rejoice. Before you defend your right to remain miserable, let me ask this: have you obeyed Jesus by leaping for joy? I remember one occasion when I was especially hurt by a man who, based on a dream his wife had, used his wife’s fantasy to divide our little church. I loved this couple greatly, just as I loved everyone in our church, so my sorrow was multiplied. Indeed, each time I considered the evil this slander was causing, my emotions stormed with anger and grief.

Yet, eventually the Lord spoke to my heart. He asked, since the slander spoken against me wasn’t true, why I hadn’t obeyed Him? He said I had become oppressed by people’s words, but I hadn’t yet leaped for joy. So, I decided to obey Him. Standing alone in the dimmed afternoon lighting of our church sanctuary, I prepared myself to rejoice. Yet, I was so emotionally drained with sadness I had no joy; I could hardly walk, much less leap. Yet, in obedience I tried a feeble jump. Then again, and again, until the Holy Spirit broke through and I was shouting and leaping before the Lord, rejoicing in His sovereign power in my life.

Now, if the problems we are encountering are legitimate consequences to our bad behavior, then we should repent and not blame others for our condition. We still can rejoice that we serve a great God who can work even our failures for good. But if our conflicts are due to our commitment to serve the Lord, then we ought to obey Him and “leap for joy.”

The Waters of Marah
Christ is not our “Savior” in merely a distant or theological sense; He is Immanuel, “God with us.” He dwells within us; He is committed to us. He is fully capable of transforming what was meant to destroy us and using it as a means to perfect us. We must believe that God is fully able to redeem all we go through. If we harbor unbelief about either the Father’s goodness or His abilities, our difficulties will reduce us to bitter, angry people.

Consider also, if Satan is set on destroying us, it must be because God has something powerful waiting for us in the future. The devil does not waste his time attacking insignificant people; he attacks those he fears will be used by God to liberate others. If Satan can set up an attack that causes you to become bitter, your destiny will be sidetracked until that root of bitterness is plucked from your soul.

How is it that bitterness can exist in us? Bitterness is a demonic manipulation of a wound or injustice we suffer in our soul. Jesus, however, said that the only way to save our souls is to lose them to Him (John 12:25). Beloved, I am telling you how I have passed through some of the most difficult battles I faced: I carried the cross.

I believe that my steps are ordered of God. Therefore, if I have faced an injustice, He must have either allowed it or ordered it. In His great omniscience, He knew I would need more love or faith or dependency upon Him, so He arranged my steps so He could work in me His overcoming nature. My battles are not about me and someone else, or even me coming against the devil; ultimately, in every conflict, God is seeking to create Christlikeness in me. As the character, authority and love of Christ become functional in my life, my enemies are subdued and Christ is triumphant through me.

We must, therefore, get over the idea that there is a painless place of existence on earth, and we must learn how to carry the cross of Christ. The cross puts to death our unbelieving, fearful, selfish nature and allows the character of Christ to emerge in our spirits. The cross is the cost we pay so that redemption prevails.

There is a story in Exodus that figuratively reveals the power of the cross. The Israelites went three days without fresh water. When they finally found water,“they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah” (Ex. 15:22-23). Marah, you’ll recall, means bitterness. They finally found water, but they could not drink it. The Lord, however, showed Moses “a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet” (Ex. 15:25).

What Moses did was prophetic. The tree that was applied symbolically to the bitter water was a picture of the cross of Christ when it’s applied to our bitter experiences: it turns the bitter to sweet. I know in the many times the enemy has used people to wound or strike me, as I applied the cross to my life – forgiving, blessing and letting love be perfected – the outcome has always been a greater manifestation of Christ in my life.

This is exactly how Paul handled adversity and injustice. Listen to what he wrote, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:7-11).

Dear one, is this not what you desire most: the life of Jesus Himself manifested in your mortal flesh? Satan has been manipulating your old nature, seeking to work bitterness into your life. The way the Lord has redeemed me from every battle I have faced has been to use that battle to crucify my old nature and release a greater unveiling of Christ in me. This is New Testament Christianity in its greatest glory.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for trying to save my life. I purpose to trust You, to allow love to be perfected within me, to not seek justice, but mercy for myself and others. Help me, Lord. Reveal Your Spirit’s power within me. Even now, uproot every bitter plant in my soul. Let my words be full of grace and truth, not bitterness and evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

BITTERNESS IN THE GARDEN OF OUR HEARTS
Francis Frangipane

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Heb. 12:15).

It is impossible to pass through this world without being struck by injustice or heartache. Unless we process our struggles in Christ, a single wounding of our soul can create a deep bitterness within us, poisoning our very existence. In my thirty-three years of ministry, I have known far too many Christians who have perfected the art of looking polite, while living inwardly with an angry, cynical or resentful spirit. They have swallowed the poison of bitterness and they are dying spiritually because of it. The problem is that, as Christians, we know it is wrong to react with open anger toward people. However, rather than truly forgiving and surrendering that injustice to God, we suppress our anger. Anger is a result of perceived injustice. Suppressed anger always degrades into bitterness, which is, in reality, unfulfilled revenge.

Embittered People
The Bible not only provides the biographies of heroes of our faith, but it also documents the lives of common people, individuals who experienced the same kind of heartaches as we have. Some overcame wounding or loss and subsequent bitterness, while others became examples to avoid.

Consider Naomi from the book of Ruth. A famine in Israel led Naomi's family to migrate to Moab. Without family or friends to support her, as aliens in a foreign land, Naomi then suffered the loss of her husband; his death was followed by the death of her two grown sons. When Naomi returned to Israel with Ruth, her daughter-in-law, she announced to those who knew her, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20).

The name Naomi means "pleasant." We can imagine that when Naomi was dedicated to God as an infant, her parents prayed that her name would forecast her future. Now, however, the very opposite had occurred. Naomi was deeply embittered by her loss, to the extreme of blaming "the Almighty" for dealing "very bitterly" with her.

If you have ever listened to a bitter person, there is nothing "pleasant" about them. Yes, we should weep with those who weep, yet a bitter soul is a spirit trapped in a time warp; they live in the memory of their pain.

Several years ago I met a woman who had suffered a difficult divorce. I talked with her every six months or so for two years, and each time we talked she said exactly the same things about her ex-husband. She was divorced from her husband, but now married to a bitter spirit that held her captive to her heartache. For Naomi, her bitterness was indirectly focused towards God. She was angry that He allowed hardship in her life. "The Lord has brought me back empty" (Ruth 1:21). My sorrow is God's fault.

Contrast her life with that of Job's first encounter with loss (Job 1:1-22). Job lost his family and possessions, yet he bowed and worshiped. "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

How we handle sorrow reveals the depth of our worship of God. When life cuts us, do we bleed bitterness or worship? Job bowed and drew close to God. Naomi withdrew and talked about the Lord with her back to Him. I have dear friends who lost their only son when he was a teenager. In the midst of their heartache, they have become examples to everyone of true worship. Over the years, their pain actually purified and deepened their worship; their suffering made them more compassionate toward the suffering of others (See 2 Cor. 1:3-4). And, I know others who have suffered the sudden loss of a loved one and, within weeks, withdrew from God and became bitter. Adversity does not perfect character; it reveals character. It exposes what is happening inside of us.

Poisoned
In ancient times mankind experimented with vegetation, seeking to learn which plants were edible and which were poisonous. In his search, he discovered that, generally speaking, if a plant or fruit was sweet, it was usually safe to eat; bitter plants, man discovered, would either sicken or kill. Likewise, the bitter experiences of life, if we ingest them into our spirits, can become a spiritual poison that destroys our thoughts, expectations and attitudes. Such an experience may enter your soul via a relational wound or injustice; it can begin through a major disappointment or loss. However, once bitterness enters the human soul, like ink spreading in a glass of water, it can darken every aspect of our existence.

Indeed, not only can bitterness ruin our lives, Hebrews warns that a root of bitterness can "defile many" (Heb. 12:15 NIV). A spiritual root is a hidden, unresolved anger that is buried beneath the surface of our lives. Outwardly, we look "properly Christian" until we begin to discuss someone who hurt us. As we speak, that root "springs up" and it defiles others. If you haven't dealt with your bitterness, beware when you speak to others, lest you defile them with your words; and if you are listening to an embittered person, take heed that the spirit of bitterness is not being transferred to your life as well!

Neglect
In Genesis we find another bitter soul in Esau, the brother of Jacob. Esau had foolishly bargained away his inheritance when he was young and then lost his father's blessing when he was old. When Esau discovered he had lost both to his brother Jacob, the Bible tells us he "cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry" (Gen. 27:34).

To lose something through our laziness or neglect can create bitterness of soul. Additionally, to have someone deceive us and take what was rightfully ours is equally as destructive. I know people who were lazy and did not esteem their education. Today they are bitter employees working for minimum wage. I also know young, unwed mothers who let deceitful boys steal their virginity, which later also embittered them. Even spiritual people can find themselves suffering with bitterness caused by neglect. I know a pastor who was so devoted to his ministry, he consistently neglected his wife. She finally divorced him; cry and plead as he would, he suffered the bitter losses of his wife and the respect of his church.

Esau's loss made him very bitter; yet, have we, like Esau, lost the more valuable elements of life because of our neglect? Have others received blessings that were earmarked for us, and has that loss created bitterness within us? May the Lord reveal to us these roots of bitterness that, like time-released poison, are quietly killing us.

God desires to return to us our ability to love and laugh again. Next week we will discuss how to uproot bitterness and get truly free. For now, let us sincerely approach the throne of God's grace and ask Him to show us our hearts. Let us ask Him if the garden of our souls is truly free of bitter roots.

Possessing the Mind of Christ
Francis Frangipane

To See as Jesus Sees

“He who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:15-16).

This is one of the most staggering statements made in the New Testament. Paul says that it is actually possible to be free of our carnal, jealous, fearful, unbelieving thought-life and, in its place, possess “the mind of Christ”! 
This promise is wonderfully profound.  Indeed, it is one thing to be taught edifying principles and truths about the Lord, yet quite another to actually posses the very thought-life of Christ!  Listen to what Paul says,
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:11-13).

When we were born again, we received into our spirits the Spirit of God.  A spiritual man is one in whom God’s Spirit has risen in internal ascendancy. Paul tells us that a spiritual man can discern or appraise all things. It is unfortunate that some versions translate “appraises” with the word judges. Some Christians have actually used the word judges as a green light to become judgmental, which they associate with being spiritual. God does not want us to be judgmental, He wants us to be discerning. Indeed, a spiritual man is one who has renounced a judgmental attitude and, in its place, he possesses a redemptive attitude, which is the mind of Christ.How does Jesus view life? How does He look at the imperfections of our world? Paul taught in Philippians 2:5-8:

“Have this attitude (KJV: “mind”) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God . . . emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Christ's attitude was simple. Jesus saw the fallen, rebellious condition of mankind and then did everything necessary to redeem it. Although the world deserved judgment, He “did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). And, with this very same motive to spread redemption, He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

The Son of God saw the need of the world and emptied Himself to meet it. He gave up all that was His in the Godhead - His privileges, powers and position as the very form of God - and took the form of man.  Then He humbled Himself further, remaining obedient to death in order to secure our eternal redemption. This is the mind that we are to have in us “which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Out of the nature of selfless love emerges the mind of Christ.  The moment we accept that we are called to lay down our lives for others, we are beginning to understand what it means to posses the mind of Christ.  The spiritual man appraises all things: he sees both the need and the answer and he is willing to be a bridge to complete redemption.  The spiritual man possesses discernment: he knows the activity of the human heart, its vulnerability to demonic manipulation, its inability to rise out of woundedness. Knowing God's grace toward himself, he pays the price to see freedom come to another.

Beloved, if your motive is love, if you are guided by hope, if you desire to possess Christlikeness, if you love humility and walk with an unoffendable heart, you will certainly find the thought-life of God.  You are possessing the mind of Christ.

Lord Jesus, how much I want to think like You. Lord, I want to possess Your mind and be moved by Your heart. Grant, Master, that I would receive in a greater way the character and nature of the Holy Spirit, that I might know the thoughts of God toward the world around me. For Your glory I pray. Amen.

perhaps this one is for you

The Silent Harvest - Jan. 24, 07
Francis Frangipane

A few years ago, I had a dream in which I found myself inside the mind of a dying man. The man had been in a coma for some time; his family had been praying, but they did not know whether or not he had accepted Christ.  All they were sure of is that, throughout his life, he had resisted their efforts to lead him to Christ.

In the dream, I became so acutely aware of the man's state of mind that his thoughts, feelings and struggles almost seemed my own. Although his eyes were nearly closed and his vision clouded, he could see his loved ones at his bedside. I watched as he tried to reach toward his family, but outwardly his arm never lifted.  Perceiving his thoughts, I heard him speak their names, but no sound whispered through his lips. A loved one holding his hand asked, "If you hear me, squeeze." He heard and pressed his fingers against hers, but no movement was seen; his hand clearly remained limp. He was conscious, he could hear their prayers, he felt the warmth of their kisses on his face, but was perfectly incapable of responding.

The pride and isolation that had, throughout his life, stood guard over his heart were gone. A physical catastrophe had overtaken him. Death approached, and he knew he was unprepared for eternity. Submerged beneath his placid exterior, a war had raged for his soul, which the Lord won. Subdued by the relentlessness of God’s love, he was finally at peace.  It was during his time in the hospital that he had silently prayed and accepted Christ as his Savior. I was watching his last effort to tell them as life ebbed out of his body.

Suddenly, monitoring alarms ripped through the muffled silence of the room. His heart beat one last time and I found myself looking down at the body of a man who had just died. The room was buzzing with nurses, while his family huddled in a corner, grieving. The idea of their loved one dying without receiving Christ was more devastating than the reality of death itself.  I stirred and then woke. Yet, just as I left the dream, the Lord spoke to my heart,

"Tell them he’s with Me."

God is Good
Although some time has passed since I first had this dream, I am increasingly aware that many of God’s people carry a deep abiding heartache concerning the death of an unsaved loved one. Obviously, this dream does not apply to all, but there are some for whom this experience is divinely directed. Thus, I submit this to you in a general sense, because the Holy Spirit has assured me He will bear witness to your heart.

I have also felt an urgency to pass this dream to you.  I am convinced that the Lord has an important work for you.  However, the enemy has used this unresolved loss to sow doubt into your soul.  Not only are you troubled about your deceased loved one, but you have doubts about God’s love as well as the power of prayer.  As a result, your confidence in God has diminished. Yet, it is precisely at this time that you need to stand without doubt for other members of your family.

Beloved, though there are many questions about the mysteries of life, we must not let the unknown obscure the face of the known.  God is good.  We know God loves us because He sent His Son to die for our sins.  Indeed, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  When we look at Christ, we see God, and we know that God cares and He is good.

Additionally, some of us have lost loved ones in sudden tragedies, where they seemingly had no time to repent or turn to God.  Let me remind you of those who have faced near-death experiences and tell of seeing their “life flash before [their] eyes.” They say that the progressive movement of time almost stopped.  I believe that, even in what seemed like a “sudden” death, time itself slowed to a crawl.  There apparently was enough time in this altered state to see and ponder one’s life - and to make a decision or even call upon the name of the Lord.

In spite of what we do not know about the mysteries of life, one thing remains eternally true: God is our loving Father.  He does not desire that any man perish and He will fight to save us, even to the moment of our death.  Let us, therefore, cast our burdens upon the Lord, for He genuinely cares for us.  And let us again run with endurance the race set before us, for He has promised, “the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the . . . shadow of death, upon them a light dawned” (Matt. 4:16).

Lord Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins.  Lord, there are many issues I do not know, but I do know that You are good.  Those things I do not understand, I give to You.  I trust You with my life and I put in Your hands the care of those I love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Heart Without Guile

here is an exodus for our human souls, where we leave our bondage to self-deception and truly enter the reality of a Christlike life.  In our exodus, as in Israel’s, self-deception must be exposed and sin must die in the wilderness. Only then are we truly qualified to possess our inheritance.  During this process, we will wrestle with God.  In truth, only those whom God transforms can possess what God has promised.

Every follower of Christ needs to conquer self-deception.  Self-deception protects all our other sins from repentance.  Indeed, how can we "ascend into the hill of the Lord" if we have "lifted up [our] soul to falsehood" or "sworn deceitfully" (Ps. 24:3-4)?

One might argue, "But I know the truth."

Knowing doctrinal truth of what Christ accomplished is absolutely essential, but for us to experience personal transformation, we must possess truth about ourselves.  How shall we change what we cannot see?  This process is not as simple as it seems. For "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jer. 17:9 NKJV).  We have internal mechanisms that automatically justify our failures and excuse our wrong behavior.  We can see self-deception plainly in others, but are often blind to the deceitfulness of our own hearts.

If I can speak candidly, most people live in strongholds of self-deception. Thus, to be free from deception is a remarkable achievement.  It does not mean we have become perfect, but that we have become capable of seeing where we are imperfect.  It means we can now embrace the process of change.

An Israelite Indeed
A heart free from deceit, beloved, attracts the gaze of God.  It means we are serious concerning our transformation.  Consider Jesus’ words about Nathaniel: "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47). Guile means, "craftiness, deceitful manipulation." In one brief statement our Master described a true Israelite as one in whom there was no guile.

If you are going to become a follower of Jesus Christ, a true Israelite, you will not only learn truths about God, you will discover the truth about yourself.  God will confront you. You may desire only that God would bless you, but instead, you find God poised to fight you.  It is this confrontation, this discipline from God, that validates us as His children (see Heb. 12:5-8).

Perhaps the most obvious example of this divine confrontation is seen in the life of Jacob.  Jacob was a deceiver. His name actually meant supplanter. And, as his name was, so was he. Jacob deceived his brother Esau, trading a bowl of pottage for Esau’s birthright. Jacob also lied to his father, Isaac, in order to defraud Esau of Isaac’s blessing (See Gen. 27:36).

Yet, Jacob was also greatly loved by God; he was called to a singular place of historic significance.  God had visited Jacob in visions, He renewed covenants with him and gave Jacob promises. In modern terminology, Jacob had been "born-again" for nearly thirty years.  He knew the Lord and believed in Him, yet Jacob remained detached from God concerning his sin.

After Jacob deceived Esau and Isaac, he fled to his uncle Laban.  Yet, Laban was a deceiver as well, and ten times over the next twenty years Laban sought to defraud Jacob (see Gen. 31:7).  As distressing as this relationship became, it was part of the dealings of God.  For as Jacob had deceived others, so Laban was dishonest toward him, just as Jesus later taught: "by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matt. 7:2). God was making Jacob hate deception.

Finally, just as the Lord promised, the time arrived for Jacob to return to his childhood home. Yet, to do so meant Jacob would have to face Esau, whom he had defrauded twice and who intended to kill Jacob. Still, God was orchestrating the events of Jacob’s life.  By divine providence, Esau and 400 armed men with him were approaching the route Jacob was traveling home.

 There is a time when our fears serve the purposes of God, and Jacob was greatly afraid. Indeed, the Lord used Jacob’s fear not only to deal with Jacob’s sin, but to deal with His servant’s nature.  God had given Jacob the promise of prosperity, life and family, but the way to that destiny meant passing through the very thing that threatened it the most: Esau.

As Jacob drew closer to his home, he sent hundreds of livestock ahead to Esau as gifts.  He then brought his encampment to rest, while Jacob remained alone. In this most fearful night, God Himself appeared to Jacob.  But in what manner does the Lord appear? Is He gently cradling Jacob?  Is He reassuring him of His promises? No! The Lord confronts Jacob and wrestles with him.

In this meeting with God two things ultimately happened: the Lord blessed Jacob and then renamed this former deceiver "Israel," Prince of God.   The Angel of the Lord then struck Jacob and dislocated his thigh so that, for the rest of Jacob’s life, he walked with a limp.  Yes, Jacob was blessed, but he was also broken.  Every time Jacob was tempted to rely upon deceit, his limp would remind him that his strength was not in manipulation, but in the Lord.  This is the nature of Israel.

Two Natures
Many of us today are in the exact place Jacob was: we want reassurance and peace.  Yet God is requiring instead that we deal honestly and humbly concerning the areas we were wrong or hurtful in the past.  Many of us think we are wrestling with the devil, but perhaps the One striving with us is God!

You see, two natures exist in us: an old "Jacob" nature and a new nature, blessed and called "Israel" by God.  Just as the oak tree grows in the grave of the acorn, so as we die to self, that which is new rises within us.

Jacob named the place where he wrestled with the Angel, "Peniel," which means "face of God." He said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved" (Gen. 32:30).  The fight had ended. The sun arose and Jacob lifted his eyes.  There on the horizon, standing with his armed men, was Jacob’s greatest fear: Esau.  Jacob sent his servants, maids and wives ahead, each bowing low to the ground before Esau.  Finally, Jacob himself went forward, bowing low to the ground, rising and bowing again seven times before Esau.  As he knelt in repentance before Esau, he called his brother "lord."  Amazingly, Esau ran to Jacob and, for perhaps the first time in their lives, they embraced and wept together (Gen. 33:3-4).

A New Creation
Why didn’t Esau kill Jacob?  Because God already had.  In the twenty years of trials with Laban, in the night wrestling with the Lord, Jacob had died to himself.  The person Esau met was not Jacob, but Israel.  The deceiver was dead - at least, crippled.  When we truly trust God, we do not need self-deception or manipulation to protect us.  Such is the nature of the true Israel.

Beloved, as we reach for our destiny, we may discover that the door to our future lies in our past.  Perhaps there are people we have defrauded or hurt.  It may be a child with whom you were repeatedly impatient or a spouse toward whom you’ve been harsh.  There might be a church where you caused strife and division.  While we should not dig up issues that are truly buried, let us ask the Lord to search us and see if there be any hurtful way within us (Ps. 139: 23-24).

