Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 18: The Curtain Rod of Love

In 1 John 2:18-19 which closed chapter seventeen, many professed to be of Christ, yet they were liars. Remember I John 3:11-12: “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” Also, recall I John 4:8 which proclaims emphatically, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Let me try to explain this simply. Many profess Christ, yet do not love. We witness this often, but not exclusively or in every case, in people who can quote Scripture, go knocking on doors, preach, pray, teach, and proclaim loudly they are followers of Christ. In these scenarios, their actions do not back their testimony. This ilk is contradictory in nature as they are quickly angered when someone disagrees with them, they walk away from people who don’t align the moment they believe they should and they are impatient, unkind, mocking of others they deem “less than” themselves, gossips, slanderers, faithless and even murders.

I mention murderers because clearly the Word reads that he who hates his brother is a murderer. All these are characteristics of a person lacking God’s supernatural love. Every good thing of God hangs on love, just as curtains hang from a rod: without the rod, the curtains cannot stand. With the rod, on the other hand, the curtains, shades and attachments hang effortlessly in harmony. Without love, peace, patience, kindness, and so on, we have no base of operation; no stabilizing rod which manages its offshoots. Without the rod of love, all else falls to the ground as waste.

When a person is in Christ, love will manifest; it’s inevitable. If it does not, God is not present (I John 4:9). “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,” I John 4:11 states with great assurance. I remember having a conversation with my husband years ago where I made the comment, “I am so in love with people.” He laughed and replied, “How ironic since you used to hate people!” He was so right. Even when I began to really walk with God, I still had disdain for the human race, namely Christians who thought themselves better than everyone else.

For example, at the time of that conversation, I had been in prison ministry quite some time; I loved those women and was very patient with them. Then I had the opportunity to teach in a Sunday school class. The people who had been Christians a long time didn’t seem to want to grow. I, to my surprise, became very impatient with them. In my heart, I wanted them to be set free from the baggage of life, but I displayed impatience and a ‘holier than thou’ attitude.

Holy Spirit revealed to me that, though I had come a long way in love, I still had prejudice (hatred) of which I needed to shed myself. And so I did. Because of love, when sin is revealed to me, I immediately deal with the issue. I don’t ever want to be like Satan; I want to be like Christ. That may sound extreme but, when we get down to the brass tacks, this is what is ‘of God’ and what is ‘of Satan.’ With that insight, life is simplified and it becomes much easier to rid self of the things not of God. By “things,” I am referring to attitudes of the heart as well as physical items which distract from a Kingdom mindset.

The more I mature in Christ, and it is an endless process, the more I see humans as does Christ. I see them as someone who has been hurt and damaged somewhere, someway, by someone or something. By seeing them through God’s eye (single vision), I now find it difficult to criticize or ignore them. Where there was a time when my flesh would thoroughly enjoy criticizing someone in my mind, now I can’t even begin to do it. Even with fellow Christians who reject this way of thinking, I still love them. Because of the love of Christ, I find it strangely simple to disagree with my fellow brethren and still be unified. That’s what all of this is about: learning to be unified despite our differences. The love of God exclusively can accomplish this otherwise daunting task.

It should go without needing to be said, but we do not unify with those of the world; rather we are still to love them. I cannot stress enough that it is the love factor which will change a heart, not how many Scriptures we quote or by walking away from them in condemnation. Shaming someone does not draw them to Christ; it merely pushes them further and further into darkness.

My mom has a friend who read my first book, What was God Thinking: Why Adam had to Die. The woman, a professing Christian, told my mom that she so disagreed with my thinking that, if she knew me, she would stop speaking to me. Oddly, this same woman’s life is in shambles. It’s devastating to the body of Christ as well as the lost how the most staunch, religious people seem to have the most problems absent of resolve or peace. Again, it was the devoutly religious that hung Jesus to the cross. Be wary of the religious; they generally do not have an ear or heart for truth.

Encouragement for Parents of Chronically Ill Children

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Question #4: Being a primary care giver of a chronically ill child is difficult on a marriage because I now have separate rolls and it can be very lonely. What do I do?

Yes, indeed, this is a common problem in marriages with anyone caring for a chronically ill, handicapped, or otherwise disabled child. We can become so consumed with caring for the child that we completely neglect our marriage. Speaking for myself, I had to purpose to make time with Michael, not only intimately as in “time alone,” but in allowing him to help. Eeeekkk! When he helped, I generally didn’t like the way he did it (just being honest here). One time Sophia had a long stay at the hospital two hours away and Michael took off work to come with us. Generally, when she was admitted, he didn’t come with us because he was always working and could not take time off. This became intensely annoying and I don’t often get irritated with him. I couldn’t figure out why I was so annoyed as I usually appreciate any time with him. I discovered quickly that I didn’t like him having any say in my interaction with the doctors, mainly because I had all the information needed and could spit it out in my sleep. When he jumped in, he didn’t know and would have to think hard to answer and, as you would conclude, still had to look to me for the appropriate response. This definitely rubbed me the wrong way and Sophia too.

