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 is. 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 relation- ships. Satan knows that a church divided against itself cannot stand. We may enjoy temporary blessings and seasonal breakthroughs, but to win a city-wide war, Jesus is raising up a united, city-wide 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 Matt 18:34 as “torturers”) has unhindered access.
The Scriptures warn that even a little root of bitterness in a person’s life can spring up and defile many (Heb 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, you will at some time be hurt. But if you fail to react with love and forgiveness, if you retain in your spirit the debt the offender owes you, that offense will rob your heart of its capacity to love. Imperceptibly, you will become a member of the majority of end-time Christians whose love is “growing cold.”
Bitterness is a classic symptom of the stronghold of cold love. To deal with this, you must repent of this attitude and forgive the one who hurt you. This painful experience was allowed by God to teach you how to love your enemies. If you still have unforgiveness toward someone who hurt you, you have failed this test. Fortunately, this was just a test, not a final exam. You 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 you embrace God’s love and begin to walk in forgiveness, you are actually pulling down the stronghold of bitterness and its manifestation of cold love in your life. Because of this experience, you will eventually have more love than you ever did. You truly do need to thank God.
Love Without Commitment Is Not Love
“And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:10-12).
I want to make it perfectly clear: there is no such thing as love without commitment. The measure of your love is found in the depth of your commitment. How often I have heard people tell me, “I loved once, but I was hurt.” Or, “I was committed to Christian service, but they used me.” People withdraw from being committed, never realizing that their love is growing cold! It may not seem like they have become cold-they still go to church, read the Bible, tithe, sing and look like Christians-but inside they have become distant and aloof from other people. They have withdrawn from the love of God.
Jesus said, “Stumbling blocks are inevitable…” (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 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” (I Jn 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 option.
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 one 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.
We each need people who are committed to us as individuals; people who know we are not perfect, but love us anyway. The manifestation of God’s Kingdom will not come without people being committed to each other to reach God’s fullness. We are not talking about salvation; we are talking about growing up in that salvation until we love and are committed to each other with Jesus’ love.
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 mask 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. He said, “‘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 like the first, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Mark 12:28-29). Jesus then said that “the second commandment is like the first.” When you love God, your love for others will be like your love for God: the “second is like the first.” The more you unconditionally love God, the more you will unconditionally love others.
To those whose attitude is “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 not in you or in me. It is in us, corporately. We are being perfected into a unit (Jn 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 heights and depths, the length and breadth of Christ’s love. You will become a body filled and flooded with God Himself.
(Taken in part from The Three Battlegrounds. Used by permission of Arrow Publications.)
Francis Frangipane is the senior minister of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, IA. Francis has been instrumental in uniting thousands of pastors in prayer in hundreds of cities. With nearly a million copies of his best-selling books in print, and with an expanding radio and TV ministry called, “In Christ’s Image”, he is in much demand worldwide.
God Will Guide Us
by Kevin McClure
Have you noticed that most of the teaching on this subject puts the emphasis on my responsibility to hear God rather than His responsibility to speak and guide? Yet Scripture places the focus on God’s promise to guide us.
Consider Psalm 23: 2-3 for instance: “…he leads me beside quiet waters…he guides me in the path of righteousness…”
Or how about Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”
Here are some Biblical facts on the subject of guidance:
One, God is faithful. He will lead and guide. In fact, He’ll go to whatever lengths necessary to make sure we receive the information we need so we can make the best possible choices.
Years ago, I was mowing my rather large lawn when my youngest daughter, Grace, then only two years old, made a dash for the busy county highway that we lived on. Before she was even close to the road I hollered at the top of my lungs for her to stop. To this day, I don’t know whether she couldn’t hear me, or wasn’t interested in complying. I only know that she continued on her course for disaster and I did what any reasonable parent would do…I charged after her and intercepted her before she made it to the road.
Some time later I was contemplating a career move and I found myself fraught with fear. I worried over that decision, thinking, “What if I blow it?” It was then that the memory of my experience with Grace came to the forefront of my mind. God seemed to be saying to me, “Kevin, I know you want to please me, and I know you’re fretting over this decision. Don’t worry. Remember the situation with Grace. Your love for her superseded her ability or willingness to hear you. Do I love you less than you love your daughter?” God’s willingness to guide always trumps our ability to hear.
I began to realize that I could move forward. It wasn’t like I was faced with one choice that was good and the other bad. Either choice was basically good. At some point, unless you have some very clear direction from God, you need to move forward in faith and make a decision, trusting God to intervene if it is essential to your well being. We can be confident that God will guide us.
Kevin McClure is senior pastor of New Beginnings church in Eagan, MN. He and his wife, Laura, have four children.