Esau forgave Jacob.  Jacob’s response was profound: "I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably" (Gen. 33:10). In Esau’s acceptance, Jacob sees the very face of God.

Yes, we seek encounters with God, yet there is a time when God will hide behind the face of those we’ve hurt. A time may come when the Lord will resist us until He can reconcile us to our past.

Jesus called Nathaniel "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."  All of us begin our journey to God with self-deception in our hearts.  If we will truly become the Israel of God - those who have wrestled with God and prevailed - we must become Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile.
 

A Heart Without Idols
Francis Frangipane

When we first come to Jesus, He accepts us just as we are: problems, sins, and all. As our needs are met, however, we gradually discover that God is seeking something from our lives. What He seeks is our worship. But true worship is the consequence, the result, of seeing God as He is. It springs naturally from a soul purified by love; it rises like incense from a heart without idols.

The God Whose Name Is Jealous
Christ does not personally destroy the idols of sin and self within us. Rather, He points to them and tells us to destroy them. This message is about repentance. If you withdraw from the sound of that word, it is because you need a fresh cleansing of your soul. In fact, we are talking about a type of repentance that is uncommon to those who only seek forgiveness but not change. We are speaking of deep repentance - a vigilant, contrite attitude that refuses to allow sin or self to become an idol in our hearts.

In Exodus we see Christ's view of idols. He warns,
"Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, lest it become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim - for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:12–14).

There are many aspects to the nature of Christ. He is the Good Shepherd, our Deliverer, and our Healer. We perceive God through the filter of our need of Him. And thus He has ordained, for He Himself is our one answer to a thousand needs.

But how does Jesus see us? Looking through His eyes, the church is His bride: bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:22–32). He has not saved us so we can live for ourselves again; He has saved us for Himself (Col. 1:16). True salvation is a betrothal. He purifies us for our marriage. From His perspective, our independent ways are idolatrous. They kindle the fires of His jealousy.

An idol is not an occasional sin; it is something that rules us and makes us its slave. For some, fear is an idol; for others it is lust; for still others it is rebellion or pride. Whatever challenges Jesus' right to our hearts becomes His enemy, which He will confront. Because of His jealousy toward us as His bride, in regard to these false gods, the Lord demands we destroy these idols ourselves.

From the above Scriptures we see that Jesus does not want us to "carefully" take down that hidden altar of sin so we will not break it; rather He commands that we "TEAR DOWN" what is offensive. He is not politely asking us to dismantle, bolt-by-bolt, our pillars of pride; instead, He demands that we "SMASH" them to pieces. When He shows us an inner idol, we must demolish it completely. We cannot secretly harbor the slightest intention of ever using that idol again. It must be destroyed.

You may feel you are not worshiping any idols. You do not stand, morning by morning, before a statue of Baal and praise it as your god. Indeed, we do not worship the idols of the ancient heathen. Like everything in our modern world, man has sophisticated idolatry as well. Paul talks of the antichrist who will appear in the last days as that one "who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2 Thess. 2:4).

Where is the temple of God on earth - is it a building? Perhaps, but in no other place in Paul's teaching does he refer to the temple of God as anything other than the church. Yet, even if Paul is referring to a man seated as a god in Jerusalem, somewhere in that man's life he had to first think of himself as "being God."

Let us perceive the antichrist as did the apostle John, who saw it not only as one who was coming, but also as a spiritual enemy that sought to infiltrate and then replace true Christianity (1 John 2:18; 4:3). The antichrist spirit is a religious spirit; it is manifested in that thinking which refuses to be taught and corrected by Christ or anyone else. The spirit of antichrist is resident in much of the church today, opposing the move of God, displaying itself as being God.

Simply put, the spirit of antichrist is that spirit which exalts self as deity.  You see, the spirit of antichrist is much more subtle than someone suddenly announcing to the world he is the Creator.  Again, our world is far too sophisticated for that. For us today, we must look for the influence of antichrist in our religious traditions: are those traditions founded upon Scripture or upon man? And then, beyond our traditions, in the immediacy of our own hearts, we must discern the disposition of the antichrist spirit in the thought structure of our flesh nature. Is there something in your soul which opposes and exalts itself above God, taking its seat in the human temple of God, displaying itself as being God? The resistance in you against God is an idol. It is the most powerful idol in the human heart.

But the false god of self-rule does not stand alone in man. The ancient god Mercury would be hard pressed to keep pace with today's gods of Anxiety and Haste. The world has taken its bloodlust out of the ancient Roman arenas and put it into violent movies. They have taken the goddesses of fertility from the Greek hillsides only to idolize sex in our theaters and televisions. What mankind has done is move the pagan temples from the high places of the countryside to the hidden places of the human heart.

If we exalt money, status, or sex above the Word of God, we are living in idolatry. Every time we inwardly submit to the strongholds of fear, bitterness, and pride, we are bowing to the rulers of darkness. Each of these idols must be smashed, splintered, and obliterated from the landscape of our hearts.

"I Am a Jealous God"
"You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God!" (Ex. 34:14) The Lord did not say He was, at times, jealous; He said His Name, which reveals His nature, is Jealous. Right next to His Name "I AM" is His Name "JEALOUS." His love is not some ethereal principle of "higher cosmic consciousness." His love is focused upon us, actually jealous for us as individuals. He "calls his own sheep by name" (John 10:3). Jesus knows your name. He loves you personally. The fact that Christ is jealous for us as individuals, caring and providing for each aspect of our lives, and that He suffered humiliation and death on the cross to pay for our sins, demonstrates how great a love it is with which He loves us. He gave all. He deserves all.

His jealousy for us is perfect. It is not the same as human jealousy: petty, possessive, and insecure. He is not sitting in heaven wringing His hands, wondering what we really think of Him. His jealousy is based upon His pure love for us and His desire to bless us and fulfill our lives in Him. He understands us, yet knowing our weaknesses, He still "jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us" (James 4:5). His promise to us is faithful: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5 KJV). He refuses to stop loving us. You may think of yourself as a sinner, as unlovable - as though no one wants you, but Jesus desires you.

Early in my ministry, upon occasion I gave up on certain individuals, people who seemed to me hopelessly unreceptive to God. As the years passed, I would later discover these same individuals were now walking with God. Jesus is faithful. He loves you with a love that is jealous for you as a person.

God knows, however, that in order for you to experience His love, the idols of self and sin must be destroyed. And to prove our intentions and love for Him, He tells us to smash these idols. Would you be holy? Then remove the idols of self and sin from within you. For holiness exists in a soul purified by love; it exudes like incense from a heart without idols.

When the Unclean Becomes Clean
Francis Frangipane

There are unfathomable mysteries concerning the Messiah's entrance into our world, realities that are beyond our powers of comprehension - His divine conception, the manifestation of the angelic hosts, the miraculous star that led the wise men, etc. Yet, one reality strikes me as most profound: of all places where the Son of God might have been born, His birth came in a stable.

With myriads of angels at the Almighty's command, we might assume the world's Creator would have orchestrated better accommodations - a rich man's home, perhaps - for the birth of Christ. Indeed, Christ was associated with a rich man in His death (Isa. 53:9). Yet the staging of His birthplace was a prophetic portrait, a symbol that would represent the nature of His entire life. Thus, when I contemplate the unwritten message of Christ's birthplace, I am comforted: He who was born in the uncleanness of a stable, is not offended to be born within me.

The Union of the Clean with the Unclean
As a backdrop to the issue of Christ's birthplace, consider: the Old Testament had a multitude of laws concerning cleanliness. The Holy Spirit makes over 250 references to clean and unclean things. In all cases the principle is the same: when something (or someone) clean is touched by something unclean, that which was clean becomes unclean. The fact is, cleanliness was directly associated with the holiness of God in scores of verses in the book of Leviticus.

Certain health conditions could render a person unclean, such as skin diseases, boils or menstruation. When one was unclean, they were required to stay away from their community until their condition changed and their restored health was verified by a priest.

Lepers and others with contagious skin diseases were not only unclean but were required to ring a bell while calling in a loud voice, "Unclean, unclean!" warning those who approached of their condition (Lev. 13:45). However, when Christ comes to lepers, He doesn't back away, rather He touches and heals them - and they become clean!

Beloved, with the Messiah, the entire principle of clean and unclean is reversed! He who is clean does not become unclean by touching us, we become clean! Just as the Lord affirmed to Peter: "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy" (Acts 10:15).

Many people do not accept Christ simply because they are too aware of their inner uncleanness. Yet once we accept Christ, the indwelling of Christ not only washes us, but His presence makes us holy. Do you see? We are holy because He is holy. We are clean because His blood and His word cleanse us. We can never become clean until Christ comes to dwell in our spirits.

This season, regardless of the uncleanness you feel inwardly, open your heart to Christ. Let the Redeemer enter. He who emerged in our world in a stable will not be offended at your need. Let His cleanness cleanse and heal that which is unclean within you.

An Unguarded Heart
Francis Frangipane

I know a few will regard my following remarks as coming from "the deep end." Still others will take what I'm presenting and exaggerate it beyond its legitimate boundaries. But I want to focus on one reason why some leaders have serious moral failures. I want to offer an insight into how all of us, as Christians, can protect ourselves from a similar fate.

The idea that a leader whom we've known and loved should suddenly be exposed in a devastating scandal seems incomprehensible. Certainly these who have taught others, could have taught themselves? What is it, then, that can worm into an individual's thought-life, burrow into his heart and then become so compelling that a leader is willing to risk everything he's loved and attained for a mere fulfillment of the flesh? Is it just sin?

We would think that, certainly, with help from the Holy Spirit, leaders ought to able to resist temptation. Indeed, if spiritual leaders cannot stand against the flesh, then what hope is there for the larger church? Yet, I believe the problem is not just sin nor even a lack of basic spirituality. For some, I believe the answer lies in a lack of discernment. Their heart was unguarded and their vulnerability was exploited by hell.

An Unparalleled Warfare
Please note that I am not blaming the devil for every sin we commit. The fact is, selfishness and self-indulgence, which produce sin, are basic instincts of our fallen nature. At the same time, let us also discern the unique warfare of our times. Our world has been flooded with hyper-sexuality. The "Red Light district" of the city has moved into our homes via the Internet, movies and television.

We think that what goes on in our minds stays in the mind, as though there were a privacy law protecting our thought-life. But an unguarded mind that willfully harbors darkness will have spiritual predators probing and cultivating our moral weaknesses. Indeed, through modern technology, an alternate reality, a fantasy world, has been created. It is this virtual reality within us that causes movies to be so absorbing, games so addicting and books so personally inspirational. However, when this fantasy realm descends into darkness and the soul is unprotected, demons build sexual strongholds in the human soul.

Listen well, what entertains us, actually enters us. If you are entertained by porn or sexual fantasy, you are opening a doorway in your soul to hell. You must confront this battle honestly, repent of sin and set a guard over your heart. If you don't, your battle will advance from yielding to temptation, to serious, hidden sexual bondage, to secret attempts to openly fulfill your heightened passions.

People of Destiny, Take Heed
Jesus reveals that a major source of this hellish, sexual manipulation is the Jezebel spirit (Rev. 2:20). The rampant immorality we see manifested in Western culture underscores the increasing influence of this ruler of darkness. Indeed, compare our world today with cultural standards of just fifty years ago and it's easy to see Western civilization is under siege. Too many Christians have their defenses down, and many otherwise good people have slipped into bondage.

Yet, Jezebel's arsenal includes more than lust; there is also witchcraft, which attacks and works to disarm the conscience. Remember Jehu's words? "What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" (2 Kings 9:22)

We are fighting the "harlotries" and "witchcrafts" of Jezebel. Those who have been defeated by this spirit feel as though they were drugged by their own passions. They did things that were flagrantly stupid, almost daring God (or the devil) to expose them. I am talking about the war against church leaders. How many more must fall before we realize the need for repentance and discernment?

The Subtle Attack
The Jezebel spirit is a "man whisperer." Its approach is usually not bold, but enticing, seducing. The spirit stimulates human flesh, training men and women to respond to increasingly degrading temptations. This power, which comes to disarm and wear away at one's conscience, is witchcraft.

One may argue, "My battle is just sin, not warfare." Perhaps, but for others it is a spiritual attack on an unguarded heart. It's attack is aimed at Christians in general, but more specifically against leaders and those called to important roles in God's kingdom.

There are times when I think the world has greater discernment than the church. Listen to the words of the old, Frank Sinatra song, "Witchcraft."

Those fingers in my hair
That sly come-hither stare
That strips my conscience bare
It's witchcraft

And I've got no defense for it
The heat is too intense for it
What good would common sense for it do?

'cause it's witchcraft, wicked witchcraft
And although I know it's strictly taboo
When you arouse the need in me
My heart says "Yes, indeed" in me
"Proceed with what you're leading me to"

The author of the song did, in truth, know something about witchcraft. He writes it "strips my conscience bare." He says, "I've got no defense for it/The heat is too intense for it/What good would common sense for it do?" And then, "When you arouse the need in me/My heart says, ‘Yes, indeed' in me/‘Proceed with what you're leading me to.'"

Set A Guard
The world has "no defense for it," but for those in the kingdom of God, "the weapons of our warfare are . . . divinely powerful" (2 Cor. 10:4). Our weapons and defenses are mighty, but we must use them.

First, the Scriptures command us, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Prov. 4:23 NIV). A guard is one armed and trained to recognize an enemy and turn away an attack. We are in war and must stay militant in attitude throughout our lives. We cannot be casual with sin or temptation. When you use the Internet, use a filtering software program as a guard. Be accountable. Don't feed your fleshly nature by watching movies whose scenes feed your sexual appetites. These kind of addictions only go from bad to worse (Rom. 1:24-28).

If you are currently in bondage to sin, as powerful as the sin seems, the enemy will also work to isolate your battle from others. The efforts we spend hiding sin are the very tools Satan uses to entrap us in it. So, talk to someone. (See Eph. 5:11-13). If you have a history of sin, then begin a process of cleansing, of washing your "robes . . . in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14). Confess your sins item by item to God.

Now would be a good time to build yourself up with In Christ's Image Training or a similar program offered by other ministries. Get back in the Word, for the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Use the authority of God's word to defend your heart against spiritual attacks.

The most important thing you can do is to return full-hearted to God. The Lord promises, "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name" (Ps. 91:14). Beloved, it is time to set a guard over your heart.

Lord God, this day I humble myself before Your throne. You see my heart and the battle I have faced. I ask that You restore me, make me wiser. Let not my enemy triumph over me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and grant me the grace to walk with a pure heart, a guarded heart, before You. In Jesus' name. Amen.
 

Releasing God's Presence in Our Lives
Victoria Boyson

Our love for each other is the eye glasses we use to help us see God better. Loving His creation enables us to feel His presence to a greater extent.

"No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12).

Love is the flashlight by which we see and feel God. "The one who loves his brother abides in the Light..." (1John 2:10). We can see or feel God in even the simplest things on this earth if we have His love in our hearts.  If we love one another, we can see God.

If we want to experience more of God's presence in our lives, then we need only to love one another. This is very simple for as we do unto the least of these we see God. Enjoying each other will lead us to enjoying more of God. One act of kindness can produce more of God's presence in our lives than a whole year of Bible studies. One smile to a child can mean more to God than a week's worth of fasting.

"Is this not the fast which I chose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh [and blood]?" (Isaiah 58: 6-7).

Ministry Starts at Home
Many years ago I read the book "In His Steps" by Charles M. Sheldon. In this book, many people turned away from their own ideas and plans for their lives and began doing great things for God. They turned their attentions away from themselves and turned to the needs of others. It gave me a desire to seek the Lord and ask Him what great and wonderful work I could do for Him. I thought to myself, "Does God want me to sell all that I own and go to Africa to suffer for the sake of the Gospel? Did He wish me to start an orphanage in the heart of New York City?" What could it be?

What He told me shocked me more than anything He could have said. He said, "Minister to your family." What a shock to me. The greatest thing I could or ever would do for God was to love my own children. What He was saying was that, my love for my own family was foundational. How I served them each day without notice or praise was preparation for a farther-reaching ministry. It was what God used to draw me close to Him, much like David who "ministered" to the sheep in the field, all the while becoming a king.

I could start the greatest revival the world has ever known, lead millions of people to Christ and set people free though anointed preaching, yet all would be a loss if I could not first minister to those blessed five who live under my roof. 

Sometimes we get so "spiritual" that we forget to enjoy life and the people in our lives. My mission field wasn't in Africa or New York City. But first and foremost, my mission was right in my own living room watching Sesame Street. If I fail in loving them, how could God trust me to love anyone else?

Looking for Love
"Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you, the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard" (Isaiah 58:8).

When we graduate from the school of loving our own, God will trust us with more. In any ministry, love must be our motivation. Without love we cannot see, for we are in darkness (1John 2:9). With the light of love in our hearts we can see, for we are walking in His light and our hearts are open to see the destiny of God in others. As we begin to raise up one another and care for the needs of others, we will see the righteousness of God shine forth in our own lives.

Because of love, the very presence of Almighty God will be our rear guard. Where we go He will go; the Glory of God will follow us around. When we set others free, we will be set free from the yoke of our own oppression. The Lord has linked us together in a chain of love. He reacts to our needs when we act in love towards one another. He answers us when we answer the cries of others. What a wonderful God we serve.

"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say, 'Here am I'" (Isaiah 58:9).

God has bound Himself to love. This is His way of playing hide and seek with us. We can search and search for Him and then, in a moment, when we submit ourselves to loving His people, He says,  "Here I am." If you want to find God, then LOVE!

God will be found by those who walk in love. He reveals Himself to those who love, appreciate and enjoy each other. If you want to find God, hug a child or love your neighbor. If you want the power of God to follow you around, take cookies to a friend. If you have a need, give away something you have. 

Ambassadors of Love
"By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9).

God sent Jesus to us to show us what true love looks like. His idea was that He would send His Son to show us how to love and then we would all model after Him. The Father then intends that, just as Christ was God's ambassador of His love, we would be Christ's ambassadors of that same awesome love to those around us.

"Love that is patient, love that is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

This might sound like a lot to consume, but God does not expect us to eat a sandwich without first taking a bite, meaning we simply do what we can, performing the simple acts of kindness even when we don't feel like it. Before we know it, our love has grown and we are fulfilling our call - we are walking in love!  When we are His ambassadors of love, we feel His Presence stronger in our lives.

Maturing Love
Offense comes to try to tear up the groundwork love has laid in our lives, but this is only an opportunity to have more of His Presence in our lives. When we love, even when we have been wronged, God releases a stronger dose of His Presence. He honors us and frees us. Offense seeks to bind us up and keep our love from flowing. But when we free ourselves from the chains of offense and love in spite of wrongs done, God's love flows freely through us.

It is at these times when our loves grows by leaps and bounds - our love is maturing. It is inevitable that we go through the valley of offense from time to time, but every time we do, our love grows deeper and we walk closer to our Father. He is, after all, love (1 John 4:16).

The Lord promises us that He will hear us and hear our cry if we will simply act out of love for one another. We are bound to each other by love, and He is bound to us by our love for each other.

Allow the Lord to change your mind about those in your life whom you have judged.  We may not agree with everything they do, but we still have to love them and treat them with respect. The very people we judge with harshness or disregard could be the ones we are assigned to raise up and show the awesome love of Jesus Christ.

Pray this with me:
Father, help me to be Your ambassador of love. Show me how to express love to others. Help me to forgive offenses done to me. Use my love to open the door for others to know You more.
 

The Harvest is Plentiful

Francis Frangipane
It is amazing how Jesus stayed riveted upon His life's goals. We never read of Jesus being distracted by the turbulent conditions of the world around Him. Indeed, reaching and saving the lost was always the vivid center of His focus.

I think some of us imagine life in first century Israel was considerably more serene than conditions in our world. In some respects, the times may have been simpler, yet the world of the Messiah was anything but calm. Israel, you'll remember, was an occupied territory. Nationalistic Jews, known as Zealots, were continually either plotting, stirring or launching insurrections against Rome. Israel was, in fact, a brutal and fearful place and violence always simmered beneath the surface.

In addition to the societal upheaval caused by the Zealots, most of Israel's religious leaders were proud, self-satisfied people who had "seated themselves in the chair of Moses" (Matthew 23:2). Under the pretext of "defending the faith," they twisted Christ's doctrine and slandered His character. Christ's ministry was constantly being undermined by their malicious lies.

Thus, the ministry of Jesus Christ emerged in a world made turbulent by fierce, nationalistic zeal and false religious priorities. Political needs were urgent, yet Jesus did not become a politician (John 6:15). Jewish, nationalistic fervor was uncompromising, yet Jesus mustered no militia (John 18:36). Injustice was rampant, however Jesus refused to settle earthly disputes (Luke 12:13-14). Instead, He treated these major needs of His times as though they were incidental issues. He focused on one thing: loving the lost.

Looking past the conflicts, issues and horrors of His times, Jesus directed His disciples to fix their eyes upon the most important issue. He said, "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest" (John 4:35).

A disciple of Christ must forever look beyond the urgent need of one's times in order to stay focused on the greatest priority: winning the lost. Beloved, let us look steadfastly into the heart of God, for His heart is ablaze for the lost. As disciples, we must "lift up [our] eyes" beyond the fears and sideshows of life and see what God is looking at: "the fields . . . are white for harvest."
Balance and Focus
If you know me, you know I passionately believe we need to elect godly politicians; we need righteous judges in our land. I believe we need Christians in government - in all places of leadership, really. I am fighting for the rule and influence of God to infiltrate our national leaders. Yet, my primary vision is to attain Christlikeness - and nothing so embodies the nature of Jesus than His quest to redeem the lost.

So, while I encourage men and women to run for office, it is not merely a political move, it is evangelistic: God desires to model in them Christlike leadership, that through them souls might be rescued! Even as we fight and pray on behalf of the unborn and children, I am ever mindful that the greatest weapon I have is to convert the opposition. You see, transformed hearts transform laws. I am after the heart of Christ, and He is after the salvation of man.