Unfortunately, whoever is doing all the caring tends to get in such a routine that, when our spouse tries to help, it’s more frustrating than helpful as it interferes with the status quo and overall flow of things. Over time, I learned to let him help with Sophia even when he was slower to the draw than I because:

  1. He needed to be an active participant
  2. I needed a break from the daily pressures
  3. It allowed us to bond over the situation instead of being pulled apart

I’m sure there are other valid reasons, but these are the top three. We as women (sometimes men too) tend to be so focused on helping our child that we lose all sight of helping our marriage. We can be, at times, controlling. I’m sure it isn’t you, but it was definitely me. It wasn’t that I needed to control for the sake of control, it was because I knew I had everything down to a science and could do it faster and better than he. However, if you want to maintain or regain a healthy marriage, you must, of necessity, allow your husband to take the lead even when you may have to secretly go behind them and do it correctly. I have found that caring for Sophia jointly was far more productive and easier than going it alone simply because “I do it better.” Sophia also had to learn to allow him to do things for her because she knew I did it all so effortlessly. Letting Michael take the reins from time to time strengthened our marriage and it swept away the loneliness. Truly, working together, even though I still do the lion’s share of the caring, helped in the area of not feeling so alone and altogether by myself in this quest to aid my child.

After all, we must keep in the forefront of our minds and hearts that we entered into covenant with our husband, not our children. If we don’t do whatever is necessary to strengthen our marriage, everyone involved will inevitably lose in the process of trying to gain something else (a healthy child). The more we as followers of Christ begin to gain knowledge and understanding of “covenant,” we will be better equipped to be strong in our marriages all the while caring for our child.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 17: Falling in Love with the Human Race

So, those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

Whatever we as Christ-followers do, whether good or bad, we represent Christ; unfortunately we do not always present God in our actions. When we do not conduct ourselves in love, we are conveying to people that God is unloving. When we operate with impatience, we are saying God is not patient. We need to become very aware of how we come across to others so that we do not give Christ a bad name. Perception is reality and it is, indeed, God’s name on the line, not our own.

I was speaking the other day to a dear friend who is not a Christian. He commented to me that he has been tossed aside by many “Christians” when they felt like he was a waste of their time; meaning, when he did not convert to Christianity, they walked away from him. That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard, yet I hear and see it all the time. In my past, I too have been guilty of this as well. It is unfortunate that Christians, unknowingly, push people away from Christ. That is not their intention, I’m certain, but it happens all the same.

We need to begin to fall in love with the human race just as Christ Himself is in love with us. Once we begin this process, ministry and witnessing will come with much greater ease. We will realize that the work of getting people to come to Christ is not our burden, it is God’s. Only God can change a heart; it is His completed work extended through His people.

Our part, contrarily, is to walk in a genuine love for people no matter from whence they come or their external appearance; no matter if they come into the Kingdom of Christ or not. Our job, as it were, is to walk in supernatural love. It is love which will woo them to Christ, not browbeating them and condemning them for not believing when and how we think they should. We never know when the moment will come where someone will admit that Jesus is real, valid and vital. Who are we to say, “You’re taking too long. I’m done with you”? In fact, if we are in tune with Holy Spirit as we ought, God will instruct us as to when and if we are to part ways with someone.

We Christians seem to be on a mission to convert people instead of on a mission to love people. Love will usher conversion, not our attempts to persuade them by force. I recognize most mainstream Christians have not been taught how to love with the supernatural love of Christ. Love is certainly a choice and it is something that must be taught through the discipline, instruction of and surrender to Holy Spirit. Children love naturally and automatically, they do not need to be taught. Nevertheless, as children begin to grow, love does not come so readily.

We become a people wounded and bruised by the world in which we live. Because of this, even though we become a born-again believer, we must learn how love looks through the perspective of God instead of the eyes of the world. The world’s love is conditional and superficial; it’s the kind we see in movies and hear in songs. It comes and goes like the wind. The world’s love is fluid, God’s is concrete.

I John 2:6 (NAS) states, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” That is a powerful statement! Jesus walked in love whether He was correcting, healing, encouraging, serving, teaching or being crucified for sins He did not commit. Jesus walked in supernatural love from Heaven. As mentioned earlier, even Jesus’ correction was filled with love, for He purposed to help someone come out of sin, not to make them feel guilty and condemned.

God’s supreme supernatural love is forever, enduring, unconditional, steadfast – it never changes. “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us: but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us,” 1 John 2:18-19 tells us. Without Philadelphia, brotherly love, we have nothing and are nothing in God’s sight. We will all be known by our love.