By Mary Ann Herzan
“…Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” PSALM 96:6
What moves you? What touches your heart? Is it the fragile beauty of a newborn child or delicate flower? Is it the rugged beauty of the mountains or a majestic steed running full strength in the wind? Most of us are stilled, held in awe, by true beauty. Even those who desecrate it do so, I believe, because beauty convicts their heart and they must stamp out its witness against them. God has created us with the capacity to behold beauty both with our eyes and with our hearts. His creation is resplendent with so much that is beautiful. He could not help but create it this way, as each attribute of His personal nature is beautiful in perfection and all creation is but a reflection of that within Him. Does the Word not tell us, “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people…” (Psalm 125:2), and “I will be as the dew to Israel; he shall blossom as the lily…” (Hosea 14:5)? Even His anger, like the roaring sea, is beautiful because it bears no hint of corruption; it flows from perfect love and perfect justice.
Beauty does touch us; beauty changes us; it draws us higher. When I was a little girl I would often have summer visits to a cousin’s farm. We would “swim” in what was the watering hole for the livestock, located in a back pasture. It was small, dirty, and left us with a terrible rash, but I thought it was a wonderful, beautiful “lake.” However, after time I saw Shady Oak Lake…then I saw Lake Minnetonka…and then I saw Lake Superior! One of my heart’s desires is to live in a log cabin by a lake. Do I dream of it being by the livestock watering hole? No. Nor do I dream of it being by Shady Oak or Lake Minnetonka. I want Lake Superior! Its beauty has captivated me and drawn me on an annual trek to its shores for over 35 years.
What causes us to let go of the less desirable “watering holes” and small lakes of our lives? It is not because others or even Jesus coerce us, but the experience of something more beautiful and wonderful. If all I had known was the livestock watering hole and someone had told me about Lake Superior, I would probably have been curious, but it would not have drawn me from the watering hole because it was all I knew. But once I experienced Lake Superior, the watering hole and lesser lakes lost their draw.
Rev. Charles Miller shared a precious quote with me from the writings of the Desert Mothers: “The spiritual journey is only one yard long and miles deep.” These words describe our life in Christ. We take one step into Him and then spend a lifetime discovering the riches of our inheritance in Him-an inheritance of beauty (Romans 11:33 and Ephesians 1:3).
We may be about our busy lives, even our busy Christian lives, and find nuggets of His beauty now and then. But how much more will we “see the King in His beauty” if we, like David, become intentional seekers and create a time and place where He can open His heart to us (Psalm 27:4). He longs for us to know Him and He longs to call forth His own beauty within us.
“For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.” Psalm 149:4
Mary Ann Herzan is director of David’s Heart, a ministry of East Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN, which seeks to encourage the body of Christ in wholehearted devotion to the Lord. The above is adapted from a devotional book Mary Ann is writing called, Parables of the Lake.
Q & A – Speaking in Tongues
By Paul Anderson
Q: I recently received prayer to receive the gift of tongues. The person told me to start speaking out, as if I was priming the pump. I wanted the gift to be of God and not me, so I didn’t. Was I wrong?
A: The gifts of the Spirit are both divine and human. St. Paul writes that “if a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith” (Romans 12:6). In other words, the level of his faith will impact the prophetic word. Gifts are “the manifestation of the Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:7), but they are channeled through human instruments so the way they are expressed will be different with each individual.
The written Word is also both a divine and a human book. The personalities of the authors show through, but so does the personality of the Author, the Holy Spirit. Peter says that the writers “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The living Word, Jesus Christ, is likewise both divine and human. To emphasize his divinity to the exclusion of his humanity is heresy.
God doesn’t speak in tongues-we do. The disciples at Pentecost “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). The human side: we speak. The divine side: the Spirit enables us to speak in tongues. We use the same vocal chords for speaking in tongues as we do for talking in our primary language. A prophecy cannot be expressed unless a person is willing to open his mouth and speak. And, likewise, the gift of tongues cannot be expressed unless a person is willing to open his mouth and let the sounds out. People who pray for the gift of tongues sometimes keep their mouths closed, expecting the Spirit to jolt them or to open their mouths. The Spirit doesn’t work that way. We open our mouth, we speak out sounds by faith (just as a person prophesying must step out by faith), and the Spirit takes those sounds and brings forth a language. Priming the pump is similar to the priests stepping into the Red Sea as an action of faith before the water parted. They might have said, “I’ll move when God moves,” but God had already instructed them, “I’ll move when you move.” So God acts when we take the first step and begin to speak. What we speak doesn’t matter, as long as it is not our primary language. The Christian life is more a matter of receiving than of doing, but in order to receive, we must take a step of faith and do something. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) or to receive from Him.
So if you have asked for the gift of tongues, believe that God as a generous Father loves to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Receive it by faith, open your mouth, and begin to offer up sounds of praise like a little child. Don’t worry that you feel foolish. You are being childlike, not childish, and there’s a world of difference. “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). This isn’t the time for your mind to be engaged. Paul writes that when I speak in tongues, “my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful” (I Corinthians 14:14). If you get only a single phrase, let that be your offering of worship until the Spirit increases your prayer language vocabulary. All the gifts of the Spirit are developed with use. Paul says that we are built up by speaking in tongues, so we should do it often, whether we feel different or not. It is a faith action, and it opens up the reception and development of other spiritual gifts. But let your focus remain on a good Father rather than a good gift. Whether the release comes today, or next month, or next year is not as important as believing that God is a good God.