The goal is souls, and our weapon is Christ's desire to save and transform sinners.

Jesus said the harvest was not only plentiful, it was ripe. A number of people who were outwardly avowed enemies of God are, even now, inwardly being invaded by grace. My wife recently read a book by Anne Rice called Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt. Previous books by Rice were mainly demonic ventures about vampires and witches. They reeked of darkness. Yet someone was praying for Anne Rice. As a result, irresistible grace began to undermine her arguments against God. Her testimony, which she presents at the back of Out of Egypt, reveals her personal exodus from darkness to behold the glory of God in Christ.

With God, not only are all things possible, but no one is impossible.

So, Jesus said that, in spite of the wars and persecution of His times, the harvest would be massive. Let us ask ourselves, Are we looking at the conflicts of our times or have we heard Christ and lifted our eyes to see the harvest? Indeed, the very best thing we can actually do in light of worldwide conflict is for each of us to win our neighbors to Christ.

Beloved, in spite of the apparent darkness of our world, the times are always right to reach the lost. True, "one sows while another reaps" (John 4:37). Our role may be prayer, not evangelism. But let us be faithful, then, in prayer. For no one is saved who was not first lifted to God in prayer.

How to Pray
In a world rattled by distractions, Jesus gave a succinct focus in prayer. He said,

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2).

God has already raised up people in businesses, in government, in neighborhoods, in every nation and subculture on earth who are "laborers" in His harvest. If God has raised up a laborer, it is because He has a harvest in that area. However, because the laborers are few, they tend to be overwhelmed and hesitant. "Therefore," Jesus says, "beseech the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers."

There is a power that comes from God, that is released uniquely from prayer, which activates the "send" signal in God's laborers. Thus, we are commanded: "beseech the Lord of the harvest." As we pray, the appointments of God begin to take place, laborers receive supernatural opportunities, and the harvest takes on divine dimensions.

Most of us look at the news and see conflicts, catastrophes and chaos in our world. We are like "deer in the headlines." Let us, even in these times of terrors and wars, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send forth His anointed and powerful laborers! Let them be sent into the Muslim world; let them serve the state of Israel and sit as judges in supreme courts of earth. Let us pray for laborers to walk the hospitals and gather souls in the great byways of life.

When I discuss the great vision of becoming Christlike, at some point that vision must become functional within us. The more we become Christlike, the greater we will be compelled by God for the lost. Let us not lose sight that, even in our world and in these turbulent times, the harvest is still plentiful.
 

Into a Place of Abundance
Francis Frangipane

 I read recently of a fast, totally electric sports car which is being tested right now in California. The same magazine reported that researchers were testing new drugs and therapies that might cure cancers. A few pages later I also noticed a large software company had released a new "beta" version of its popular product ("beta" means it was still being tested, although it is released on a limited scale).

What do all these various enterprises have in common? Before each product was released to the general public, it had to be repeatedly tested for effectiveness and functionality. Did it do what they projected it to do? Before manufacturers spend a fortune in promotion, they need to know if their product will work outside the lab. So they test it under stressed conditions. Once it passes the tests, then it is released.

A New Creation
God has an idea, a product, in mind for us. He desires to reveal a new species of man, a new creation. At the center of this new man is a Christlike heart. This new man also comes with a heavenly mind and spirit. Even though this new human outwardly looks like the old version of man, yet spiritually its inner mechanisms are entirely different. Yet, the process of releasing the new man to greater authority, require levels of testing. The more tests we pass, the greater God releases us to the general public.

Right now, I would say that most Christians are in the "beta" stage: they are released to a limited group for testing. God desires to see how well what He has created in us works outside of church (the "lab"). These small test groups may consist of co-workers, one's neighborhood or even one's family. But during this time of "limited release" you will go through various tests before being released to the larger, general public.

It is also important to note that when God tests us, He does not descend into our thought-life with a loud public announcement, warning, "This is a test, this is only a test." A true test examines what we are under stress and in real life conditions; it appears in our lives without forewarning that a test is coming. You see, God isn't testing how well we can outwardly look "Christian," He is examining the quality of what we actually are. Even more than possessing right answers, He desires we possess right attitudes and responses. He wants to know if we can function under adverse conditions, spiritual warfare and stress.

Consider Job
Let us underscore this truth about God: He will test the quality of His work in us. Remember the Lord's conversation with Satan? God asked, "Have you considered My servant Job?" The Lord described Job as being unique in all the earth: "a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil" (Job 1:8).

The implication in that question, "have you considered . . . Job," is that God had worked some deep things in his servant and now it was time for this inner transformation to be tested.

Let us also note that Satan had "considered" Job. He had a dossier on him filled with information. When Satan sought to attack Job, the devil couldn't get near him. God had placed "a hedge about [Job] and his house and all that he has, on every side." Probably for many years Satan had examined Job, but couldn't touch him because of the impenetrable protection Job and his family enjoyed. For all the devil tried to do to stop it, God had "blessed the work of [Job's] hands, and his possessions have increased in the land" (vs 10).

Yes, Satan had "considered" Job. We too would do well to consider the story of Job and the revelation it provides us concerning our tests and their outcome.


If we walk with God in integrity and intercession, as did Job, we can trust that the normal status of our lives will be completely protected and hedged "on every side."
The second thing we should recognize is that, if we do come under severe spiritual attack, it is because God is testing the quality of His work in us. He knows the capacity to overcome is within us, otherwise He would not have allowed the enemy access to us.
The third thing to note is that, while tests in the world are usually accomplished in labs or controlled environments, God's tests come in the real world. Thus, we might not realize that what we are going through is a "test," for the test will be a real life experience.
The test often comes just before we are released into a "double portion," which is what happened to Job.
We probably won't know what the test is about until much later. Job's test was not whether he would "rejoice always" or maintain his good works; nor was he made vulnerable because of fear or unbelief, as some think. The great test in Job's life was whether or not he would curse God. For all he went through, Job passed his test. The Outcome is Greater Than We can Imagine
God took Job, a righteous man of great influence in his culture, and brought him through a terrible test. One might say the costs of Job's test outweighed his reward, even though Job did receive a double portion. Yes, Job's wealth and influence increased greatly, but that was not the end of the story: God has since used the life of Job as an example for billions of people. Before the test, Job's range of influence touched his culture; afterward, Job's integrity has inspired nations throughout the epochs of time.

Likewise, the Lord tested Joseph, Moses and David; He tested Israel in the wilderness. Jesus Himself endured many tests, not the least of which was His time in the desert.

Let us understand, if we want to advance spiritually, God will lead us through fiery ordeals which test us, yet bring us out to a greater place. Some of us are in "beta,' being tested in limited small groups; others have gone through significant battles recently, but God is about to bring them into a double portion.

For us who are followers of Christ and whose goal is conformity to Him, God gives us one answer to every test we experience: become like Jesus in the test. When the devil realizes what he is using to destroy you is actually being used by God to perfect you, Satan will withdraw his attack.

"For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance" (Psalm 66:10-12).

The test is the door to abundance.

The Mission Statement of Heaven
Francis Frangipane

All major companies have a vision or mission statement. A mission statement defines the primary purpose and direction of a corporation, what services or products it provides and who would likely be interested in their organization. Likewise, when Jesus began His ministry, He issued a sort of "mission statement" that explained the nature of His Father's business. He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19).

Liberating the human heart from oppression and spiritual incarceration is the mission statement of the Son of God. When Jesus declared He "must be about [His] Father's business," that specific business is to provide redemption of the lost and freedom to the imprisoned.

You say, "I want to serve God, but I am in bondage to sin. I am a captive of guilt, shame and condemnation." Good. You qualify. You are the type of person heaven is looking for. Even when we are enchained and trapped in our failures, held prisoners to demons too strong for us, Christ does not reject us. He does not come to condemn or punish, but to set us free.

You may be one who has never known God. Today, you find yourself trapped in addictions and fears beyond your ability to resist. Yet, according to the mission statement of heaven, you are exactly the type of person Christ came to find.

Or, you might be a pastor, knowledgeable of the Scriptures, serving in professional ministry for over 50 years, but do not love yourself. You can quote the Bible, but inwardly you are tormented by your personal short-comings. You desperately want to regain your spiritual health, but you don't know where to start, for you feel dead inside.

If you feel imprisoned inwardly, remember, Jesus Christ came to set captives free. This message is in your hands and you are reading it because Christ loves you and has come to rescue you! You may not sense it, but God's angels have been fighting a war with the devil for your soul. Indeed, Christ Himself has defeated the enemy on your behalf!

"Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?" Surely, thus says the LORD, "Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons" (Isaiah 49:24).

God desires wholeness and healing for our souls, even promising to "contend with the one who contends" with us. Our enemies may too strong for us, but they are not too strong for God. The Almighty is on our side; He will continue to fight our oppressors until we are free from the grip of hell upon our lives. Yes, the Holy Spirit corrects and disciplines us along the way, but He does so to transform our hearts and remove our vulnerability to Satan's attacks. Our rescue is at the center of God's heart.

The Desperate Find Help
Within the variety of ways God reveals Himself through Christ, remember this one truth: "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). The war is not between you and God, but between God and the devil.

In verse after verse, Jesus makes it plain that He came to heal and redeem the wreckage wrought by Satan upon humanity. Remember, Jesus said of Himself that He came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10); He assures us, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). Indeed, He says His primary mission field was not the "[self-] righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13).

It is an amazing truth: the Son of God is seeking to save the very people most Christians seek to avoid.

Those highest on God's agenda are usually those lowest in society - people in bondage to sin and its consequences. In truth, He seeks the desperate, regardless of their outward status in life. The mission statement of heaven is to find these people, deliver them from sin and fear, and then pour into them the very heart of the Savior Himself. The mission statement of heaven is to seek and to find the lost.

FIREWALK
Francis Frangipane

Jesus' walk was neither painless nor effortless, and yours will not be either. Perhaps our minds cannot envision the Son of God facing any “real problems,” such as we face. We know He calmed the sea, but we are also told He "learned obedience through the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). Yes, power surged from Him causing those who came to arrest Him to fall back (John 18:6), but He also had times He was wearied (John 4:6). He indeed promised us peace, but He too had times when He was distressed (Luke 12:49-50), angered (Mark 3:5) and troubled (John 12:27). The same beautiful feet that proclaimed the glad tidings, that walked on water, walked the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. When we consider the Son of God, we should not isolate Him from the extreme spiritual warfare He faced on many occasions, even to the point of sweating blood. We are assured that Christ never failed, but neither was He aloof from temptations. Rather, the Bible tells us that Jesus was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Remember also, Jesus faced and conquered His battles as a man; He had to pray for strength, and trust His Father for justice on the cross, even when He felt forsaken by all.

I am utterly positive the highest percentage of Jesus' life was filled with joy and peace; why else would multitudes be drawn to Him? But it is interesting that some of these very people, when questioned, thought He might be a return of "Elijah or Jeremiah," both of whom were more known as intensely passionate than compassionate (Matthew 16:13-14). And don't forget, the same hands that touched and healed the untouchables, twice fashioned a scourge and drove money changers out of the temple.

I am trying to balance our image of Christ. For if we imagine that Jesus was without temptation or that He never had inner conflicts, such thinking blinds us from seeing the reality of what we all must go through at times. We think God is failing us when, in fact, He is actually conforming us to the real Jesus. Yes, in the crucible of conflict, Jesus chose to do God's will. "Deeply grieved, to the point of death" (Matthew 26:38), He prayed the prayer of surrender: "not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42).

Dear friends, there will be times when to obey God's will we must fight our very instincts for survival. Plan on it; there will be seasons when you will hurt terribly or be deeply troubled inside, perhaps even facing severe depression, yet to fulfill God's will you cannot excuse yourself because of heartsickness. In utter defiance of your own feelings, you will have to say "Yes" to God. It is at this juncture, beloved, that true spiritual progress is being made.

Through Fire and Water
"But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, not will the flame burn you" (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Fire? Rivers? What about heaven? Yes, you are going to heaven. In fact, if you are a true Christian, you are in heaven right now only you don't know it. But, there are times when life, like a river, is over your head and you feel like you are drowning. Yet, the water from these very rivers wash away your filth. What the water does not remove, the fire purifies.

It is one thing to repent of sin; another, to be placed in life's furnace and be forced beyond yourself to trust God. In the first case, God works through our willingness to engage and submit; He deals with what we have done. In the second situation, He goes much deeper and deals with what we actually are. When He deals only with our sin, He requires we humble ourselves; when we are in the fire, He kills what we were, and then humbles our enemies.

Yes, you will pass through rivers, but the Lord promises that the waters will not overflow us! He leads us into fire, but then appears in the blaze with us, as He did with the three Hebrews (Daniel 3). When our ordeal is over, only the bonds that once enslaved us are consumed; we are unscathed.

The Holy Spirit and Fire
As Christians, we are fascinated by the Holy Spirit. He teaches, guides, gives gifts, brings forth fruit and comforts us on our journey. However, one aspect that is rarely discussed is the baptism of fire. John said that Christ would "baptize . . . with the Holy Spirit and fire"(Matthew 3:11).

Peter tells us we should not be "surprised at the fiery ordeal . . . which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus said, "Everyone will be salted with fire" (Mark 9:49).

The church in America for too long has followed Casper, the friendly ghost instead of seeking the fire of the Holy Ghost. We have turned limp at the thought of our own cross; we faint when we think of suffering or sacrifice. Beloved, it is time to embrace the fire of God's presence. It is the fire that purifies our sacrifice.

Ahead of us are days both great and terrible. Understandably, many Christians are looking to the rapture of the church. Yet, to escape God's judgment is not to escape His fire. Consider: Paul wrote that the "day" of the Lord "is to be revealed with fire." He said that "the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work"(1 Corinthians 3:13).

Yet, let us stay encouraged, for our God is a consuming fire. He is coming to baptize His church again in fire, but in the fire is the place of intimacy, of power and of deliverance. Even as the prophet Isaiah wrote:

"When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. And there will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain" (Isaiah 4:4-6).

Yes, our God is a consuming fire and our walk with Him is a firewalk.


Lord, I repent for wanting Your blessings without desiring Your fire. I ask for the fire that purifies, that burns away my old nature. I ask You to fill me with the fire of Your holiness. Make me one with You in the fire of Your passions. Amen.

Great Commission or Great Omission?
Francis Frangipane

 Jesus warned that there would be great deception in the end times. Humility, therefore, tells us that we should not presume our personal expression of Christianity is aligned perfectly with God's heart. How can we examine ourselves? We can measure the focus of our lives with the last great command of the Lord, called by Bible scholars the "Great Commission."

What is the Great Commission? These were the "marching orders" Jesus gave His apostles just before He ascended. In other words, this is what He desired His church to be focused on until He returned. He said,

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you"(Matthew 28:19-20).

In essence Jesus wants us focused on two things: He wants us to "Go" with a view of bringing the lost into His kingdom. But He also wants the church at large to become Christlike: "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." For some, however, the Great Commission has become more like a great omission, as many Christians are neither concerned about the lost nor are they reaching for Christlikeness.

Salvation is the first step in the journey toward Christlikeness. Christ's vision is for His people to grow "in all aspects" unto Him (Ephesians 4:15). Those who obey all that Jesus taught, ultimately through the Holy Spirit, possess the same life as Christ Himself. His teaching conforms us to His heart, making us redemptive in motive and, like Him, unoffendable as we seek the transformation of our nations.

So, the Great Commission gloriously begins with evangelism and conversion, but unfolds into Christlikeness as revealed in Christ's words.

As The Father Sent Me
Christ calls us to be His followers. He said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). Just as He was sent into the world to bring redemption, so He sends His disciples. Indeed, the goal of discipleship is that we become "fully trained," so that we are functioning exactly "like [our] teacher," Jesus Christ (Luke 6:40).

You see, many believe in Jesus; few are they who mature spiritually to where they actually believe like Him. Those who believe like Him have faith that tells them all things are possible. They are confident that redemption can occur, even in the darkest regions. Thus, the goal of the Great Commission is to see these kind of Christians planted in every nation, for in their spirit is the redemptive future of each culture.

Yes, Christianity can be many things to many people: a place of friendships, healing and new beginnings; but at its core, it must be a training ground where the saved are empowered to journey toward Christlikeness.

Christ's goal was the replication of Himself in His disciples and, through them, replication of His life throughout the world. This issue, therefore, of teaching His word, of using His word to shape us from the inside out, is the goal of discipleship.

For me, the Lord sat me down and for three years I didn't pastor at all. All I did was read and study the Gospels. It was this focused refining that became the substructure in everything the Lord has me doing today. God reduced me from being a professional minister to a disciple of Jesus Christ, a true follower of Jesus as He is revealed in the Gospel in word and deed.

But this training in the words of Christ is exactly what has been omitted from so many of our churches and seminaries. We make our converts more into the image of our denomination, rather than conformed to the image of Christ.

The Chief Cornerstone: Often Rejected
Jesus said, "The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone" (Luke 20:17). Beloved friend, we cannot separate what Jesus says from who Jesus is. Christ and His word are one. To the degree that we fail to teach what Jesus taught, we are actually rejecting Him as Lord.

Listen to how the Lord associates Himself with His teachings. He said, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day" (John 12:48). He warned, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory..." (Luke 9:26). He exposes our hypocrisy, saying, "Why do you call Me `Lord, Lord," and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) Christ and His word are inseparable. Jesus was not a man who became the Word, but the Eternal Word who became a man. His very nature is the Word of God. And to reject or ignore what He says is to reject or ignore who He is.

Thus, it seems to me that if we are not offering focused training on becoming Christlike, we are missing the heart of the Great Commission. Of course, this training may unfold in a variety of ways; it may not even use the word "Christlike" in its vocabulary. However, salvation of the lost leading to conformity to Christ and His teaching is the expressed goal of the Great Commission.

Therefore, pastors, regardless of your denominational or cultural history, we must possess two things: love for the lost and a vision of attaining Christlikeness! Create your own curriculum or use training already provided, but do not omit the Chief Cornerstone as you build His church. Intercessors, stand unoffendably committed to seeing genuine, Christlike disciples established in your church. Do not give up, even if it should take years to see the transformation occur.

Let us, dear friends, make sure we are fulfilling the Great Commission, not the great omission.


Becoming a Revelation of Jesus
Francis Frangipane

 "For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12).

The Bible is not merely a "how-to" book. It is not only a history book, nor a religious crystal ball or a philosophy book. At its core, the Bible is a revelation of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we will learn many things reading the Bible, truths that are historical, practical and academic; yet the core truth emanating throughout the Scriptures is the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament accounts, whether of kings or priests, were all written in anticipation of Him; the prophets encountered the Spirit of Christ and wrote of things to come as they ultimately pertained to Him (1 Peter 1:10-11).

The biblical word revelation means "to unveil" or "to uncover." When the Holy Spirit directs us in the Scriptures, His goal is not only to give us religious knowledge, but to actually, in some life-changing way, unveil Jesus Christ to us. Do we see Christ in Genesis as the ultimate fulfillment of God's purpose and promises to Abraham?

Indeed, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, who had assumed the place of "experts" in scriptural interpretations, saying, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me" (John 5:39). Eternal life is not in the Scriptures, but in Christ. The Scriptures "bear witness" of Him, but we must come to faith in Jesus to actually find life.

You see, the Son of God revealed Himself to men, who in turn wrote of Him, passing to others both the revelation of Christ and His word. Thus, the Bible is unlike any book upon the face of the earth, for it is the unveiling of Jesus Christ to man.

The Book of Christ's Unveiling
Many books deal with interpretations of end-time events. All of them, invariably, include the author's opinions concerning the last book in the Bible, the Revelation to John. But the Revelation is not merely a forecast of end-time events. Its primary purpose is stated in the first verse: this book is the "Revelation of Jesus Christ." Without seeing Christ as the triumphant Lord, manifested through end-time events, this book becomes a book of speculation rather than revelation. In every warning there are those who possess the revelation of Jesus Christ, and through Christ, they triumph over "the beast," "the false prophet" and "the dragon."

As for the opening of the seals and the events that followed, each judgment heralds Christ's triumphant return to the world! Revelation's final chapters then speak of the age to come and the New Jerusalem, where the unveiled glory of the Lord replaces every other form of light. You see, just as John wrote, this book is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ"!

The Purpose Of The Church
Yet, not only is the Bible a revelation of Jesus Christ, but so also is the church. Indeed, the church is called the "body of Christ." The purpose of a physical body is to reveal the thoughts and intentions of its head. Thus, Christ's body is to be the revelation of Christ, the head. When people see us, the presence of the Lord Jesus should be clearly discerned in our attitudes, words and actions; the world should behold Christ living within us.

In other words, Jesus' hands cannot help others if our hands are in our pockets. His love cannot reach others if our love has grown cold or bitter. His victory cannot be manifested if our prayers are silent. We are His body - the actual means He has chosen to express and reveal Himself to the world!

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 6:15).

Because the Spirit of Christ actually dwells in our spirits, the expression of His will through us empowers us to serve as His body. Even as the purpose of the Bible is to reveal Jesus, so the primary purpose of the church is to give Jesus arms and legs, lips and a heart - a functioning body - to make His nature known.

You see, there are two beings living in your body: you and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. As we yield to Christ, we grow in "all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). Spiritual maturity is nothing less than growing up to the "stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13). Consider Paul's great proclamation: "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, who loved me" (Galatians 2:20).

Jesus does not only dwell in heaven; He also dwells in us. As He is in heaven, so also is He in us (1 John 4:17). We embrace the death of our old nature, "always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus" with one goal compelling us: "that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10). We do not embrace self-denial for mere religious reasons, but that "the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:11).