 

Encouragement for Parents of Chronically Ill Children

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Question #3: Financially, having a chronically ill child is a burden and, when I have so many appointments and need to be with my child, I leave my job to care for a child. How do I deal with feeling like I am not contributing to the financial need as I struggle?

This is a tough one for anyone dealing with the financial burden of a chronically ill child. Personally, we would have gone bankrupt many times over had it not been for the grace of God moving through family and friends. Not only was Sophia ill ten years, I too had to deal with my own physical illnesses centering around autoimmune disease, which of course compounded the financial dilemma. Even when I wanted to work (and I love working!), it was out of the question. For one thing, I could not leave Sophia, and the second thing, I could not have done the work even if I had someone to care for her needs and get her to and from doctors’ appointments. It is a huge strain feeling as though you have nothing to contribute.

My solace and resolve with the matter came when I finally released the burden to the Lord. It sounds like a trite thing to say as though “Oh, just give it to God” is an easy thing to do. It is, in fact, not. It isn’t a matter of faith, or at least it wasn’t for me. Rather, it was feeling like I was utterly useless in the arena of contributing to the welfare of the family. Michael was left working ridiculous hours in the attempt to make ends meet. I would be embarrassed that family and friends, of necessity, would have to pitch in to help financially. That alone was disturbing to me, not that we had to accept charity as I’m all for charity, but that we had to receive so much of it. Once I looked at things differently, I was at peace.

I had to stop looking at things as, “Poor Michael, he’s so put upon with the burden of a sickly child and wife who cannot contribute.” I began to see through the single vision of God. I allowed Him to help me get over myself and recognize His grace and mercy through it all. Michael didn’t feel the way I did, so why should I? I could finally see that Michael was appreciative that I would give my time to properly nurture our daughter, to forfeit making more money for the purpose of meeting our child’s needs. When people would give to us, it wasn’t because they felt obligated, but because they love us so much that they willingly gave of their own so that we would not do without. This is biblical! I had to completely alter my fleshly way of seeing so as to become awakened to a heavenly perspective. God’s hand has been upon us since the beginning. I had to learn to value my role in taking care of our family. Michael was fine with dealing with the financial end while I stayed home taking care of everything else.

A mother, or in some cases, a father, grandparent, or other caregiver, must allow themselves to see their own worth and value their contribution to the family unit instead of feeling “less than” simply because they do not directly contribute financially. It’s all about our vision.  It’s all about perspective and perception. Just because we see it one way does not make us accurate in our limited assessment. We must get over ourselves, get over feeling sorry for ourselves as though we don’t matter or that we are not as valuable to the family as the financial contributor. It’s actually very self-centered, prideful in fact, to feel sorry for ourselves and feel less than worthy. If we are doing what we need for our child, we are doing our part. In fact, we are freeing the non-primary-caregiver to go and make money so that they are not burdened with what we do.

Hebrews 13:3-6 reads, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them. And those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” Look at it this way in accordance to Hebrews 13: your child is, in a sense, the prisoner in his or her own body. They are ill-treated by their illness. In this, we must be free from the love of money so that we can join them in their imprisonment so as to aid them. It is more important to help than to make money. “Do not be afraid,” is our direct instruction, because the Lord has not abandoned us. Our rest and our peace is in the hand of the Lord.

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 16: What Are You Giving?

Are we emitting a scent of love or hatred, kindness or brutality, gentleness or harshness, forgiveness or grudges, mercy or mercilessness, grace or guilt, honor or guile? If we do not love our brother, stranger, family and enemy, we are not of God. We are the only people who get to choose what we permeate toward a person or group of people. We are the only ones who can determine our eternal fate; after all, God has given us free will. Neither God, Satan, nor our offenders can set our destination; that’s all on us. God has laid an unshakable foundation for us and we choose what structure we build upon it.

Yahweh has withheld nothing from us. All tools are at our disposal so as to allow us the opportunity to make good choices despite the climate. What we decide to do with His instructions, commands, warnings, armor, and blessings is all on us. Choose wisely. If we’ve acted foolishly, change course. Give mercy to the merciless, forgiveness to the unforgivable, grace to the graceless, love the hateful, and grant gentleness to the harsh. God has a way of moving in the hearts of the worst of people. Allow His grace to be sufficient.

Have we diligently and regularly asked ourselves, “What am I giving?” Asking ourselves questions on a consistent basis and answering ourselves honestly will allow us to realign when needed. We tend to excuse bad behavior with “it’s just this one thing”. Unfortunately, that “one thing” becomes “two things” and, inevitably, those one or two issues invariably multiply becoming a mountain of disaster. Resentment, bitterness, guile, anger, vengeance, hatred, impatience, unkindness, and so much more of this ilk are not what is of God. These are not good traits and they will destroy many in the end if we do not purposefully eject them from our inner man. What are you giving?