Do we see this? The life of Jesus Himself is to be manifested, revealed and shown forth through our mortal flesh! This is not some deep teaching; this is basic to true Christianity! Nor is this a hope only to be realized in eternity. Those who say they abide in Him ought to walk even as He did walk (1 John 2:6). If the vision of Christ living in you is not a burning truth in your heart, you may have accepted a false version of Christianity.

Consider Paul's warning:

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Beloved, just as the Bible is a revelation of Jesus Christ, so also are we. The church is called to be a revelation of Jesus Christ!


That Which is Born of the Spirit

Francis Frangipane
We wake, crawl out of bed and stumble toward the bathroom; bleary eyed, we squint at our reflection in the mirror. Certainly, we are looking at the image of an utterly earthbound creature. Or so it seems. The truth is, in spite of our fleshly appearance, the moment we received the Holy Spirit into our lives a metamorphosis began within us. We are no longer "mere men" (1 Corinthians 3:4). We have been liberated from the flesh to become spirit-centered beings.

The fact is, among creatures, Christians are a type of hybrid with both fleshly and spiritual dimensions. We are capable of negotiating the dynamics of life on earth through our physical, emotional and intellectual faculties, and we can also soar beyond our natural limitations through spiritual protocols, such as worship or prayer, that connect us to God in heaven.

You see, you are more than that flesh and blood person you saw in the mirror this morning. The awesome reality is that, if we remain firm in faith, our spiritual destiny is to be eternally clothed in the actual glory of God! (2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

True, we still have a flesh nature and, obviously, it is vital that we walk meekly in repentance for our sins. Yet, our flesh nature does not cancel out our spirit nature. While we walk humbly, we still must switch our identity from fleshly to spiritual.

One might say, "Yes, but my flesh is more familiar to me." Yes, it is. However, this is the core battle each of us must face and conquer: we know who we were in the flesh, but what has God made us spiritually? The more we identify with the spirit, the more effective we are in putting to death our carnal compulsions.

Because our destiny is spiritual, it is vital we become serious about learning the laws and principles that govern the spirit realm. We must learn how to live with our hearts open to spiritual realities. For there is simply no way to experience genuine, inward transformation (and not just "religious" duty), if we do not know and embrace the protocols of God's Spirit.

The Spirit Makes Us Christlike, Not Weird
When we discuss the spirit realm, however, the typical reaction of many Evangelical Christians is to smile and nod, then inwardly shut down, as though they were being invited to buy a home in the "land of odd." When the Scriptures speak of the spirit, whether the reference is to our spirit, the Spirit of God or evil spirits, such knowledge is always practical, insightful and liberating. Indeed, we will never become Christlike apart from our relationship with the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Beloved, knowledge of the spirit realm is not a fringe doctrine. The Holy Spirit's role in our lives, as well as revelation concerning our spiritual nature, are major themes in the Bible. Consider, from cover to cover, the Word of God references the word spirit (in its various forms) nearly 600 times. Approximately 200 times Spirit is used uniquely of God. In over 350 verses, the term spirit refers to some quality or activity of the human spirit. By contrast, faith is mentioned 232 times, love 310 times and hope 132. This large number of references unveils an important truth: God intends for us to know about the spiritual realm!

Yes, we should proceed cautiously, for we do not want to be deceived. Yet, ignorance of the spirit realm is already a form of deep deception. True, there are manifestations that are falsely presented as being spiritual, yet if our quest is true conformity to Christ, we will attain Christlikeness only through our relationship with the Holy Spirit. And, if you are still afraid of being deceived, remember: the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

Understanding the Human Spirit
So let's briefly identify some basics about the human spirit. The fact is, many of life's evils gained access to our inner man simply because we were void of spiritual protection. Proverbs tells us, "Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit" (Proverbs 25:28). There is a porous quality to our spirit that ingests the surrounding conditions of life with its various influences. If we have no control over our spirit, we are "without walls" and vulnerable to both spiritual adversity and temptation. Yet, if our spirit is submitted to God, we are guarded from attack. Our hearts are protected from being "broken into" by spiritual enemies and negative influences.

Let me take this a little further. We say we are "born again," but what does that really mean? In simple terms, it means the Holy Spirit has awakened us to the reality of God. But that is just the start. It also means that, as we surrender to the Lord, the Holy Spirit increasingly fills and settles into our spirit. As the Scripture says, "The one who joins himself to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17).

The interpenetration of spirit between God and ourselves is unlike anything on earth. It unites our neediness with His sufficiency and our weakness with His power. The Lord Himself becomes our strength and the source of our virtue; His presence flows through the "size" of the openness we possess to the Holy Spirit, which is why so much of the salvation process depends on the Spirit nurturing and cultivating our spiritual sensitivity.

It is through this union of the Holy Spirit with our spirit that God speaks to us, that divine power works in us, and virtue (or fruit) is displayed outwardly through us to others (Galatians 5:22). It is also through the Holy Spirit that God identifies our inner needs and brings healing to us. As it is written,"The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being" (Proverbs 20:27).

Into the fullness of Christ
So, let it be reinforced within us: our primary nature is spiritual. The Spirit of God has entered our lives; our spirits have become His dwelling place. He has come to teach us all things, to illuminate the Scriptures and to guide us in our decisions. He also seeks to communicate to us through dreams, visions and confirmed prophetic words (Acts 2:17). He is our comforter in times of heartaches and our helper in times of battle. He promises to fill us with godly convictions and to empower us with persevering prayer. As we yield to Him, He will produce in us genuine fruit and equip us with authentic spiritual gifts. He will empower us to be witnesses for the Lord.

If will are truly seeking conformity to Christ, it will come because our spirits are filled with the Spirit of God. We are not mere flesh and blood. Indeed, as Jesus said, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).


June 1, 2006
Dear Friends,
The enclosed article (below) comes from Dutch Sheets, a good friend and trustworthy witness of the Lord's voice. I know we all come from many different places, both theologically and politically. You may not agree with everything you read in this forward; it may stretch your doctrinal or political comfort zone. But we are all very concerned for America and as intercessors it is necessary to pray for the USA (just as we do for many other nations).
So my request is that you prayerfully read this alert and, to the extent that the Lord leads you, present this to your circle of influence, if necessary re-stating this in your own words. What we must not do is fail to pray. If America has a true spiritual awakening, it will greatly impact the world; if this nation backslides even further, it will open the door for much distress among nations.
Thanks so much for praying!
Francis Frangipane

Urgent Prayer Alert from Dutch Sheets

I have been waiting several weeks to write this prayer alert, making every effort to hear from the Lord as clearly as possible. I try not to write national prayer alerts frequently - only when I feel they are urgent. This is probably one of the most important assignments I've ever had. Although it is unusually long, please read it prayerfully and pass it on.

In our partnering with God to turn America back to its Christian heritage and God-given destiny - indeed, to experience another great awakening that will impact every aspect of our culture and bring millions of people to Christ - we are at a great crossroads. I believe we are at the deciding point in the war.

The Battle of the Bulge
A friend of mine likens where we are to the Battle of the Bulge. This battle was an intense counter offensive launched by Hitler in WW II - after D Day, when it looked like the Allies had won the war, Hitler tried one final, desperate onslaught to turn the tide. This caught the Allies by surprise and, though we eventually defeated Hitler's armies, was for a season demoralizing and very costly to us. Likewise today, an intense counter offensive has been orchestrated from Hell to pull down President Bush and derail the destiny of America. This whirlwind of darkness over America is bringing great national confusion and is causing paralysis even in the praying church.

I have sensed this strong confusion in both the civil and spiritual realms, from leaders on down. It is strong in Washington D.C. - godly governmental leaders know things are in disarray and that something is desperately wrong, but also say that nothing seems to work when it comes to reversing it. Spiritual leaders also know things are not right - that we have lost momentum and that anti-Christ forces seem to be prevailing - but no one seems to know what to do about it. My friend Lou Engle, in a recent prayer alert said, "Wherever I go, I can feel the attitude of resignation, criticism and despair." Lou's entire alert can be found at www.justicehouseofprayer.com

The Spirit of Babylon
Chuck Pierce, another friend and internationally trusted prophet connected our desperate condition to the war in Iraq: "the spirit of Babylon is slapping us around." Iraq is modern day Babylon. Babylon means "confusion," which is obviously one of the results of this spiritual war. America's armies had no problem taking out Saddam's physical army, but we are now dealing with an ancient principality, the spirit of Babylon, which cannot be defeated with natural weapons and strategies. This spirit is currently, though I believe it not be permanently, prevailing against us. As previously stated, the symptoms of confusion and disarray can be seen in the church, on our president and in the nation in general. A further result of all this on our president is political disfavor. He has one of the most unfavorable performance ratings of any president in history, ranking down with Nixon during Watergate. The cover of one major magazine reads: "How Low Can He Go?" Usually when the economy thrives - and ours is - a president's ratings are high, (even if he is sexually involved with an intern and lies about it!). But not this president. He has lost his favor and consequently his voice, neither of which will return until certain things occur.

A Dream About the President
Regarding this loss of voice, a pastor related to me a dream he had recently about President Bush. The president was in a jail cell in a desert region. He was very agitated and his bottom lip was torn in half. I believe this desert region represents Iraq and the tearing of the president's lip pictures my assertion that his voice has been torn from him.

As the dream continued a man grabbed the president from behind, and said, "Let go. Give in." Snakes then came out of the man's cloak, wrapped around the president and one of them bit his torn lip. The president fell to the ground and disappeared. The snake then took the form of a woman, looked at the man having the dream (who had run in to try and help the president) and said, "There is nothing you can do to stop this."

The man in the dream changing into a serpent confirms to me that we are no longer dealing with flesh and blood in Iraq, but with "principalities and powers" (see Ephesians 6:12). They have entrapped our president, stolen his voice and intend to completely destroy his effectiveness. Their ultimate goal is to steal his destiny, which is warring against terrorism and shifting the courts, especially the Supreme Court of America. Though the president has been disabled and seemingly taken out by this spirit, it is not true that there is nothing we can do to stop it. I will address this momentarily.

The Reality of Where We Are
It is vital for us to grasp the magnitude of this spiritual war against America and our president, and also to realize that the forces of evil are currently prevailing, though it need not remain so. If the November, 2006 elections were held today, it is almost certain that pro-life and morally conservative voices would lose some, if not complete, control of Congress. It is also quite likely that if the third vacancy occurred on the Supreme Court now (and I believe it is coming soon), one of two things would happen. Either Bush would bow to the temptation to appoint a moderate because of his weak position; or if he appointed a true conservative constitutionalist like Roberts or Alito, the liberals would be empowered enough to stop the nomination through filibustering or character assassination.

Worse yet, if the vacancy doesn't occur until after the November elections and conservatives do lose control of Congress, we can very likely kiss goodbye our current opportunity to shift the Supreme Court of America. This would be the most devastating setback of our day. The consequences are unthinkable. The killing of babies and pro-death culture would continue, God would continue to be unwelcome in schools, government and public life and another generation would spiral further downward into Godless, humanistic relativism. Our God-given destiny in America could be lost indefinitely, perhaps forever. We simply cannot allow this.

Regarding the war on terrorism, if we don't turn the tide spiritually and do so fairly soon, it will turn into a quagmire that our generation doesn't have the strength, courage, boldness or selflessness to endure. This is the reality of where we are.

What God Is Saying to the Church
What must happen in the praying church and with our president at this critical time? There are biblical pictures that can help us identify our current position and point us toward the right strategy. First, where is the church and what must we do?

If the praying church does not re-engage in informed, consistent and fervent intercession for our nation and president NOW, we will lose our Battle of the Bulge. Our past victories and the ground we have gained are all on the line. So is our future. We have grown complacent and overconfident, as did the Israelites at Ai. In their attempt to conquer the promised land, Israel had won a great and impressive victory at Jericho (see Joshua 6). However, they grew overconfident and when they confronted the next town - small and insignificant Ai - did not pray for God's help and strategy. Consequently, God wasn't with them. The result was a devastating defeat.

We, too, have grown spiritually overconfident and complacent due to our recent victories. Now, like Joshua after the defeat at Ai, we are confused and disoriented (see Joshua 7:6-9). We must re-engage in prayer immediately. Lou Engle, in the above mentioned prayer alert also said, "Maybe President Bush's legacy and the future of our nation hinge more on our prayers than on the whole political debate that rages now." Right on, Lou, except I believe we can scratch the word "maybe." Our future absolutely hinges on our prayers.

What God Is Saying to Our President
What of our president? In biblical context where is he, and what must he do? In Genesis 32, Jacob, Abraham's grandson and the man who produced the nation of Israel through his twelve sons, came to his own personal crossroads. He, like our president, had come to a great crisis. Years earlier Jacob had connived to attain his brother Esau's birthright and stolen the blessing reserved for him as the firstborn son. Now, twenty years later, Jacob is returning to face Esau, who has sworn to kill him. On the way, he has a life-changing encounter with God (see Genesis 32:24-32). Several parts of this story parallel where our president currently is and what he must do:

Jacob was left alone. Consistent with his conniving nature, which is what his name meant, Jacob's possessions, servants and family had all been sent ahead to "appease" Esau. Then, in his wrestling with the angel, Jacob's thigh - a symbol of strength - was dislocated, causing him to walk with a permanent limp. Everything Jacob owned, all of his family and now, all of his strength, was gone. God was allowing him to lose all, at least Jacob thought so, and also removing from him what he had relied on all of his life - his ability to connive (which, again, is the meaning of his name) his way out of trouble and into blessing through his own strength and manipulation.

For our president, I believe this conniving nature of Jacob pictures what occurs so often in the political realm. Not that the political world and those who are a part of it are necessarily evil, but a political spirit is. It is the equivalent of a "Jacob" nature - which we're all born with - that believes there is always a way to reverse our fortunes through manipulation and control, conniving and self-effort. Some actually prevail through this spirit, but God will not allow Bush to succeed by operating in it. He has, therefore, allowed our president to lose favor for a season and nothing Bush has done can or will reverse this. Politics cannot help him, Rove can't, his party can't, and his troops in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot. God wants our president to know that the only one who can help him now is the One who put him where he is: Himself.

This does not necessarily mean our president has sinned or failed. Of course, he is human and therefore imperfect. And like all of us he has a Jacob nature to contend with. But this doesn't make him a failure in God's eyes. There is nothing to indicate that God was angry with Jacob but rather that He wanted to move him further toward his destiny, which was to birth the nation of Israel. His Jacob nature stood in the way and God needed to change it. This is what must occur in our president, which brings me to the second parallel to Jacob and our president.

Jacob's name was changed to Israel. (See Genesis 32:28) Names represented nature, identity and purpose in those days. That Jacob was after one thing - restored favor and blessing, and God was after another - a nature change, is obvious in the story. Jacob finally realized this when he responded to the angel's question of what his name was: "The Man asked him, ?What is your name?' And in shock of realization, whispering he said, ?Jacob' [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!" (Genesis 32:27, Amplified)

Jacob's acknowledgment of his condition, equivalent to repentance and confession, allowed God to break off of him the Jacob nature. God then re-named him Israel, moving him into his destiny. Likewise, God has a destiny on our president that cannot be accomplished through politics or human ability. Only the power, wisdom and enablement of the Holy Spirit can equip President Bush to accomplish his destiny concerning terrorism and the courts of America. I want to be very bold and make a statement that may seem unusual regarding a government leader: God has removed favor from our president and is wrestling with him, in order to remove from him all confidence that he can prevail through human strength and methods, including politics. He wants him to walk with a limp. God wants to anoint him for his assignment, giving him a supernatural ability to prevail. To accomplish this, He desires to visit our president in a holy and awesome way, just as He did Jacob. President Bush has an appointment with God!

Jacob named the place Peniel, which means "the face of God." He stated, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Jacob's life was transformed, favor with Esau was given and all possessions were returned. In an interesting irony, the word "appease" (verse 20) - what Jacob was attempting with Esau - and the word Peniel come from the same Hebrew root which means "face." To appease is to put something in another person's "face" in order to buy or procure favor. God was in essence saying to Jacob, "You can't appease your enemy, but you can appease Me. Facing your enemy through the Jacob (political) spirit won't help you anymore, but facing Me will."

Likewise, God is saying to our president that He alone holds the key to favor and blessing in this hour. President Bush cannot prevail through appeasement, politics or any other human effort alone. But if he will face God and rely solely on Him, God will visit him face to face, favor will return and the president can fulfill his destiny. We must pray this understanding/revelation to our president and we must birth this holy visitation. For him to live and operate in a political world without being caught up in it will indeed require great revelation and humility. This could come either through God speaking to him personally or by getting the right individual to him with this message. Our responsibility is to pray until it happens. If it does not, our president will not recover and America is in big trouble. [For a complete explanation, you can order the message I recently shared on this subject, entitled "Jacob at Peniel." Order it by going to www.dutchsheets.org and clicking on the link on the home page.]

Nuts!
In closing, a final story related to the Battle of the Bulge is pertinent. The Allies chose to stop Hitler's advance at a place called Bostogne. The 101st Airborne Division, nicknamed "The Screaming Eagles" were assigned, against all odds, to hold Bostogne. The Germans surrounded the 101st at Bostogne and demanded their surrender. Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe's now famous response was "Nuts." When the Germans asked for an interpretation of this, the American officer delivering the message said, "It means you can go to hell."

The Allies then needed the weather to clear up in order to use their air superiority. General Patton ordered his chaplain to compose a prayer asking God to clear up the weather. The next day the skies were clear and our aircraft began to control the air war and destroy the enemy. Before the battle, the 101st's first commander, Major General William C. Lee, made the following statement to his soldiers:

The 101st Airborne Division, activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions in order to establish our claim to the future. Due to the nature of our armament, and the tactics in which we shall perfect ourselves, we shall be called upon to carry out operations of far-reaching military importance and we shall habitually go into action when the need is immediate and extreme. Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies. The history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division. Each individual, each officer and each enlisted man, must therefore regard himself as a necessary part of a complex and powerful instrument for the overcoming of the enemies of the nation. Each, in his own job, must realize that he is not only a means, but an indispensable means for obtaining the goal of victory. It is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division. (Emphasis mine.)

The Screaming Eagles Must Arise
Hitler personally orchestrated the Battle of the Bulge. I believe Satan is personally orchestrating his forces in the battle against Bush and the church of America. God is calling the "Screaming Eagles" of intercession to take our stand and win the air war in the heavenlies, stopping the enemy's advance. Like the Screaming Eagles of yesterday, we can write a history of commitment, bravery, self-sacrifice and victory. "The future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of" the church. Satan says we can't win, I say "Nuts!" We can win this war against terrorism and for the soul of America, but only in the spirit.. If we don't do so, the greater sin won't be our president's but ours - the church of America.

If this word rings true in your heart, pass it on - and PRAY! Pray in church services; hold special prayer meetings; fast and pray; send a prayer team to Washington, D.C. to pray; pause at family gatherings to pray; pray at home groups. Pray, pray, pray.

Let's do our part and win this war.

Dutch Sheets


Covenant Power

Francis Frangipane

It is right to pray for the Lord to bless and protect our lives. However, praying for the blessing and provision of God is not the same as covenanting with Him. A covenant is an altar upon which the Lord and His covenant partner give themselves fully to each other.

If you have given your life to Christ, you entered into the benefits and power that were released during Jesus' covenant with the Father (see Luke 23). In that covenant between the Father and the Son, we are forgiven, cleansed and made new. Yet, we have not covenanted with God, Jesus did. We receive the consequences of Christ's covenant.

God desires that we enter into covenant with Him. This is not instead of the New Covenant, but it is an expression of our relationship with Him. A covenant relationship with God does not cease once our prayers have been answered. In covenant love we mature from simply being "believers" in prayer to becoming living sacrifices given to God's highest purposes. By so yielding, He creates within us a life that He can use extraordinarily in the process of divine redemption.

Covenant power is greater than that which comes through prayer alone. Indeed, the effects of a covenant reach far beyond simple faith. Prayer and faith are essentials; they are prerequisites, but not substitutes, for covenant power.

Thus, a covenant relationship is a extended pledge between two partners. It is an unbreakable oath which God Himself initiates and then promises to sustain, even giving a unique and enduring grace to His covenant partner. Contained within His promise is His unalterable commitment not only to fulfill His highest plan of redemption, but to also supply grace and faith to His human counterpart along the way. Together, the All-Sufficient God and a believing man accomplish the impossible through their covenant relationship.

Power Released in a Covenant
A covenant with God accomplishes two interconnected goals. It thrusts us beyond "subjective prayer" (prayer made primarily for our personal needs) and brings us into a deeper commitment to God. Out of greater commitment comes greater grace to accomplish God's redemptive work in the world.

An example of covenant power is seen in ancient Israel during the revival that occurred after Athaliah, an idolatrous Judean queen, was dethroned. Jehoiada, the high priest, looked to God in covenant prayer. We read, "Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord's people" (2 Kings 11:17).

Did not Israel already have a covenant with God through Moses? Yes, but it was a biblical practice that individuals at various times made special covenants with the Almighty. The result of Jehoiada's covenant was that grace came upon the people and they cleansed the land of idolatry. We read, "So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet" (v. 20). Jehoiada's covenant brought the nation back to God and ended violence in Jerusalem!

Consider also the power released in Hezekiah's covenant with the Lord. The nation of Judah had been fully corrupted by Ahaz, the preceding king. However, Hezekiah began his reign by seeking God's highest favor. He opened the doors of the temple, cleansed it and reconsecrated the priests.

Yet, the purification of priests and buildings would not have brought about revival had not Hezekiah taken one further step. He said, "Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His burning anger may turn away from us" (2 Chronicles 29:10). Just eight days after the king made a covenant with the Lord, we read, "Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly" (v. 36).

Often, the difference between a long-term struggle to bring a nation around and a speedy recovery was in the power released when the king covenanted with the Almighty. Keep in mind that Judah was apostate in its religious practices, witchcraft was practiced by the former king, and demonic idols had been placed in the Holy of Holies. Yet, covenant power triggered a national revival that "came about suddenly."

As Americans, it is vital we remember that our spiritual forefathers were a people who knew and exercised principles of covenant sacrifice. When the Puritans came to this country, they knelt on its shores and covenanted with God for this land. They dedicated this "new world" to Christ and His kingdom. They were covenant people who understood the destiny of God for this nation. It is unlikely that the revival of America will come without local and national church leaders covenanting together with God for the redemption of our land.

Covenants With God For Our Times
A personal covenant with God is a serious commitment, worthy of extended prayer and waiting before God. It is not to be taken superficially or without caution. Still, at Christ's bidding, I have covenanted with Him to see the body of Christ delivered of carnal divisions and racism, that Christ's prayer of John, chapter 17, may be answered.

What does this covenant signify to me? It means that my life is not my own. It has been absorbed into something much more powerful: the will of God. It also means that when I pray, there is a power attached to my intercession that works to dismantle strongholds of religious and cultural pride in the church.

I have also united my life and faith with the covenants of our pilgrim forefathers. Together with a number of other brethren, both locally and nationally, we have covenanted with the Almighty to see this land restored according to Second Chronicles 7:14.

There will be a time when this nation, like all nations, becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). Until then, whether revival comes quickly or we pass through the fires of divine judgments, our lives belong to Christ - not simply to be blessed or made prosperous, but to see His highest purposes accomplished in our land.

Not everyone will covenant with God for the nation. Some will unite with the Lord for their families. Others will covenant with God to see abortion ended in their cities. Still others will make a covenant with God for the church, to see the Lord's house built in their cities.

Making a covenant with God takes us further into our goal of Christlikeness. It is the highest relationship we can enjoy with God; it is that which brings Him the most pleasure. To those who covenant with God, He says, "Gather My godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice" (Psalm 50:5).

Lord, open our hearts to the joy and wonder, the sobriety and fear, of a covenant relationship with You. Lead us, O King, out of the superficial and into the supernatural. Lead us into a covenant with You for our times and nation! In Jesus' name. Amen.



Repentance Precedes Revival

Francis Frangipane

 A true revival does not just happen. There are conditions that must reside in the human heart before the Lord visits His people.

We Must Want Deliverance, Not Just Relief
Too often, ministries today seek to deliver people who are unwilling to repent of sins, who have not cried in their heart to God for help. The effect is that those prayed for may receive limited relief, but they soon fall back into sin and oppression. The key to successful deliverance is to discern if an individual is ready and willing to be released before we minister deliverance. Are they repentant? Have they put away their idols? Is their heart truly turning toward God?

God's pattern for us as individuals is also His pattern for the church and the city. Even as the Lord did not deliver us until we cried for help, so the war for our churches and cities will not be won until a significant number of us are crying to God in prayer. Christ's purpose in bringing the citywide church to prayer is to provide the proper heart attitudes to which the Almighty can respond.

Without the substructure of prayer and crying before God, deliverance, "binding and loosing" and other forms of spiritual warfare are significantly limited. Deliverance, according to Scripture, is the last stage of a process that began when a person's abhorrence for his present condition led him to cry to God for help.

The Deliverers
The Old Testament reveals God's pattern for deliverance and revival: In answer to the prayers and sufferings of His people, the Lord raised up deliverers. They were individuals who were anointed and empowered by God to defeat Israel's oppressors.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of these deliverers was never based upon their own worthiness or credentials. While they were uniquely sent by God, their arrival was synchronized with Israel's repentance. No repentance; no deliverance. As Israel cried to God, the deliverers were commissioned and anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The essence of this Old Testament pattern for renewal can be applied to us in our day. We may not see actual "deliverers" as much as we will see revival emerge in those cities where prayer and repentance is deep and widespread.

Again, looking at the Israel model, national sin brought defeat and dominance by foreign powers. With foreign domination came the worship of demons and the complete seduction of Israel's heart by the enemy. As Israel blatantly defied God's laws, so came the economic, cultural and physical collapse of the nation. Where once the people enjoyed the blessing of God, now despair and misery dwelt upon the land.

It was in this context of suffering, of people genuinely and deeply crying to God, that the Lord raised up deliverers. These individuals led a repentant Israel into victory over their oppressors. As true worship was established, national peace and prosperity followed.

It should be noted that the route to revival was not set according to a timetable; it was not precisely scheduled. No one can forecast how long judgment might last or when repentance has so excavated the heart of sinful man that God is satisfied. This one fact will be true: The time it takes will always be longer than we expect. The determining factor is the acknowledgment of sin and the return to God. Once the core of the nation was securely turned toward God, healing for their land  followed.

Nehemiah speaks of this pattern of repentance preceding national deliverance. He prayed:

"Therefore Thou didst deliver them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to Thee in the time of their distress, Thou didst hear from heaven, and according to Thy great compassion Thou didst give them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors."   Nehemiah 9:27

We must not hurry this process nor be frustrated if our prayers do not immediately activate divine intervention. The Lord is waiting for the nation to break beneath the weight of its rebellion. Yet, in this we should be encouraged: Our intercession is the first fruits of what is destined to become a national response to the Almighty!

There may be, at times, flurries of spiritual activity, but before a national revival will come, there will be a nation crying to God. This period is called "the time of their distress," and it is not consummated in revival until the nation has been crying unto the Lord for a number of years.

Man's Misery, God's Heart
In the book of Judges this pattern occurs time and again. While Israel tumbled deeper into sin, God waited for the burden and consequences of Israel's sin to humble their souls. He waited to bring them back to Himself.

Yet, the Lord was not aloof from Israel's sorrows. Even when they were in rebellion, He felt their sufferings. When the Lord "could bear the misery of Israel no longer" (Judges 10:16), He sent them deliverers. The misery and desperation of Israel readied them for God.

We see this pattern in the Lord's encounter with Moses in Exodus. The Redeemer said,

"I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them."  Exodus 3:7-8

Notice the Lord saw the affliction of His people; He heard their cries; He knew their sufferings. God is never far from the plight of mankind. In truth, He bears the misery of our society: Our distresses distress Him; our suffering becomes His sorrow.

Returning to our text in Exodus, observe also that it was not merely their prayers which God heard; He heard their cries. It is one thing to pray about a need, quite another to weep over it. It is those who mourn whom God comforts.

The Lord knew their afflictions and their sufferings. The prayer to which God responds is a constant cry, often born out of "afflictions" and "sufferings," as is occurring today in parts of Africa and Asia.

Perhaps the Lord has not fully answered us because our prayers are still comfortably contained within a schedule. In 1970 I came to Christ during the Charismatic Renewal.  This move of God  began in the constant, "day and night" cry of a million mothers. This was not the result of a mere hour of prayer; it emerged out of the continual cry of mothers (and fathers) who were deeply troubled about their children's involvement with drugs and rebellion. Their prayer was not a religious discipline, it was the heartthrob of their existence. Without the sophisticated machinery of spiritual warfare, the tears and weeping of their unceasing intercession prevailed before God, and He rescued their children.

Perhaps what delays revival in our times is that we are troubled, but we are not afflicted by the conditions of our society; though saddened, we are not yet weeping.

It must be acknowledged, however, that a growing number of God's people have truly surrendered to the vulnerability of Christ's compassions. They bear in their intercessions not only the needs of the people but the pain of the people as well. They are laying down their reputations, their jobs, yes, even their lives to see the sins of our society cleansed.

Although still a minority, these intercessors carry in their souls the anguish of their cities. They hear the cry of the oppressed; they know the suffering of both the unborn and the born. God is ready to respond to their prayer. Out of the womb of their distress, God shall bring forth deliverance.

The praying church should not limit the length of its dedication to intercession. God is looking for a life of prayer, not just a season. If the duration of time required to bring change can stop us, it is obvious that the preparatory work in our hearts is not deep enough to draw divine intervention.

How does all this relate to revival? Spiritual renewal is the only antidote for our cities and our nation. It is God's answer to all who cry unceasingly to Him for help.

Lord, forgive us for wanting relief instead of deliverance, for looking for shortcuts instead of Your perfect will. Master, we know that Your heart cannot refuse the genuine cry of the afflicted, that You cannot long bear the misery of Your people without acting on our behalf. So, we cry to You today! Send the rain of Your presence back to us! Cleanse us from our lusts for comfort and apathy. Bring us to the place where You can honor Your integrity and bring revival to our land! For Your glory we pray. Amen.

"I Will Remember Their Sins No More!"
Francis Frangipane
Holiness is attained only through an unfolding experience with the grace of God.

Removing the Barriers Caused By Sin
Have you ever had a close friend but talked critically about him to someone else? The next time you were together, did you notice something almost artificial about your relationship? You were not as open nor as honest with him. Because of your sin, there was a small but measurable distance between both of you. Though you may have been ashamed of what you did, if you stayed unrepentant, you actually started to avoid the one you hurt - if not socially, at least with your eyes and heart.

You may have shared a world together beforehand, but now the interpenetration of personalities, the sense of being "at home" in one another's soul, is gone. Unless there is repentance, the distance between you will probably widen until the relationship itself is over. Although neither of you may understand why you drifted apart, the love you possessed died because you sinned and failed to repent.

In the same manner that human relationships are sustained by openness and honesty, so it is also with our relationship with God. When we sin against Him, we unconsciously erect a barrier between heaven and ourselves. We may still go to church, but a sense of distance and artificiality emerges in our hearts.

Each of those defenses we have erected to keep God out ultimately walls us in, spiritually imprisoning us in our sins. These barriers degenerate into strongholds of demonic oppression. Eventually, our walls toward God imprison us outside the Divine Presence, trapping the soul in outer darkness. It is possible that our walls toward God are the very substance of which hell is made.

Yet, the love of God is such that He loves us enough not only to release us from our sins but also from the negative effects our sin has had upon our fellowship with Him. Mercifully, He promises, "their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17). Every time we ask for forgiveness, our relationship with Him becomes free and new again.

In one sweeping act of forgiveness - so complete that He promises to not even remember what we did wrong - God has provided the eternal payment for each sin we contritely ask Him to forgive. He loves us so much that, while He continues to perfect our attitudes of heart, He also provides a means to keep our relationship with Him genuine and without barriers.

Jesus Paid the Price
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us" (Ephesians 1:7-8). What is redemption? Redemption is the "payment of a debt or obligation." There were notes, warrants held against us. We are all debtors to God, but Jesus satisfied the warrants held against us by His death on the cross.

And when you were dead in your transgressions . . . He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 (Italics mine)

The moment you accepted Jesus into your heart, all the things you ever did wrong, every evil thought, every angry word and every wicked deed - each of which deserved its own punishment - was stamped REDEEMED: PAID IN FULL by our Father in heaven. Jesus paid for them all with His blood. He is our Redeemer! He paid the price, not just for the sins we previously committed but for every sin that we sincerely ask forgiveness for now. All our sins are forever forgiven and forgotten.

Hebrews 10:14 tells us that "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." And again in Colossians we read,

For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross . . . and although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. Colossians 1:19-22

As far as the sin issue is concerned, we must grasp the completed work of Christ. "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). From God's eternal perspective, we are freed from sin. It is here in the realm of time, and specifically in our minds, where sin still has a temporary hold. In His great love, however, God is removing even the barriers our sins have created between Himself and us.

It is important to state here that God has not lowered His standard of holiness. However, He knows we will never become holy if we are afraid to draw near to Him, for He alone is holy! Consequently, He has forgiven and reconciled us to Himself through Jesus. The blood sacrifice of Christ has satisfied the debts of every soul who, through repentance and faith in Jesus, sincerely seeks fellowship with God.

"I Do Not Remember"
How little we understand of eternal redemption! How many times will God forgive you? If you have truly set your heart to follow Him, He will cancel your sins as often as you ask. Will He forgive you of the worst sin you can think of? Yes! You may have to live with the consequences of your misdeed, but the redemptive power of God is such that, even in your sin, there are many things of value to be reclaimed. As for the sin itself, if you deeply and sincerely repent of it, not only will God forgive you, He will blot it out of His memory.

Let me share an experience. A certain man of God had been gifted with revelatory insight into people's lives. During an evening service he ministered to a Presbyterian pastor and his wife. By the gift of the Spirit, he revealed the couple's past, uncovered their present situation and then disclosed to them what was to come. This work of God greatly impressed the couple, and as the prophecies were fulfilled, one month later the Presbyterian minister brought two other pastors, each with their wives, to another service for personal ministry.

The word of knowledge was exceptionally sure that night, and the second minister and his wife marveled at the accuracy and truth in the prophetic word. The third couple stepped forward for ministry and again the word of knowledge was present. The prophet spoke to the husband, revealing his past, present and insight into his future. Then the man of God turned to this third minister's wife. As he began to speak of her past, suddenly he stopped. "There was a very serious sin in your past." The woman, with her worst fear seemingly upon her, turned pale and closed her eyes. The congregation hushed and moved to the edge of their seats.

The prophet continued, "And I asked the Lord, 'What was this sin that she committed?' And the Lord answered, 'I do not remember!'"

The Lord had been faithful to His promise: "I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25). Although many times this minister's wife had asked for cleansing, still she could not believe the depth of God's forgiveness. Christ had placed her sin in the sea of His forgetfulness. He removed it "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). From everywhere but the prison of her own mind, her sin had been paid for and removed. And now, in His great mercy, He removed it from there as well!

Oh, what burdens we carry, what guilt and limitations surround us because we do not accept God's total and perfect forgiveness. In Isaiah we read, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25).

How great is the God we serve. How wonderful is His love toward us. He is our Redeemer! Our Savior! If you are willing to forgive others and will but ask Him to forgive you, He will pardon your debts as often as you contritely turn to Him. He promises He will remember your sins no more. He who calls us into His perfections, has also provided perfectly for us to approach Him. Holiness is an unfolding relationship with the grace of God.

Incubating Christians
Francis Frangipane

I wouldn't call it something as lofty as a vision - it was just a thought with a "video file" attached. In it, I saw Christians sitting in ordered rows, like eggs in incubators, only they were in their churches. They sat and listened, but the pastor's words were barely heard or understood. They had life inside, but they were trapped within religious shells. It wasn't necessarily that their ministers lacked anything in their messages; their sermons were historically and factually true. Yet, for the most part the shell surrounding each Christian seemed impenetrable.

Yet, there were exceptions. Every once in a while, the shell of one of the "eggs" would crack under the pressure of inner hunger; someone would fight through the shell. When one broke free, others nearby followed his example and began to break through their religious shells as well. When a majority had hatched, their church was no longer just an endless incubator, but it became the body of Christ Himself and the people in this group transformed the world around them.

What did it mean to break through the shell? It meant an individual understood that God's plan for their lives was not incubation, but transformation. The church was a place where God empowered people to become Christlike.

Today, heaven is again calling each of us to break free of the shell of "religion" and embrace the liberty and power of a Christlike life. Indeed, we have been created to become like Jesus. There is no lasting spiritual fulfillment apart from walking "from glory to glory" toward this one great purpose!

If you too share the hope of attaining Christlikeness, let me invite you to register for our online school, In Christ's Image Training. We have appropriate plans, whether you join as an individual, as married couples or as a small group. In fact, church leadership teams have taken the training and then brought their whole congregation into the course.

As you study In Christ's Image Training, you'll understand God's purpose for you is Christlikeness; you'll perceive why Jesus said the humble are the greatest in God's kingdom. The Holy Spirit will teach you the power of prayer and impart to you the burden. And, by God's grace, you'll possess Christ's unoffendable heart as you unite with other Christians.

The training comes directly to you via weekly emails and audio messages. So, whether you serve God as a housewife, businessman or church leader, your breakthroughs into the liberty of Christ can begin right in your own home.

Registration for this school term ends March 31, 2006, so please don't delay. And, as always, no one will be refused for lack of finances.

For more information, please click here: www.icitc.org


Measure Those Who Worship
Francis Frangipane

         
"Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, 'Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations . . . '" (Revelation 11:1-2). At the end of the age there will be two types of Christians: those who worship in the inner court and those outside the place of intimacy who are, to some degree, subject to the influence of "the nations." For whatever this verse ultimately means, it tells us now that the Spirit of God is measuring worshipers - those individuals whose treasure is in heaven, who abide in the inner court of God's temple.  Beloved, those who worship God dwell in a measured and protected place.   
 
Consider: In our world of terrors, pressures and trauma, our only place of safety exists in the living presence of God.  We must not accept a religion about God instead of the presence of God.  If we would truly dwell in the divine Presence, one thing perhaps above all others will take us there: we must become true worshipers of God. 

True Worship
Jesus taught that "true worshipers" are those who worship "the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23).  In other words, their worship of God flows from their heart unhindered by difficult outward conditions.  "Spirit and truth" worship is genuine worship.  Indeed, right now on planet earth, the Father is seeking such people "to be His worshipers" (John 4:23-24).

Consider well the priority of God.  He isn't seeking for us to be miracle workers or great apostles and prophets. He desires more from us than the cultivation of good leadership skills or administrative strengths.  What does He seek? He desires that, in spirit and truth, we become His worshipers.
 
Genuine worship causes us to become genuine Christians.
 
If we focus on making our worship true, our Bible study, prayer and extended service to God, whatever that may be, will also be true. Indeed, a worshiping heart floods all other spiritual disciplines with legitimacy and substance.  If we bow in worship before studying God's word, His word will plunge deep into our soul; our fruit will be sweeter and more enduring.  If, before we open our mouths in prayer, we honor God in worship, our intercession will ascend toward heaven on wings of unfeigned trust and expectant faith.
 
Worship rescues our spiritual efforts from routine, religiosity, pride and guilt; it takes our minds completely off ourselves and burrows us into the overwhelming life of God.
  
We have all heard teaching that God desires to have a relationship with us, and it is true.  Yet, the implication is that His relationship with us is perfectly accommodating, nearly casual in its nature, and mostly defined by our terms.  Yes, God desire that our union with Him be full and wonderful.  Yet, His descent into our lives, His commitment to redeem and restore us has one ultimate purpose: that we can ascend into a relationship defined by His terms.

The consequence of possessing such a relationship with God is that the reality of His presence transforms us into worshipers.  Indeed, worship is the evidence of a transformed life. Worship may be expressed with tears of joy or in silent awe; it may create an abiding gratitude toward God or inspire songs in the night.  However the expression, the worship the Father seeks is absolutely meaningful.  It turns our complete being toward God in love. 

If, however, the idea of "worship" seems to be a strange thing; if it's feels mechanical or the words expressed seem hollow (and not hallowed), it is because the soul of the individual has not first been transformed.  The closer we draw to God, the more we are transformed; the greater our transformation, the more completely we respond in worship. You see, true worship deepens and matures as we walk on with God and His glory unfolds before us. 

Recall the aged apostle John's testimony.  He was in his nineties when he wrote: "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us" (1 John 4:16).   Listen to that first phrase: we have come to know.  When we first come to God, by necessity, we must come as we are with sin and shame.  Yes, we seek to repent of our obvious sins, but the work of God is destined to go much deeper.  As young Christians, we still carry attitudes of pride, ambition and fear, as well as many other sins, that cause us to misrepresent the actual nature of God to others.  Though we are sinful, God does not abandon us.  Instead His work continues.  His illuminating fire enters the darkened caverns of our hearts.  Here, in this furnace of divine refinement, stripped of our pretenses and pride, spiritually naked without a rag of self-righteousness in which to clothe ourselves - in this stark reality we come to know God's unconditional love and acceptance.

If you have true worship for God it is because you have, indeed, been loved by Him. "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).  What once sounded like an impossible command - "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND - is transformed from a Law into a promise full of hope, an anticipation that He will transform all that we are and, in the process, create the praise of our lips.  It is as though He says, You shall love Me with all your heart for that is exactly how I love you, with all My heart.

Our worship is the result of His drawing near to us; it is the effect He has upon the redeemed. Yet, it is also a choice we make.  I choose worship as a way to demonstrate my trust in God when my circumstances appear hostile; I choose worship as my means of burrowing into the heart of God when all around me is in turmoil.  And as I'm lifted into His presence, I am also aware that the character of my life is being measured, and it's being measured by my worship at His altar.

True Revival
Francis Frangipane

People often ask me, "When true revival comes, what will it look like?" To me, a revival is not legitimized merely by the increasing numbers of signs and wonders. Moses, Elijah and Elisha all had great signs accompanying their lives, but signs do not equate to revival. Israel was often awed by manifestations, yet supernatural wonders never brought the nation to repentance.

What about powerful and exciting church services? Personally, I do not believe church services every night, even if they last until midnight, are themselves a sign of revival. Increased services and manifestations may accompany revival, but they are not, in themselves, evidence of revival.

What, then, should revival look like? On an individual, person-by-person level, a true revival looks like people being empowered to become like Jesus.

I do not mean that they have merely become emotional or happy or animated about Jesus - as important as these things are. I am saying they actually received power to become like Him. Deep in their spirit an awakening occurs and they see Christ not only as the payment for their sins, but as the pattern for their lives.

This is what happened at Pentecost. Fearful, prideful disciples were transformed into humble, powerful replicas of Jesus. They spoke the Word of God with boldness - just like Jesus. They healed people, just like Jesus; and they were willing to suffer for Christ, just as He willingly suffered for them.

Today, we do not have the fire of the Holy Ghost, we have Casper, the friendly ghost. With Casper, everyone goes to heaven. Casper cuddles, but never convicts. He never calls people into conformity with Christ.

You see, true revival is a hot lava-flow of courage being poured into the backbone of a once defeated people. It is radiant faces, purified souls and holy lips. It is people becoming like Jesus.

With Loud Crying and Tears
Francis Frangipane

Some of us are too quiet in our prayer times. Face down does not mean quiet. I know there is a time for silent prayer, but it shouldn't be the norm. As Christians we must let ourselves feel the agony of the world around us. While our faith should never be based upon feelings, our capacity to empathize with another's loss or pain should be fully alive in us and compelling.