***

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love (I John 4:7-8, NAS).”

The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (I John 2:10-11, NAS).”

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8, NAS).”

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14 (NAS).”

“The godless in heart harbor resentment…(Job 36:21, NAS).”

“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart (Matthew 18:21-35, NAS).”

“But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (I Thessalonians 5:8, NAS).”

“…show them the proof of your love…(II Corinthians 8:24, NAS).

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 15: Stop Challenging One Another

 When, oh when, will God’s body understand the power of unity? With all the verses (listed below) on unity and the many others that accompany, why are those who are called by Christ’s name still in constant discord? We are called to unity, to the same mind of Christ, the same judgment of Christ, and the same operating procedures of Jesus and His holy Kingdom. There is power in unity and we sit back bewildered that we have no power – it’s baffling we haven’t figured out the problem which is in plain sight. And, for those who’ve discovered the problem, why haven’t they taken steps of correction?

God’s dictum is for mankind to abide His instruction so as to save us and glorify His name. We must stop the quarreling, which will insist we stop being offended around every turn and bend of life. Scriptures definitely speak for themselves. What more can I add to convey the message of unity?

The Power of Unity:

They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them (Genesis 11:4-6).

With unity, anything is possible, anything. The Trinity said that nothing was impossible for the people who positioned themselves in unity against Him. The Tower of Babel was for the purpose to overthrowing God to make their names exalted above God’s. Why else would They (Trinity) have responded as They did by dividing the peoples’ ability to communicate via speech? It’s because, when in unity, they could accomplish anything. The quarreling, fighting, bickering, and all-out war among the brethren has to come to an abrupt end so as to dismantle the grip of Satan within us.

I earlier quoted, “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” Why does the professing body of Christ quote this, yet misuse the very nature in which it was written? I have seen bodies of believers use it against other denominations and even against similar denominations which are deemed to be a threat against them. People abuse this word so as to annihilate their brethren and people outside their communal circle.

The body of Christ needs to come off her high horse, so to speak, humble themselves, and pray repenting of their discord and division. We need to cry out to our holy God so as to realign our frivolous, divisive ways. Let us unify. A great more can be accomplished if only we’d unify. There is power in unity whether among believers or non-believers. Non-believers actually understand this fact far more than those in Christ, no fault of Jesus who has given us every leeway to unite.

***

“Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26, NAS).”

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (II Timothy 2:24-26).

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).

“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren…that there are quarrels among you (I Corinthians 1:10-11).”

“For you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men (I Corinthians 3:3)?”

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source of your pleasures that wage war in your members (James 4:1)?”

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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Question #2: How do I handle watching the disappointment in my child’s eyes when they want to and try to do something very important to them and they cannot; I just hold them in my arms as they cry?

 

This question is tough and, if you are a parent of a disabled or chronically ill child, you know it all too well. I can recall when Sophia would desperately want to go to school, go play, or simply hang out with her friends yet could not because of illness. It is truly a gut-wrenching thing to know your child is in not only physical pain, but also mental and emotional pain. It messes with their psyche. I would have to leave the room and cry for her without her seeing my distress lest I cause her more suffering. For me, and I can speak only for myself, the only comfort I found was in knowing God has a perfect plan for Sophia, that, in His right timing, old things will pass away and everything Satan means against her for evil will turn for her good because I love the Lord.

Clinging to the promises of God are all we have in those moments, literally. The only solace any of us have in any tormenting or strenuous situation is faith. Faith that God is faithful when we are faithless. Faith that there is a God, that He is compassionate, and that He knows what He’s doing. I regularly went to Psalm 27, which reads, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” The next part is vital which instructs, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” It sounds much easier than it is, this is know. Regardless, it is the Lord’s instruction because His faith is in Himself. I can’t tell you how many times I had to cling to these Scriptures when all else seemed to fail. All the meds, the doctors, and anything I did to help her failed and miserably so. But God…these words, though cliché to many, are powerful. But God. But God has a plan for all the suffering. But God has a purpose for the sorrow, tears, and anguish of any given moment. All I know is that God is faithful to His righteous seed and, if you have proclaimed that Jesus is the risen Son of God both in word, heart, and deed, there is a brighter day ahead.

I would always remind myself that, beyond the terrible days, weeks, months and, yes, years, God will turn the curses into a blessing. It is an unbreakable promise of God written in Deuteronomy 23:5 stating, “Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.” Brilliant! My hope has to be, your hope has to be in God alone. There is no other Source than He. It is a great time to encourage your child that God is faithful even when it doesn’t feel like it, that He will accomplish the impossible on our behalf in a way we cannot imagine. Teaching them to be content in all things, in every circumstance, is vital to whatever comes next. In our weakness, we are made strong through Christ.