Satan wants us muted. He desires that our prayers degrade into quiet muttering, as though we are ashamed of saying out loud what is going on inside. Our needs demand, at times, that we have volume and substance in our prayer. Scripture says of Jesus that "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety" (Heb 5:7).

Some say this verse refers to Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, a onetime experience. I disagree. The thought is introduced with the phrase, "In the days of His flesh." The word days is plural. It indicates that there were times when, as the situation warranted, Jesus prayed with "loud crying and tears." My point is, Jesus felt deeply what He was praying about. His whole being was in His prayer, even expressing His burden with both loud crying and tears.

Our Master also felt the sorrow of His friends. He wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. Yes, He knew He was about to raise Lazarus, but He felt the heartache (not the unbelief) of Lazarus' friends and their sorrow seized His heart.

Even as Christ can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, we must allow ourselves this same empathy toward human suffering and injustice. Thousands are dying because of wars, terrorism, disasters and disease; multitudes are homeless, starving and living in abject poverty. Infants are pulled apart in the womb before their lungs have taken a single breath. Jesus says we are blessed if we are capable of mourning over these things.

Granted, we cannot be ruled by our feelings, but they can help compel us toward heaven. As we pray, let the pain of those who cannot cry fill our hearts. Let us lift our voices in prayer, even with loud crying and tears as we approach Him who is able to save from death.

Lord Jesus, moved with compassion You healed the multitudes. From heaven You felt the pain of earth and extended Yourself into our world, where you were acquainted with grief and human suffering. Your whole life was consecrated to the Father as an act of intercession. Master, give us a vision of Your love. Our world is wrought with pain and beyond our ability to ease it. Expand our hearts as we cry to You. Father, enlarge our souls, so that we pray with the very intercessions of Your Son, Jesus. Let our voices be full of empathy as we pray. In Jesus' name.

This meditation by Pastor Frangipane has been posted on the www.Facedown40.com website. It is part of the forty days of prayer and fasting initiative to see breakthroughs and revival unfold in our world. If you haven't yet decided to join this initiative, please consider adding your voice to the multitudes crying out to God for our world.


The Power of His Resurrection
Francis Frangipane
Let there be no question, Christ's crucifixion and subsequent resurrection are the cornerstone realities of our faith. Upon these two united events the most vital truths of Christianity unfold. Indeed, if Christ did not die upon the cross, there would be no atonement. If He did not rise from death as He foretold, then all He taught would become suspect. He would have been yet another philosopher/prophet who lived and died a tragic death.

Yet, Jesus demonstrated that He was the "Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). Christ's resurrection broadcast throughout time and eternity that One more than a prophet died for mankind's sins. It was God on earth who prayed to God in heaven, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

Is this not the reason why we celebrate the miracle of the empty tomb? God Himself came to earth to rescue mankind from damnation! Christ's crucifixion was the covenant act, securing full payment for mankind's sin by His blood. His resurrection was the inaugural act of heaven, heralding the beginning of a new dispensation of grace and power.

The Nature of the Power
If we believe in Jesus Christ and accept His sacrifice for our sins, we receive two things pledged to us by God: forgiveness for our sins and resurrection power through the Holy Spirit. This power is not limited to our ultimate resurrection of the dead, but it is something we can walk in now.

Martha, at the tomb of her dead brother Lazarus, dutifully acknowledged a future resurrection (see John 11:24). Yet, what Jesus told her caused a revolution in her thinking. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), thus bringing the power of resurrection into the immediacy of her dire circumstances. He then demonstrated that resurrection was a "now" reality by raising Lazarus from the grave!

Beloved, the church today needs to grasp this truth: resurrection power is not confined to a future date; it is available right now in the person of Christ Himself! Everyone living in union with Jesus Christ has access also to the power of His resurrection. Even as divine forgiveness has been granted us through Christ's crucifixion, so resurrection power accompanies us through Christ's resurrection. Resident within us is Holy Spirit power. God Himself is eternally committed to direct and correct us, to lift and restore us until we stand before Him in eternity.

"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:11). From the moment you received Christ, the Holy Spirit has been giving "life to your mortal bodies," the same life that conquered death for Jesus.

Just as it was "impossible for [Christ] to be held" by the power of death (see Acts 2:24), so also is it impossible for the death in us to block Christ from rising in our hearts! Indeed, if Jesus could conquer death and ascend triumphantly from His grave, He can conquer the realm of death, darkness and sin that exists in us as we keep faith in Him.

Resurrection Access Through Faith
Two keys unlock the power of resurrection life. The first is our faith. Indeed, "This is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith" (1 John 5:4). We must believe in Christ and confidently trust His power, especially when we fail or experience overwhelming circumstances or demonic attack. We may not know how God will rescue us, but we must believe He will. We may look as dead as Lazarus in the grave, but we must remember: the same power that raised Lazarus dwells with us!

Have you been through conflict, fear or loss? It is time to believe in the resurrection power of Christ. Has a loved one fallen prey to battle, sin or discouragement? Take faith! Christ is He "who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist" (Romans 4:17).

I have come to believe that, no matter what I go through, I will emerge more like Christ on the other side. I trust resurrection power to carry me through! Jesus is not only my Lord and Savior, He is also as the "resurrector" of my life.

You also have been through much, yet even when you had no strength in yourself, God Himself carried you through. Your very life bears witness that resurrection power has renewed and restored you, in spite of the battles you've faced. Faith, your deep-seated trust in God, secures you in the flow of resurrection power.

When Paul wrote, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good" (Rom 8:28), he was speaking of abiding in a continuum of resurrection life that transformed everything he experienced into something good. This is the power of resurrection: the working of all things for good.

The Second Key
The second essential to unlocking resurrection power is to carry the cross of Christ. If we are to truly follow the Lord Jesus, we must also walk with Him in His call of redemption. Like Jesus, we will face death for the sake of love. It is this that leads to greater fruitfulness and power.

The cross also puts to death our fears, lusts and lack of love, and to carry the cross is to agree that something in us must die for Christ to live. Thus Paul wrote, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10). If we will know the power of His resurrection, we must embrace the fellowship of His sufferings.

For those who have received the resurrected Christ, let us remember: we have been raised up with Him. God has seated us with Him in heavenly places. Our spirits are already positioned in resurrected life. Let us not accept the illusion that we are here alone. Even as we shall soon celebrate the resurrection of Christ, let us obtain the substance of His resurrection power now by faith. Let us release it's power through love. And let us remember: it is impossible for death to contain Him.

The Divine Obsession
Francis Frangipane

There are three basic categories of Christians. The largest group are those who perceive the world's sin and corruption and consider it is impossible to change. They evaluate their spiritual capabilities and conclude they are nearly powerless to transform the world around them. Unable to cope, they retreat into what seems to be a shelter of apathy. Yet most are not truly apathetic. Their souls, like Lot's (see 2 Peter 2:7-8), inwardly grieve at the conduct of unprincipled men around them. Without spiritual resources, however, their flame has diminished to the size of their immediate family and needs.

The second class of Christians consists of those who would rather rail at the storm of evil than hide from it. Though smaller in number than the first, they are by no means apathetic; in fact, they appear exactly opposite. They rage at the depravity of the ungodly and protest the audacity of the wicked. They pound pulpits and sidewalks; they are both vocal and visible. Yet their ability to effect positive societal change has been, for the most part, neutralized by their negativity and rage. They are characterized and then dismissed as judgmental extremists. Most sinners simply cannot endure the harshness of their approach.

Both groups sincerely desire to see our culture transformed. Yet the same problem afflicts them: they are troubled that the world is unchristian, without being troubled that their own hearts are un-Christlike. They do not perceive the priority of God's heart, which is the transformation of the church into the image of Christ.

World Changers Needed
It is this focused passion, to be conformed to Christ, that separates the third group from the others. Though smallest in number, its members are the most effective. Throughout history, these have been the world changers. These are the individuals that have understood the priority of God. They know that the highest expression of the Father's will to behold His Son revealed in a believer's life. As much as they are moved with compassion for the lost, their primary quest is not to touch their neighbors' hearts, but to touch the heart of God. They know if they awaken the Father's pleasure, the power of His Spirit will go before them. God Himself will change the hearts of those around them.

It is my mission to isolate and exalt the power of the Christlike life. This anointing is in my writing, our school and our media ministries; more importantly, it is my sincere quest in life to be like Him. It stuns me that a Christlike person has the power to awaken the pleasure of Almighty God. Here is the power to touch cities and redeem cultures, for it takes transformed people to transform nations.

To Be Like Christ
Indeed, it was this hunger for Christlikeness that was the secret of Paul's success. He wrote, "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).

Paul's passion was taken up with this one heavenly goal: "being conformed" to the life and power of Jesus Christ. The apostle's quest was only not to win the world, but to know Christ Jesus, his Lord.  The works Paul accomplished - founding churches, writing half the New Testament, winning the lost, demonstrating miraculous spiritual gifts, and remaining faithful throughout times of terrible suffering - were all by-products of his passion to know Christ.

Likewise with us, the Father's immediate, primary goal for the church is conformity to Christ. He rescues us so He can transform us.  Some say that the Father's goal is to win the lost. Yet, if this were His highest priority, He would simply bypass the church and save men Himself. Has He not demonstrated, as seen in Paul's conversion, that His abilities to do this are without limit? Did He not convert the arrogant heart of King Nebuchadnezzar to a man of meekness who gave glory to God?  Who can resist Him who is irresistible?  Instead, however, of revealing His glory, it is His choice to reach to the lost through the agency of transformed people.

This, my friends, is the glorious mystery of our existence: the Almighty has purposed from eternity to create a race of men and women who, though tested in a corrupt and violent world, bear the image and likeness of Christ. (See Genesis 1:27.) Christ calls this heavenly-natured people, the church, His "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17 nkjv).

The Holy Obsession
To be in love is to be obsessed with one's beloved; to be obsessed is "to think continually about the same thing." In this sense, the Father is obsessed with filling the universe with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Beginning with eternity past, revealing the Firstborn in the womb of time, and continuing with the transformation of the church, the Father desires all creation ultimately to be summed up in Christ (Eph. 1:10). Our goal is to participate in His purpose in "the summing up" (v. 10) of our lives in Christ. 

Yet, if the Father is obsessed with His Son, let us also surrender not only to God's will, but also to His obsession. Indeed, Jesus prayed that the very love with which the Father "loved [the Son] may be in them" (Jn 17:26).  We can receive and be flooded with the very same quality of love that the Father has for His Son. We can know the divine obsession. 

Therefore, let us ponder, and then pursue, what it means to be Christ-like. Let us give ourselves to the divine obsession of God, to see creation, starting with ourselves, summed up in Christ.  For it is here, in the transformation of our lives, that we discover and fulfill the wondrous obsession of God: the unveiling of His Son in the earth. It is here, at the threshold of Christ in us, that we discover the power one Christlike life has upon the heart of God.

Father, let my heart become as obsessed with Your Son as You are. Let the fullness of my absorption with Him displace all other pursuits until, at the mere glimpse of Jesus, my whole being is flooded with the pleasure You Yourself feel.

Jealous With God's Jealousy
Francis Frangipane

"You Tolerate"
I had an hour before boarding my plane at Reagan International. Since I was looking to replace my aging laptop computer, I decided to buy a computer magazine to help educate myself before making a decision. As I entered the newsstand, I asked the clerk, a scarfed Muslim woman, for help and she quietly led me to the computer magazine section. However, en route to our destination we had to walk past a prominently displayed rack of "men's" magazines, all with flagrantly indecent covers.

I felt genuinely embarrassed for two reasons. First, I am a man of God. I seek to live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, yet my best response was merely to turn away from the offending rack. Second, I was aggravated that, for all the authority Christ has given the church, a public newsstand still can boldly feature this degrading blight. In full view of our children, of teens, as well as adult men and women, the spirit of Jezebel stands at our crossroads unchecked as she seeks to captivate the naive.

I paid for my laptop magazine and, as I walked out of the store, the Holy Spirit brought Revelations 2:20 to mind. It reads, "But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols."

I personally hadn't tolerated this spirit in the sense that I picked up one of the magazines or acted out an immoral, demonically inspired, impulse; I had turned my eyes from evil. That wasn't what the Lord was saying. His emphasis was on two words "you tolerate." To tolerate means "to allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit."

It occurred to me that the initial rebuke from Jesus was not specifically aimed at those in bondage to Jezebel, but the leaders who had come to tolerate Jezebel's influence. Remember, Jesus addressed His rebuke "to the angel of the church in Thyatira." The word angel means "messenger" and it can apply to either an angel or a man depending on the context. (John the Baptist was a "messenger," angelos, sent before the Lord). Thus, like many, I believe that Jesus' word to the seven churches was not given to "angels," but to the bishop or apostolic authority in each named city (In Jerusalem it would have been James; in Ephesus, it was probably Timothy). This leader, together with his spiritual council of pastors and elders, was obviously considered by Jesus the most spiritually influential group in the region. Yet, in Thyatira the collective will of the church leadership had been immobilized. As a result, Christ's representatives were tolerating the spirit of Jezebel in the church.

Of course, Jesus was speaking to the leaders of the church, not the leaders of the world system, and my encounter was outside the church. Yet, Christ also calls us to be salt and light to the world. He never tells us to compromise. In fact, His church is commissioned with His authority so that, as His representatives, we actually can interact with the fabric of reality itself. He says whatever we bind (forbid) on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose (release) on earth will be loosed in heaven (see Matt 16:19). So, we still have a responsibility to seek to transform our cultures for Christ.

As my plane boarded, I continued contemplating the spiritual issues that the Lord raised, and I concluded that I needed to take a more visible stand against the advances of hell in my world. So, when my plane landed at my next stop I deliberately looked for the newsstand. There, right in front of the thoroughfare between gates, in the most prominently displayed rack, were the porn magazines.

This was a larger establishment; it had also had books and assorted gifts. I quickly found the manager and, when she was free, respectfully approached her with my concern. She said that the publisher of the men's magazines paid a premium for the most conspicuous placement of their products. I understood she couldn't change this on her own, but I asked her to pass my complaint on to her supervisors. I then told her that there was a sea change in America: Christians will no longer stand for this stuff constantly being pushed in front of us and our children. I never stopped smiling or loving, but I made it plain that I, for one, was not tolerating this Jezebelian influence in my environment.

Be assured that I am still in serious pursuit of mature Christlikeness. Yet Jesus said that the world hated Him because He testified "that its deeds are evil" (John 7:7). Somewhere in the full spectrum of conformity to Christ, we must adopt His attitude toward the world around us, without losing His love for people.

You may say confronting evil is a distant relative to true spiritual power. Perhaps. But some acts, as small as they seem, are very important to God. One of David's mightiest men became a renown hero because he stood and defended a tiny lentil field (2 Sam 23:11-12). His courage brought a great victory for the Lord.

You see, it matters to God that our faith and our actions are deep with substance, even if they are revealed in simple ways. Indeed, I noticed several months ago that the historically conservative Reader's Digest, the most widely circulated magazine in the world, had begun introducing racier ads. So, I emailed them a respectful letter reminding them that they were known for their wholesome and inspirational articles, and to reconsider the use of racy ads. Two days later I received a response from a senior editor who apologized and promised that I would never again see anything that hinted of lewdness, which has since been the case.

One may argue, this is not the same blessing as a soul coming to Christ. True. But what if someone couldn't come to Christ because they were held captive in a stronghold of immorality? Sometimes we need to confront the issues rather than adjust to them.

Jealous With the Lord's Jealousy
Just before Israel was to enter the promised land, the men of Israel were seduced by the daughters of Median. As a result, a plague killed 24,000 people. While Moses and Aaron stood between the living and the dead praying, Phinehas, Aaron's grandson, took up a spear and went after an Israelite who had taken a Midianite woman into his tent, killing them both. I am certainly not advocating killing people, but the fact is, the plague on the sons of Israel stopped. The Lord told Moses that Phinehas had "turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel." How? The Lord continued, "he was jealous with My jealousy" (Num 25:11). Phinehas cared enough to act. His simple action touched the heart of God.

Remember, beloved, when the Lord eventually brought Israel into Canaan, the Lord said their victories would come "little by little" (Ex 23:30). Granted, we won't change the world all at once, but let us persist, even if the changes we affect are small. God is watching! Whether we take our stand in the supermarket or a local school, it is not too late for revival. Indeed, Jesus said that if the miracles He performed were done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in "sackcloth and ashes." He said if His life was manifested in Sodom, Sodom "would have remained to this day" (Matt 11:21-23). Let us, therefore, possess the heart of Christ. Let us be jealous with His jealousy.

Your Appointment Awaits You
Francis Frangipane

Appointed Times
In spite of escalating turmoil in our world, there still remains one last, great outpouring of mercy before the time of the end (Matt 24:14; Acts 2:17).  This supernatural season is not something for which we must beg God.  No, its coming has been predetermined.  It is the “appointed time” of the Lord. 

For those unaware, an “appointed time” is, in truth, an open display of the sovereignty and power of God. In it we discover with absolute certainty that nothing is impossible for God.  It is a season when God fulfills the hopes and dreams of His people.  The Psalmist wrote, “But You, O LORD, abide forever, and Your name to all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come” (Ps 102:12-13).

During an “appointed time” it’s as though the Lord physically rises and moves in unfailing compassion on behalf of His people.  It is the time when divine promises, dreams and spiritual hopes are fulfilled.  Recall: Abraham and Sarah had waited in faith for a quarter century for the promise of God.  Finally, as they neared one hundred years of age, the Lord told Abraham, “At the appointed time I will return to you . . . and Sarah will have a son” (Gen 18:14).  One year later, “at the appointed time” (Gen 21:2), Isaac was born to aged parents! 

While there are, indeed, appointed times of judgment (Mk 13:33), the phrase most frequently represents a time, preset by God, when He invades mankind with “wonders, plans formed long ago, [that unfold] with perfect faithfulness”(Isa 25:1). 

Demons may stand arrayed against the Lord; nations may align themselves to fight Him. It does not matter. He who sits in the heavens laughs. For He makes all things His servants (Ps 119:91), even His enemies’ plans for evil are reversed and made to serve the purpose of God (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28; Acts 2:22-24).  

If God gave you a vision, a spiritual hope or dream for your future, there will be an appointed time when that which God spoke comes to pass.  Thus the Lord assures us, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time.  It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Hab 2:2-3). 

If you have a vision or promise from God, that vision also has a time of fulfillment.  Though it tarries, wait for it.  For it will certainly come to pass at the appointed time.

Appointed Servants of God
Prior to the unveiling of an appointed time, God has, of course, been actively working in hiddenness.  When He rises and moves, He is moving the power grid He laid in secret.  The work manifests suddenly, but the preparation may have taken years.  Likewise, the Lord also appoints people. He predestines the time of their breakthrough in advance, even as He works silently within their hearts in preparation. 

Consider the Lord’s word to His disciples.  He said,

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain” (Jn 15:16). 

I’m sure the disciples felt that they had chosen Christ.  Yet, the deeper truth is that God chose us before the foundation of the world and predestined us to come to Christ (Eph 1:3-5).  We could not even come to Christ had not the Father drawn us (Jn 6:44). So, let us make no mistake: God chose us. Yet, He who chose us also appointed us to bear fruit.  The same power that worked in us surrender and then inspired our faith continues to work in our hearts throughout our days, appointing us to bear fruit. 

You may look at your life and feel unfruitful.  But God is not done with you yet. Do you believe God has chosen you?  Then believe also that He has appointed you to bear fruit.  The same power that drew you to Christ is now working to conform you to Him as well.

The Enemy’s Work
One may argue, “But I know people who were good Christians who have fallen away.”  Yes, but in most cases you will find that, at some point, they fell into deep disappointment about some failed spiritual expectation.  Disappointment is not just a sad emotional state of mind; deep disappointment actually can sever our hearts from faith. It can “dis-appoint” us from our appointed destiny.  

I have known many who were doing well, moving toward their appointed destiny. The future God had for them seemed almost close enough to taste. Then they became disappointed in someone or something.  By accepting dis-appointment into their spirits, a bitter cold winter took over their souls and their faith turned dormant.   

When one is dis-appointed, he is cut off from his appointment with destiny; the appointment remains in the heart of God, but the individual is isolated.  It is here, even in the throes of disappointment, that the righteous must learn to live by faith (see Hab 2:1-4).   

I, too, have been through disappointment.  Indeed, the promise of God was so distant that it seemed like a foolish spiritual fantasy.  For nearly three years I had not been involved in pastoral ministry.  No doors would open.  God was doing a work in my soul to cause me to trust Him, but I felt abandoned and cut off from my calling. In a moment of abject honesty, I prayed, “Lord, you promised that those who believed in You would not be disappointed.  Master, You know all things. Look at my heart. I am full of disappointment.” 

The Lord simply replied, “You’re life is not over.”  Of course, I knew that. I was a healthy young man not older than forty.  Yet, the spell of disappointment had flooded my soul with darkness, causing me to conclude erroneously that God was done with me. 

Listen well my friend: Satan can stop our destiny if we accept the power of disappointment into our lives. Once we accept the heaviness of a deep dis-appointment, backsliding is often not far away.  You see, dis-appointment cuts us off from our vision and without a vision people perish.   

Therefore, let me ask you: are you carrying disappointment in your heart?  Renounce it.  Forgive those who have let you down.  Have you personally or morally failed?  Repent deeply and return to your Redeemer.  Right now, I ask the Holy Spirit to remove disappointment’s paralyzing sting!  Beloved, the Spirit of God has come to release you of the effect of the dis-appointment.  He reminds you, “Your appointment with your destiny is still set. 

Holy Spirit, I confess that disappointment has crept into my soul.  I forgive those who have disappointed me and release them back to You.  I also forgive myself for accepting disappointment.  I renounce unbelief and submit again to Your call on my life.  Lord, prepare me again to move into the future You have appointed for my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Fixing the Car
David Miller
Ephesians 5:18

All week long, my car ran great. Here and there, across town and back, up hills and down; no problems. I turned the key, the engine fired and I was on my way. Then, suddenly, on Friday a terrible thing happened. I was cruising along when it coughed a couple of times, sputtered, harrumphed and then quit. Nothing. It would turn over, but not fire. I was stranded.

Being the master mechanic that I am, I walked around the car and gave all four tires a firm kick. I opened the hood, jiggled a few wires, pulled and twisted stuff, and burned my hand on something hot. But no matter what I did, the engine would not start.

I was at the point of despair when I noticed a large sign about a hundred yards ahead. It said "BMW - Baptist Motor Works." Perfect, I thought. If anyone can help me, surely my Baptist buddies can. I pushed the car over, and as I rolled it into the parking lot, a man in a loud sports coat, white shirt and ugly tie came out, grabbed my hand, slapped my back, and welcomed me to his shop. He had me fill out a visitor's card, popped the hood, and took a look inside.


"Brother Miller," he said. "Your car seems to be functioning below statistical standards."


"Yes, sir," I nodded. "I can't argue with that."


"I think I can help you. First, we will need to form a committee to study the statistics on this car. They will get the input of experts and others who own functioning cars of this model. We will get together, write a report, then formulate a program that will get your car's statistics up. I will give you an 800 number for the experts in Nashville and Atlanta who can help you to figure out why your numbers have slipped."

"Thank you, sir, but…"

"Please, call me Brother Billy Bob."

"Well, Brother Billy Bob, I appreciate all that. But can you fix my car - this car?"

"You are in luck. I have a new curriculum that just came in last week - look, here's the box right here. A shop down in Florida has had great success in getting their cars running using this program. If it worked for them, I am sure it will work for you."

"What is it?"

"I don't have all the details, but it has a catchy slogan and some great graphics. There's even a website with 10 pages of FAQs. Just what you need."

I thanked him and scanned the street. I am no mechanic, but I knew that my car needed something a little more than a catchy slogan and new program. I didn't need an expert in Florida to tell me how well his car runs; I needed someone in Sioux City to get my car running.

I pushed my car back out into the street and saw another shop just a couple of doors down. It was called the "Church Growth Strategy Mechanics Shop." Mechanics. That's what I needed. Maybe they could fix my car. So, I pushed it over to their shop and was invited to wait in their lush, air-conditioned lobby. As I waited, I perused some of the books and magazines. I glanced through Experiencing Cars, flipped through The Purpose-Driven Car and scanned a pamphlet called, How to Make Your Car More Driver-Friendly.

Before I got a chance to digest any of the advice, a mechanic with a neatly trimmed goatee came out dressed in Khakis and a golf shirt. After I explained my problem, he smiled and said, "I think I can help you, Mr. Miller. What you need to do is take a survey of your community and find out what people feel their automotive needs are. Find out what the most popular color of paint is and what interior style and color people like the most. Once you know what the people around you like in a car, we can totally redesign your car to fit those tastes. Then we can begin a new advertising and marketing strategy that will make your car the envy of the whole community."

"Will that make my car run better?"

He shook his head sadly. "Mr. Miller, you will never get the right answers as long as you are asking the wrong questions."

I could tell I was getting nowhere with him. My car did not need a survey or a new marketing strategy. It needed to be fixed. I looked up and down the street one more time. I saw another place a block away. The sign said, "CP&W Repair Shop - We can make your old car new." Perfect! I huffed and puffed and pushed my car up the small hill to the CP&W shop. Out came a man with long curly hair, in blue jeans and sandals, wearing a Switchfoot t-shirt.

"Can you help me?" I asked. "My car won't run."

He looked inside and nodded, then turned to face me. "Mr. Miller, I have spotted your problem. Look at your sound system. You have an old AM radio with a cassette player. That thing will only play old-fashioned, out-of-date music. We, here at Contemporary Praise and Worship Repair Shop can fix you right up. We will replace your old clunker with the newest CD/DVD surround sound studio-quality satellite music system. You will be able to get all the best stations with all the newest music."

"Will it make my car run?"

"Run?" he responded. "Why would you want to run when you could sit in your car and enjoy the experience of your wonderful, modern sound system. That's all this car needs - contemporary music."

I thanked him and headed back out. I may be a mechanical moron, but I knew that whatever was wrong with my car could not be fixed by a new program, new marketing strategies, an exterior paint job or a new sound system. None of that would bring my dead car to life.

I spied one more little shop, tucked back in an old brick building. The sign read "Superior Automotive Knowledge Repair Shop." Maybe these folks knew what to do with my car. My back was aching from pushing it around town and I needed help. But, when I rolled the car into their parking lot, no one came out to help.

I poked my head in the door. Hearing some soft organ music in the background, I walked down a hallway and opened another door. There, huddled in a small circle, was a group of men in a very intense discussion.

"Excuse me," I interrupted. "Is this a repair shop?"

With a look of faint annoyance, one man said, "Yes, it is."

"Well, I have a car that won't run, and I was wondering if you could take a look at it."

He pursed his lips. "If you are interested and able, you may join our group as we study the true Doctrines of Cars. We are just now exploring the various aspects of Predesticarnation - you know, understanding free wheel and carlection. We are not like some of those silly groups out there that focus on methods and manuals and such things. We have found a superior knowledge of the inner workings of cars and it provides us with a sense of awe and humility, knowing that we know more about how cars work than anyone else."

I was a little confused. "Do you actually fix cars?"

He seemed a little irritated. "That is not our job. If the manufacturer wants the cars fixed, he will fix them himself."

I wandered back out and leaned against my car in superior frustration. I was out of options. I could not see any more shops and I was dead tired from all the pushing. At that moment, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw an average looking man in jeans and a t-shirt. He said, "Sir, I have watched you push your car up and down the street. I think I can help you."

I was a little cynical now. "What are you going to do for me? Form a strategy team, call in an expert, form an elite study group, repaint my car and fix my stereo?"

"No, sir. I own that little gas station over there, the B&P Filling Station. I thought you might try something simple. Maybe your car is just out of gas. Want to give that a try?"

At this point, I was willing to try anything. So we pushed the car over to the B&P Gas Station. I pumped gas into my car until the tank was full. I sat down in the front seat, put in the key, turned it, it chugachugged for a second, then roared to life. Nothing was really wrong with the car; it was just out of gas!

I went inside and thanked the mechanic. Never had I been so happy to pay for a tank of gasoline.

"Don't worry about it, Mr. Miller. It happens all the time. People drive their cars and never stop to fill them up. Then, when they go dry, everyone has a suggestion, but so often they forget to do the one thing every car needs - fill the tank."

He handed me a receipt, I shook his hand and I went on my way. As I sat down in the driver's seat, I started to put the receipt into my notebook. That's when I saw the name at the top: "Bible & Prayer Filling Station." I was sure glad I stopped there that day.

Perhaps all the experts' advice, the marketing strategies, the new paradigms, the head knowledge, the modernization, and new programs are not what we Christians and our churches need most. Maybe what we really need is to get into God's Word and seek Him until our hearts are full of our Savior's presence. Perhaps our churches just need to focus on seeking God and listening to His Word.

Maybe a new program can help. There is a lot of great new music being written for the purpose of praising God. It is possible that your church could find a new strategy that will help you be more effective in reaching your community. And undoubtedly Christians need to know more about the basic doctrines of our faith. But none of these things will fix the real problem most Christians, and their churches, have. Nothing will fill an empty tank but the presence of God. Nothing cultivates the presence of God like the Word of God and prayer.

Could it be that simple?

Dave Miller
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Two Things,
Two Things Only

Francis Frangipane

There are so many things to occupy our minds: so many books, so many examples, so many good teachings that deserve our attention, that say, “here is a truth.” But, as I have been serving the Lord these past years, He has led me to seek for two things and two things only: to know the heart of God in Christ and to know my own heart in Christ’s light.

Knowing the Heart of God
I have been seeking God, searching to know Him and the depth of His love toward His people. I want to know Christ’s heart and the compassions that motivate Him. The Scriptures are plain: Jesus loved people. Mark’s gospel tells us that after He taught and healed the multitudes, they became hungry. In His compassion, Christ saw them as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). It was not enough for Him to heal and teach them; He personally cared for each of them. Their physical well-being, even concerning food, was important to Him.

A lad with five loaves and two fish provided enough for Jesus to work another miracle, but this miracle had to come through Christ’s willing but bone-weary body. Consider: Christ brought His disciples out to rest; “For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).

Consider: Jesus personally had come to pray and be strengthened. For John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, had been beheaded earlier that very week at the hands of Herod. It was in the state of being emotionally and physically depleted that Jesus fed the multitudes - not just once or twice but over and over again “He kept giving [the bread and the fish] to the disciples to set before them” (Mark 6:41).

Thousands of men, women and children all “ate and were satisfied” (v. 42)! Oh, the heart of Jesus! The miracle was for them, but we read of no miracle sustaining Him except the marvelous wonder of a holy love that continually lifted His tired hands with more bread and more fish. Out of increasing weakness He repeatedly gave that others might be renewed.

So, if my quest is to know Him, I must recognize this about Him: Jesus loves people - all people, especially those society ignores. Therefore, I must know exactly how far He would travel for men, for that is the same distance He would journey again through me. Indeed, I must know His thoughts concerning illness, poverty and human suffering. As His servant, I am useless to Him unless I know these things. If I would actually do His will, I must truly know His heart. Therefore, in all my study and times of prayer I am seeking more than just knowledge; I am searching for the heart of God.

Knowing Our Hearts
At the same time, as I draw closer to the heart of God, the very fire of His presence begins a deep purging work within me. In the vastness of His riches, my poverty appears. The psalmist wrote, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully” (Ps. 24:3-4).

We cannot even find the hill of the Lord, much less ascend it, if there is deceit in our heart. How does one serve in God’s holy place if his soul is unclean? It is only the pure in heart who perceive God. To ascend toward God is to walk into a furnace of truth where falsehood is extracted from our souls. To abide in the holy place we must dwell in honesty, even when a lie might seem to save us. Each ascending step upon the hill of God is a thrusting of our souls into greater transparency, a more perfect view into the motives of our hearts.

It is this upward call of God which we pursue. Yet, the soul within us is hidden, crouching in fears and darkness, living in a world of untruths and illusions. This is our inner man, the soul God seeks to save. Have you discovered your true self, the  inner person whom truth alone can free? Yes, we seek holiness, but true holiness arises from here; it comes as the Spirit of Truth unveils the hidden places in our hearts. Indeed, it is truthfulness which leads to holiness.

God, grant us a zeal for truth that we may stand in Your holy place!

Men everywhere presume they know the “truth,” but have neither holiness nor power in their lives. Truth must become more than historical doctrines; it must be more than a museum of religious artifacts - mementos from when God once moved. Truth is knowing God’s heart as it was revealed in Christ, and it is knowing our own hearts in the light of God’s grace.

As members of the human race, we are shrouded in ignorance. Barely do we know our world around us; even less do we know the nature of our own souls. Without realizing it, as we search for God’s heart, we are also searching for our own. For it is only in finding Him that we discover ourselves, for we are “in Him.”

Yet, throughout that searching process, as I position my heart before the Lord, it is with a sense of trembling that I pray the prayer of King David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps. 139:23-24).

Let us wash the cosmetics from our souls and look at the unadorned condition of our hearts. I know God has created us eternally complete and perfect in Christ. I believe that. But in the first three chapters of John’s Revelation, Jesus did not tell the churches they were “perfect in His eyes.” No! He revealed to them their true conditions; He told them their sins. Without compromise, He placed on them the demand to be overcomers, each in his own unique and difficult circumstance.

Like them, we must know our need. And like them, the souls we want saved dwell here, in a world system structured by lies, illusions and rampant corruption. Our old natures are like well-worn shoes into which we relax; we can be in the flesh instantly without even realizing it. The enemies which defeat us are hidden and latent within us! Thus, the Holy Spirit must expose our foes before we can conquer them!

Concerning man’s nature, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Quoting another of David’s prayers, a similar cry is heard, “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression” (Ps. 19:12-13).

There may be errors inside of us that are actually ruling us without our awareness. Do we realize, for instance, how many of our actions are manipulated purely by vanity and the desire to be seen or accepted by others? Are we aware of the fears and apprehensions that unconsciously influence so many of our decisions? We may have serious flaws inside yet still be either too proud or too insecure to admit we need help.

Concerning ourselves, we think so highly of what we know so little!

Even outwardly, though we know our camera pose, do we know how we appear when we are laughing or crying, eating or sleeping, talking or angry? The fact is, most of us are ignorant of how we appear outwardly to others; much less do we know ourselves inwardly before God! Our fallen thinking processes automatically justify our actions and rationalize our thoughts. Without the Holy Spirit, we are nearly defenseless against our own innate tendencies toward self-deception.

Therefore, if we would be holy, we must first renounce falsehood. In the light of God’s grace, having been justified by faith and washed in the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we need not pretend to be righteous. We need only to become truthful.

No condemnation awaits our honesty of heart - no punishment. We have only to repent and confess our sins to have them forgiven and cleansed; if we will love the truth we shall be delivered from sin and self-deception. Indeed, we need to know two things and two things only: the heart of God in Christ and our own hearts in Christ’s light.

The Tent of Meeting
Francis Frangipane

“When Thou didst say, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to Thee, ‘Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek’” (Ps. 27:8). 

Time to Seek God
There are certain times when the Lord calls us out of the routine of our daily lives. These are special seasons where His only command is, “Seek My face.” He has something precious and vitally important to give us that the familiar pattern of our daily devotions cannot accommodate. During such times people are often delivered of sins that have plagued them for years; others discover a depth in their walk with God that leads to greater effectiveness in ministry and prayer; still others experience breakthroughs in their families and are used by God to see loved ones brought into the kingdom.

et, here we are not seeking God for things or even for other people. We are seeking God for Himself. Maturity starts as we break the cycle of seeking God only during hardship; holiness begins the moment we seek God for Himself. A touch from God is wonderful, but we are in pursuit of more than just an experience - more than “goose bumps and tears.” We are seeking to abide with Christ, where we are continually aware of His fullness within us, where His presence dwells in us in glory.

How do we enter this sacred place? If we study the life of Moses, we will see how he sought God and lived in fellowship with Him.

“Now 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.” Exodus 33:7

Notice that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out.” If we are going to truly seek the Lord, we must “go out” as did Moses and those who sought the Lord. We must pitch our tent “a good distance from the camp.” What camp is this? For Moses, as well as for us, it is the “camp of familiarity.”

Is there anything inherently wrong or sinful with the things that are familiar? No, not in themselves, but you will remember that when Jesus told His disciples to follow Him, He called them to leave the familiar pattern of their lives for extended periods and be alone with Him (Matt. 19:27, Luke 14:33). Why? Because He knew that men, by nature, are unconsciously governed by the familiar. If He would expand us to receive the eternal, He must rescue us from the limitations of the temporal.

This is not to say we neglect our families or that we become irresponsible as we seek God. No. God has given everyone enough time to seek Him. It is there. Having done what love would have us do for our families, we simply say no to every other voice but God’s. We must redeem the time: cancel hobbies, forsake television, put away the newspaper and magazines. Those who would find God, find time.

Sadly, many Christians have no higher goal, no greater aspiration, than to become “normal.” Their desires are limited to measuring up to others. Without a true vision of God, we most certainly will perish spiritually! Paul rebuked the church at Corinth because they walked, “like mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3). God has more for us than merely becoming better people; He wants to flood our lives with the same power that raised Christ from the dead! We must understand: God does not merely want us “normal,” He wants us Christlike!

For the Holy Spirit to facilitate God’s purposes in our lives, He must redefine both our definition of reality and our priorities in life. Christlikeness must become our singular goal.

For most people, however, our sense of reality, and hence, our security, is often rooted in the familiar. How difficult it is to grow spiritually if our security is based upon the stability of outward things! Our security must come from God, not circumstances, nor even relationships. Our sense of reality needs to be rooted in Christ. When it is, the other areas of our lives experience eternal security.

Yet, our fears run deep and are numerous. Indeed, most of us pass through life umbilically tied to the protection of the familiar. Experience tells us that many good people remain in lifeless churches simply because they desire the security of familiar faces more than the truth of Christ. Even people who have been delivered from adverse situations are often drawn back into hardship. Why? Because adversity is more familiar to them.

Consider that certain prisoners are repeat offenders simply because they are more accustomed to prison life than freedom. Is it not sadly true that often young girls who have been abused by their fathers unconsciously tend to seek out and marry men who eventually abuse them as their fathers did? Groping blindly through life, they sought for the familiar. It is significant that worldwide most people live within fifty miles of their birthplaces.

Humans are cocooned, insulated against change by the familiar. When we work all day only to come home, watch television, then collapse in bed, our lifestyle becomes a chain of bondage. These things may not necessarily trap us in sin as much as they keep us from God.

Moses would leave what was familiar and pitch his tent “outside the camp,” where he would then seek the Lord.

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Hebrews 13:12-14

In the same way that Moses and those who sought the Lord went outside the camp, and as Jesus went outside the camp, so also must we, at times, leave the camp of what seems normal and predictable and begin to seek after God. Here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

This is one reason why Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray” (Matt. 6:6). Christ desires us to leave the familiar, distracting world of our senses and abide in the world of our hearts, bearing in mind that the highest goal of prayer is to find God.

Every minute you seek God is a minute enriched with new life and new power from God. Give yourself a minimum amount of time - an hour or two each day, but do not set a limit, as the Lord may draw you to seek Him on into the night. And continue day by day, and week by week, until you have drawn near enough to God that you can hear His voice, becoming confident that He is close enough to you to hear your whisper.

If we are going to become holy, we must sever the chains and restraints - the bondage of desiring just an average life. We will choose to leave the camp of familiarity and place our tent in the presence of God.   

Are You Having An Identity Crisis?
Francis Frangipane

As Christians our faith tells us that Christ died as payment for our sins.  We believe He actually rose from the grave as proof that He was, indeed, sent by God.  Yet, it is also our conviction that, upon this resurrection event, not only were the sins of  mankind atoned for but, through Christ, a second Genesis began. 

Paul explains, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit”  (1 Cor 15:45). The word Adam means “man” and is representative of  “mankind.”  There are now two Adams or two species of man.  The first species of man is the descendant of sinful Adam. His life orbits around his carnal or “natural” desires.  He carries both the DNA of Adam’s nature and the consequences of Adam’s sin.  This natural man is focused upon fulfilling the needs of his soul. He is, indeed, a “living soul,” but he is controlled by fears, physical needs, intellect boundaries, cultural environment and sin. 

The second species or race of man is Spirit-centered.  His thoughts, dreams and experiences originate primarily from the Holy Spirit, who lives in union with him.  The highest aspiration of the Spirit-centered man is not on attaining natural successes, but upon attaining conformity to Christ.  While the first man lives to experience what the world around him can give him, the last species of man, the Christ-man, lives for what he can give to the world: He is a “life-giving spirit.”  The first Adam engendered descendants with problems; the spiritual descendants of the last Adam, Christ, provide the world with answers. 

New Creatures
While men divide over many things - culture, skin color, language or social status - from God’s view mankind is only truly divided into two subsets: those controlled by their souls and those controlled by the Holy Spirit.  One race is dead in sin; the other is alive in Christ.  One species of man is destined to perish; the other will live forever.  Just as the first Adam passed sin, weakness and death to his children, so the second Adam, Christ, passes virtue, power and eternal life to the children of God.

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). 

“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal 6:15). 

We are not merely men of flesh temporarily acting spiritual, but we are spiritual beings temporarily living as men of flesh.  If you have received Christ into your life, you are part of the second Genesis.  You possess a new nature which, like Christ’s, shall live forever.

Identity Crisis
Yet, too many of us suffer from an “identity crisis.”  We are confused about who we really are.  We attend church, but internally we are still deeply identified with the traits and expectations of the first Adam.  Paul rebuked the church in Corinth, which suffered with fleshy attitudes, saying “are you not walking like mere men?  (1 Cor 3:3).  

Hear me well: If you have received Christ, you are no mere mortal.  The very same power that raised Christ from the dead, abides also in you. While you may experience many of the same trials that the descendants of the first Adam face, you are buoyed by God’s Spirit as He faithfully works all things for good in your life.   On the other side of your trials is not death, but resurrection!

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you” (Rom 8:11).

We may look human, but abiding within us is a treasure more valuable the earth itself: resurrection power. 

“And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24).  Just as it was impossible for death to hold Christ in the grave, so it is impossible for the substance of “death” still in us - our sins and failures - to hold Him as well.  Christ conquers death as readily as light drives out darkness. Indeed, in all things we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”  (Rom 8:37 NIV).

Seated With Christ
As I was engaged in a particular struggle, a friend asked me, “How are you doing under the circumstances?” I answered, “I’m not under the circumstances; I’m seated with Christ in heavenly places.  My Father is God.  There is no weapon formed against me that can prosper.  I’m born again from above, a new creation; I am a partaker of the Divine nature.” 

Everything I answered came directly from God’s word and represents the reality granted me by faith in God’s promises.  Faith unlocks the power of God’s promises.  So, beloved friend, you are not under circumstances or “the weather,” or pressures or curses; you are alive together with Christ (Col 2), and positioned in the shelter of God’s domain.  Yes, we face conflict, which God uses to perfect our character, but He also “always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Cor 2:14).

Beloved, if you are not using God’s word to define and shape your spiritual identity, you will, in fact, be under circumstances and clouded by the oppression that abides on the first Adam.  You may still be a Christian, but you will suffer from your identity crisis.  This is why Paul said, “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4: 24).  You must accept, believe, and then apply the word of God until you are fully established as a new creation. 

“Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

This quest to walk in your new nature is the crux of your primary battles in life.  This is not just a war between your virtue and your vices. No, it is a war between your identity after the flesh and your true identity as a new creature in Christ.  “Faith,” John tells us, “is the victory that overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4). You are a citizen of a new realm. As such, you must learn the customs and understand the language. In the kingdom of God, everyone believes what God says about them. When God speaks, His words create realities. Our faith accepts the grace and truth of God's word and, in so doing, our lives are transformed.

Yes, we will still fail, but Christ is greater than our failings.  True, we will still err, but in all things God works good.  Indeed, we pass through hard experiences that God uses to conform us to the character of His Son (see Phil 3:10), yet He also brings us through such things so we can possess the power of Christ’s resurrection!   

Consider Paul’s analysis of his personal journey:

“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, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).

Again, he wrote:

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16).

Let us ask ourselves, is our spiritual consciousness focused upon what is inwardly “decaying” or are our hearts lifted to that which is “being renewed day by day”?  Are we living as mere men or as new creatures fashioned after the likeness of Christ?  Would you agree that it is time to get over your identity crisis?

Lord, forgive me for dwelling in the basement of my old nature rather than the penthouse of Your love and promises.  You have chosen me to reveal Your life, You’ve given me Your Holy Spirit and spoken to me through Your word.  I am Your child, born from above and destined to inherit Your glory.  I worship You, my Lord and King.

If We Do Not Lose Heart
Francis Frangipane

“He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” Daniel 7:25

The prophet Daniel warns of a time when Satan, through the Antichrist, will seek to wear down the strength of God’s saints. How this occurs in the final hours of the age remains to be seen, but on one level this battle already is going on today: Satan seeks to wear us out through delays (“alterations in times”) and in compromise of God’s Word (“alterations in law”).

The final effect of what seems like never-ending delays is that believers are worn out. Do you know anyone who is weary with his or her battle? Are you yourself weary? I know many who seem trapped in situations that should have been remedied months and even years ago but the battle continues against them. Situations and people, often empowered by demonic resistance, stand in opposition to the forward progress of God’s people. As a result of satanic spiritual resistance, many Christians incrementally accept this resistance until a quiet, but weighty, oppression rests on their souls.

This battle to wear out the saints may be rooted in conflicts with children or spouses; perhaps it is some unresolved issue or division within their churches. It may be a work conflict or health battle, yet on and on it goes. Like a skilled and masterful thief, the enemy daily steals the joy, strength and passion of Christians, and many do not even realize what they have lost or how much.

The scale is actually larger than our personal struggles. Consider the various conflicts in the world. Some have continued for generations. We can understand why, even in the midst of great worship and praise by the redeemed, there is a place under the altar in heaven where the saints continue to ask, “How long, O Lord?” (Revelation 6:10). Fifty-eight times in the Bible, from beginning to end, the phrase how long is echoed by those who grew weary with waiting.

Sometimes the delays are God-ordained to perfect faith; as we seek Him He helps us grow. On the other hand, there is a vicious attack against us to oppose and delay the fulfillment of God’s plans for us until we grow weary and quit. Satan is the dragon whose goal is to “drag-on” the battle with draining, wearying delays. He persists until we wear out, give up and quit praying.

Additionally, as situations stretch beyond reasonably expected conclusions, weariness of soul can also exacerbate the original situation, leading to fleshly reactions or just overreactions, which also need resolution. We lose patience, eventually seeking relief rather than victory. This compromises the standards of God and conscience.

Perseverance
There is a reason the book of Revelation mentions the word perseverance seven times. Over and over again we see those who persevered and overcame. It is one thing to have vision, another to have godly motives, but neither will carry us to our objectives by itself. We must also persevere.

The root of the word persevere is the word severe. We must face the fact that en route to victory our trials may get severe. Likewise, it is with severe faith - severe or extreme steadfastness - that we inherit the promises of God (see Hebrews 10:36). James tells us: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Endurance. Perseverance. Steadfastness. These are the qualities that breed character, that transform the doctrine of Christlikeness into a way of life. “Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect.” The key to perfection, to a life “lacking in nothing” is perseverance.

Weariness of the Mind
Have you grown weary? You are not alone. Part of the weariness we feel comes from faulty thinking. If we had known the battle was going to take as long as it has, we would have prepared for it more realistically. Every building plan will probably take twice as long as we assume; every virtue will take a year, not a weekend, to be truly worked in us. It may take a generation for some of our loved ones to be saved. If things happen sooner, we can rejoice. But we must guard ourselves lest we prepare only for the easiest of breakthroughs; some things will not manifest without time and tears.

You may think that it sounds like unbelief to expect difficulties. I don’t think so. I think it is wisdom. Wisdom is not the enemy of faith. I have found that if I don’t trust God and relax, I become anxious, fretful and distracted. I have also found that the Holy Spirit will not descend and rest in power upon a man who is fearful and controlled by his external circumstances. Jesus’ spirit stayed in abiding peace, yet still He accommodated delays as part of life’s package. He was often delayed by the huge crowds or urgent needs of the people around Him. People died waiting for Jesus to show up. Did He become anxious? No, He stayed focused on the Father and without losing His trust in God, simply raised the dead.

At some point we must come to the conclusion that God knows when we are growing weary in battle - be it praying for the salvation of a loved one or one more frustrating delay in reaching our vision. We must trust that He knows our battle and that He has a miracle conclusion waiting us. I know a dear pastor who labored long and hard with a new building project, but it was constantly being delayed. It was first scheduled for completion in September, then rescheduled for December, then January and then February. Finally, with weariness in his voice, he called and asked if I could join him for their dedication. It was set for the first week of March.

“When exactly do you need me?” I asked.

He answered, “March fourth.”

Suddenly the Holy Spirit illuminated my heart. I told him that God had chosen this date prophetically. The Lord wanted that church, as an army, to “march forth” into their destiny. In a flash, the weariness weighing upon him was gone; joy and a sense of destiny swept his soul. The delay wore him out, but the delay in the hands of God became inspirational.

Dear ones, let us persevere. We just do not know what the victory will look like when we finally break through. Consider Joseph. Betrayed, enslaved, slandered and forgotten, he had to endure to reach his destiny. But the time finally arrived, and never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that the outcome would be so wonderful.

What we become is more important to God than what we do for Him. Our struggle, though we may have been delayed time and again, deepens our character. Maintaining our standards when pressed, finding grace when stretched, makes us true men and women of God. The Almighty One is in control. He knows how to take what was meant for evil and transform it into something good, even using the devil’s own devices to bring him down. God has something marvelous in store for us otherwise the enemy would not be fighting so intensely. Indeed, Scripture tells us that Satan rages worst when he knows his time is short (see Revelation 12:12).

Character Before Breakthrough
We mentioned Daniel earlier as a prophet who warned about Satan’s ploy to wear down the saints. God gave him a vision of the end of the age. Here is what he wrote: “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them” (Daniel 7:21). This is the nature of the battle. There are times we feel war storming against our souls, overpowering us. But the prophet said the sense of overpowering continued only “until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).

There is a principle here that, once understood, will lead to victory in our battles. There will be a time, inevitably, when we feel overpowered. Yet if we endure, if we climb higher into God, if we refuse to lose our trust in God, a time will come when the Ancient of Days enters our circumstances. Looking at our newly developed character, which has grown strong through perseverance, He will pass judgment in favor of our cause. God looks at our character, forged in the fire of overpowering delays and battle, and says, “Good, this is what I was waiting for.”

Whatever your battle, whether you are praying for your country or standing for your children, whether your cry is for the lost or for the end of some local or personal conflict, remember the words of Paul: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).

Master, I ask that You work in me the character that perseveres until the end. Forgive me for being such a wimp. Help me to grow up, to stand up until the harvest I have sown spiritually bears fruit. Thank You for not giving up on me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God’s Reward
Francis Frangipane


It seems every couple months there is a major disaster or conflict somewhere in the world. With regularity, the images of human suffering explode into our consciousness and we are confronted, not only with our frailty, but also with deeper questions about the nature of God.

Some, to be sure, file every natural disaster under the label, “wrath of God.” The perception that the fist of an angry God is purposefully causing untold agony, destroying the righteous together with the wicked, is an acceptable reality to them. In my opinion, such thinking tends to keep people somewhat aloof from the calamities themselves.  Such analyses, however, are not easily assimilated by those whose hands have lifted the decaying bodies of the dead and whose ears still ring with the wail of the stricken.

Consider the repetition of suffering in our world just since the end of December, 2004.  First we were deluged with images of the great Asian tsunami.  Roaring into unsuspecting villages, in a few horrifying moments it swept almost 250,000 souls into eternity.  Over the following months  more earthquakes rocked Sumatra, then Iran and elsewhere, killing additional thousands.  We’ve repeatedly seen the face of starvation in Africa and other third world counties.  Then recently, we struggled to comprehend the gut-wenching destruction caused by storms, especially Hurricane Katrina. As the tide of terror ebbs into our memory, we ask: Where was God in these disasters? Did He cause them? Is He angry?

Beyond the Visible
Modern technology has enabled us to become aware of our world’s reoccurring natural disasters. It is our awareness of human pain that disturbs us and moves us to pray, give or help.  But the fact is our world is constantly harvesting heartache and sorrow, but it is unreported.  Yet God sees it.  Each year over 57 million people die worldwide from various causes. God sees every death, even those who vanish forever into eternal darkness without Christ.  Globally, another 50 million babies are brutally aborted each year, and every muffled cry enters our Father’s ears and descends into His heart. He sees the horrors of murder, rape and abuse; He is conscious of the starving, the diseased and the victims of accidents and wars.  He is not the author of these particular deaths, but He is conscious of the collective suffering rising from our world.

However, the question is, where is God in all this?  In ancient mythology, “gods” were portrayed as supernatural beings seated above humanity, luxuriating in a sensual “heaven.”  Not only were they indifferent to human suffering, causing pain was something like sport to them.  They were capricious, given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior. 

When I hear people connect terrible storms, earthquakes or disasters with divine wrath, I feel that, as Christians, we should at least be cautious lest we unconsciously draw upon pagan imagery and misread the activity and heart of God.  Pagan gods caused calamities; they were without compassion in their unrestrained affliction of mankind.  Yet, the Spirit of God is united with us during hardship.  His promise is that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Yes, He abides in eternity in a “high and holy place”(Is 57:15c), but He also dwells in the realm of time “with the contrite and lowly of spirit” where He seeks to “revive the spirit of the lowly” (Is 57:15c). The true God “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:27-28).  Paul spoke these words to unsaved Greeks; God was close even to them.  The Spirit of God is consciously involved with every aspect of our lives, even to numbering the hairs on our head.  Hebrews tells us that “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13).  Jesus said that the Father not only “sees in secret” (Matt 6:4,6,18), but even a sparrow will not “fall to the ground apart from [our] Father” (Matt 10:29).

If we are seeking to know the relationship of God to human suffering on planet earth, we need to accept this primary truth: God is not separated from human sorrows. The idea that the Almighty is removed from mankind’s sufferings, I believe, is a deception rooted in paganism. 

But let us probe deeper into God’s nature. The Lord is not only conscious of mankind’s suffering, a dimension of His heart is also wounded with our wounds and pained by our sorrows.  Consider, even while Israel was suffering the consequences of its sin, God was united with them. Scripture reveals that a time came when the Lord “could bear the misery of Israel no longer” (Judg 10:16). What an insight into the God’s heart! He was not sitting in heaven watching from a distance, measuring how much suffering His people could endure - He was with them, actually experiencing their accumulative misery!

Why should this idea of God suffering be strange to us? Throughout the Bible we read that one aspect of the divine nature is that He is “longsuffering” (Ex 34:6, Ps 86:15 KJV). His wisdom may be all knowing and His power fully capable, but His heart feels our pain. God suffers. He does not, like pagan gods, “harden His heart” to human pain.

When Israel had been enslaved by Egypt, the Lord told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people . . . and have heard their cry.” He said, “I know their sorrows” (Ex 3:7 KJV). God saw, He heard, He knew their sorrows, and thus was moved with compassion to help. When I see, hear and know personally of human suffering, I am troubled deeply; I desire to help. This is exactly the heart of God! Our desires to help relieve suffering are not merely human traits, but a replication of the likeness of God Himself (see Gen 1:26).

When wickedness fully corrupts a culture, yes, it forces the Lord to execute judgement. However, it is a task of last resort. He feels “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek 33:11). Even then, the idea of God causing pain must be balanced with the reality that He feels the pain He causes.

Those Whom He Loves ....... This is not a message about divine wrath, but about the vulnerability of God’s heart.
I am not saying the Lord does not correct us. I have known the discipline and correction of the Lord, even when it seemed severe. I agree with the Psalmist who wrote, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps 119:71). Those whom God loves, He reproves and disciplines. Yet, it is not an angry God who corrects me, but a loving heavenly Father who disciplines me for my own good.  Indeed, this is the great revelation that the Messiah brought to mankind: the Almighty God is not distant.  He is our Father.

Several years ago, I had suffered through a particularly difficult time. I sought the Lord about the pain that I endured. He answered simply, “I have been as gentle with you as possible.” Suddenly, I saw that it was the devil who caused most of the pain; people and my own poor reactions caused the rest. Yes, the Lord was involved redeeming a bad situation, turning it toward good, helping, restoring me and teaching me discernment and wisdom through it all.

God is our Father.  It causes me pain to discipline my children.  I do not enjoy it.  As a child, before my dad would spank me, he would always say, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” 
(the webmistress of this site does NOT condone spanking children)

What God Himself Seeks.......Yet, why does the Lord tolerate the grief and suffering that abounds on planet earth? Jesus explained it this way. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt 13:45-46).

God is looking for something valuable, something costly. Yes, the Father found one pearl of great price in His Son, but there is something else the Father seeks, and that is the replication of His Son in us.  Romans 8:29 reveals His glorious purpose: He has “predestined [us] to become conformed to the image of His Son.”

The pearl of great price, Christ, is not only the payment for our sins, He is the pattern for our lives. Even as the life of Christ flooded the Father’s heart with pleasure, so our conformity to Christ justifies the sorrows and suffering of our times. God is using the pain of these days to conform us to His Son. In spite of the sorrows and sufferings of this present age, something precious is being born.  Jesus called these difficult events “birth pangs,” divine contractions forcing us into conformity to the Pearl of Great Price.

As I write, Hurricane Rita is bearing down on the American Gulf states.  As my editor reviewed this message, she informed that Rita actually means “pearl.”  Beloved, God is with us in our heartache, let us be with Him in the transformation of our lives.  Let us give to God His own reward for creating man.

A Cleansing Has Begun
Francis Frangipane


By now, most of us are familiar with the wide range of opinions offered to explain the prophetic  significance of Hurricane Katrina.  In case you missed any, here are some widely circulated perceptions, starting with two from the non-Christian world:

  • It is interesting to observe the radical Islamic perception of  Hurricane Katrina.  Extremists believe this storm was enlisted by Allah to fight America. It is not hard to see how the Jihadists arrived at their position.  Judgment, like beauty, exists in the eye of the beholder.  They blame American greed for defiling their cultures and exploiting their wealth and resources.  Not that I believe in Allah, but I, too, question the record profits gathered by our large oil companies.  Indeed, while our gasoline prices have sky-rocketed, Exxon Mobil had $7.64 billion profit in the past quarter alone. Our government needs to investigate the oil companies.  At the same time, I don’t believe Katrina was sent by God because of America’s sins against Muslims.  The fact is, we went to war against Serbia to save Muslims in Bosnia and we liberated Afghanistan from the oppression of the Taliban, all without any reward or goal of obtaining wealth from oil.

  • Next: Several European nations warned America that Katrina came to teach us a “lesson.” This storm, according to them, was a consequence of our disregard concerning environmental issues. Our alleged failure has increased global warming, which in turn has increased the intensity and frequency of hurricanes.  In their view, America has sown the wind and we are now reaping whirlwinds.  I really don’t know about hurricanes and global warming, but Rev 11:18 says that God will ultimately “destroy those who destroy the earth.”   We must be wise with our resources.  

  • A number in the pro-life community have been warning that, if America does not repent of abortion, judgments are sure to come.  It is very possible this is the beginning of wrath for the murder of innocents.  However, I’m not sure how the destruction of the northern Gulf coast connects with punishment for abortion.  

  • Some Christians here and in Israel are saying this hurricane is God’s wrath on the U.S. for pressuring Israel to surrender land for peace.  Even though some of my friends, who I respect, believe this, I have a hard time seeing this as true. Although I agree that pressuring Israel to give up land for peace is ill-advised and wrong, I also believe American intentions for Israel’s well-being remain strong and are sincere.  America remains Israel’s closest friend and strongest ally.      

    Remember, the Lord’s word in Gen 12:3 tells us that God will bless those who bless Israel and He will curse those who curse Israel (as Abraham’s seed).  So is America a blessing to Israel? If we asked the Jewish people themselves if America is a blessing, my opinion is that they  would overwhelmingly say, yes.  I believe America is working to find a means to achieve enduring peace for the Jewish nation.  Disagreeing with how to move forward in this extremely difficult situation is not cursing the Israelis.  Men and governments will make mistakes, but mercy-oriented intercession will ultimately bring God’s will to pass for all nations.  However, to state unequivocally that Hurricane Katrina is God’s wrath for the Gaza evacuations -- that America is a curse to Israel -- simply is not true. Yet, time will tell. 

  • Others are sure that this storm hit New Orleans in particular because of the city’s ever deepening descent into moral anarchy, paganism and depravity.  Not that New Orleans is worse than a few other cities that come to mind, yet New Orleans has embraced wantonness  and corruption on a sinister level.  Please understand, in no way do I want my words to dim our aggressive prayer and compassion for this entire area; there are great Christians who have remained faithful to God and stood for righteousness for generations. Yet, it must be noted that, on the very weekend following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was scheduled to welcome over 100,000 homosexuals for the thirty-fourth celebration of “Southern Decadence.”  The argument that Katrina was divine wrath striking flagrant sin is strong.  Other cities following New Orleans’ path should take note: government officials have grimly announced that the entire city has been destroyed. 

  • My View:  To understand my sense of this time of devastation, we must go back to February, 2003, when I published a message entitled, “A Nation Cleansed by the Spirit of God.”  In it I spoke of a fearful night encounter I had with the Lord.  Quoting the article itself, the Lord warned, “I will strike America; I will strike and bring chastening.”  As I prayed, I suddenly became aware (and I’m quoting again the article) “of the major hurricanes and earthquakes that have hit the U.S. over the past 30 years.  I was absolutely amazed at how God’s protection has covered our land: how greatly minimized was the loss of life! I thought of the massive earthquakes that have struck Kobe, Japan and Turkey, and the storms that killed vast multitudes in Central America and Asia. Yet we have suffered very little loss of life.  Though we have deserved God’s wrath, clearly His mercy has always restrained the worst from happening.  We have grown comfortable with divine protection. Yet, I wondered, would this striking be a . . . major wounding from a natural disaster?”
     
    The striking, I felt, was not from God’s hand, but the removal of His hand of protection.  The  article continued, “this coming wound had the potential to be massive.  Its effect would penetrate the soul of the entire nation.  While it may originate in something meant for evil, I felt the Lord’s promise was that He would turn it toward good.  The result of this measured devastation would be that multitudes would rise up and reject the unclean spirit that has manipulated our population; they would truly return to the Lord.  Even the entertainment industry would begin to reject the controlling powers of perversion and hell.”

    The Lord warned, “I will strike . . . with chastening.”  To chasten is to make chaste or to purify.  Thus, it is significant in my mind that the name, Katrina, means “purity” or “cleansing.”   My faith tells me that this hurricane, as devastating and terrible as it has been, will ultimately produce some measure of spiritual cleansing in our land.  Right now, there is much heartache and suffering -- and even defiance in the gay community as they seek to still hold their “Southern Decadence” celebration.  However, ultimately our nation will be genuinely closer to the Lord.  Still, let us pray that no further wounds are necessary to achieve national repentance.


The Present Goal
Our task now must be to do what we can to help this afflicted area.  Let us all pray and support churches in the states surrounding the hurricane zone.  If you or your church can send teams to help the efforts of workers, let us do so with zeal.  Multitudes have been displaced by this catastrophe and can be reached and touched by Christ at this time.  If you are from the surrounding area and your church is involved reaching to evacuees, please let us know and we will try to direct volunteers or finances to your congregation.

As Christians and churches reach to the many displaced and wounded, I’m awed by the outpouring of compassion flowing to the poor, many of whom had been hopelessly trapped in the bowels of New Orleans. Many will relocate and find new beginnings; the presence of God will shepherd them into a brighter future. Yet, this divine cleansing is reaching far beyond the oppressed; God has awakened the hearts of multitudes, empowering their spirits with the compassion of Christ. People, compelled by love, are reaching to the afflicted. A nation is praying; people from all over the country are opening their wallets, their hearts and homes. A flood, this time of mercy, is flowing toward the need. 

The great cleansing has begun.  

Special Note: Let us also be praying for President Bush and his staff.  There has been a lot of misinformation and blaming, all of which is deepening divisions between people.  Here is an article that offers some information concerning why help took so long in arriving. 
ESR | September 5, 2005 | Closer scrutiny reveals the lies surrounding Katrina evacuation and recovery

Repairers of the Breach
Francis Frangipane

"And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the paths in which to dwell" (Isaiah 58:12).

The Gathering Together Of The Saints
Most of true Christianity shares a doctrine commonly called the "rapture" of the church (I Thess 4:16).  And while study and debate surround the timing of this event, Scripture assures us that it will occur before Jesus Himself returns. 

However, before we are "caught up" to meet the Lord, there will be a time of unusual grace in which the living church of Jesus Christ, like a bride, makes "herself ready"(Rev 19:7). In this