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Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 6: Righteous Judgment vs. Being Judgmental

I Corinthians 5:9-13, I Corinthians 5:1, II Thessalonians 3:6 are a few texts which bring a stark clarity as to what we are to do with immoral people called by the name of Christ. For those brothers who remain immoral after proper admonition, do not associate with them until they choose repentance before God. We who are walking according to the Spirit are judges of the body of Christ. Christians who operate in sin say, “No one can judge me” but that isn’t true. Only the obedient followers of Christ who are walking according to the Spirit cannot be judged. This is because they continually judge and correct themselves according to Holy Spirit. In this, no judge is required since there is no offense.

So as to confirm my statement, look at Galatians 5:22-26 which states, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited or provoke one another or be jealous of one another.” In short, this means those without sin cannot be judged.

There is no law against the love of Christ or the offshoots of love. However, those who are in Christ yet do not abide the love of Christ (which produces a multitude of good fruit), we are to judge one another so as to correct with the purpose of restoration unto Christ and His body. This admonition is from a heart of love, not from judgmental condemnation. Keep in mind that James 2:13 states that mercy triumphs over judgment. We are to be merciful, especially in righteous judgment – that’s what makes it righteous.

As far as those in the world who are not in Christ are concerned, leave them alone so far as correction; we are not their judge because they belong to the evil one. Love them. Honor them. Respect them. By your love, allow them to experience the love of Christ so they may come out of darkness and into the Light.

Contradiction or Not?

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it (James 4:11, NAS).”

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10, NAS).”

***

These and other texts like them are about being judgmental and standing in a “judgy spirit” as I like to call it. Being judgmental, aka critical, is not the same as standing in righteous judgment. I can know the difference this way:  

  • If my judgment of someone in sin causes me to hate them, desire for them to ‘get what’s comin’ to them, see myself as better than they, causes me contempt against them, and/or I condemn them, it is not righteousness driving my judgment and I have entered sin alongside them.  
  • If my judgment of the brethren in sin causes me to love them through verbal correction and prayer for them so as to be restored, it is righteous judgment.

 

 Admonishment:

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother (II Thessalonians 3:14-15, NAS).”

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother (Matthew 18:15, NAS).”

“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers (I Timothy 5:1, NAS).”

“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13, NAS).”

***

In brief, never stand with a haughty, judgmental spirit against a brother. All admonishment for their sin must come from a heart of God’s unfailing love. The admonished must see that, though the correction may seem harsh, the love of God is not. They must know we are correcting them with the sole purpose of being restored, not for condemnation. The purpose of godly correction is not punishment, but of discipline so they may be won back to Yahweh.

God’s righteous judges are not called to be curt, rude, belittling, maligning, condemning, or anything else of this ilk. Kingdom brotherly love is not mean-spirited, but kind and compassionate. All righteous judgment comes from love. A judgmental spirit, contrarily, always condemns and that is not of God. Test every spirit. Test those who admonish others according to the Word of God. Be humble, receive proper correction, realign with Christ, and go forward in the love of Christ. The more we correct ourselves, the less outside correction we’ll require. Always love the brethren whether encouraging or disciplining. Furthermore, proper discipline is encouraging.

 ***

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (I Corinthians 5:9-13, NAS)

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one (I Corinthians 5:11, NAS).”

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us (II Thessalonians 3:6, NAS).”

 

When All My Strength has Failed

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Chapter Sixteen: Bearing One Another’s Weaknesses

This is a subject near to my heart as it has been grossly misinterpreted by most. Have you ever had a loved one in dire need of assistance and, since you want to ‘bear their burdens’ according to our Lord’s instruction, you get dragged into their chaos and feel more burdened than they? It happens all the time. We think we’re doing right by people when we engage in their problems and we wear ourselves out trying to help when all we do is feel as bad or worse and no one gets actual aid.

We must keep the ‘bear one another’s burdens’ in proper perspective with the fullness of the Word. To be sure, the only way to accomplish this daunting task too big for mere mortals is to first be a person who casts their own cares upon the shoulders of Christ. We must learn to, and I quote, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

If we cannot care for ourselves in such a manner allowing ourselves to be burden-free through Christ, how can we consider attempting to help someone outside ourselves? We will only further exacerbate our own problems and theirs. It goes back to the question, “Why worry?” If I as a minister, wife and mom cannot cease worry about my own, what good would I be to another? How could I rightly say to one in need, “Trust God” if I’m not doing it myself? I can teach others to pray with power and authority, faith and praise because I first practice it myself with my family. I first must surrender before I can call someone else to surrender.

When I do this, I can indeed help bear another’s burdens because I can, with ease, lead them to the Christ who bears my burdens. Then, we are both free of burdens. Burden-bearing is about no one but Christ alone, the one bearing the entirety of the burden. All roads lead to Christ and Christ is the only road to God the Father, the quintessential burden-bearer.

In summation, the first step in bearing another person’s burdens is to make sure you, first and foremost, have cast your cares upon Christ. Then, and only then, will you be equipped with the power and presence of Holy Spirit so as to lead them to the One who can lighten their heavy load.

My personal self-evaluation: If my yoke is hard and my burden is heavy, I have not cast my cares upon Him and a recalibration is required. With all I’ve endured with mine and Sophia’s health, when things became too hard and heavy, I consult the King and resubmit my troubles to the trouble-checker. At that, I immediately experience the relief of such heaviness and go on about my day. I deal with today as tomorrow has enough troubles of its own and will care for itself.

***

“Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 (Matthew 11:28-30, NAS).”

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves (Romans 15:1, NAS).”

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (Romans 14:1, NAS).”

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble (Hebrews 12:12, 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. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:12-17).

When All My Strength Has Failed

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140918131138-leicester-skeletons-1-horizontal-large-galleray (2)Chapter 14: It’s All About Refinement

If I have heard once, I have heard a thousand times, “They were such a good person until thus and so happened; then they really changed for the worse.” With all my being, I believe trials and tests do not change a person, they simply bring to light who the person is at their center. It was definitely true in Job’s case as well as my own. Neither of us knew what was wicked within until the disasters came.

Adam lived in utopia and it was true for him. The worst comes out of people in dyer situations because the love of Christ is not in effect. Sure, they may be saved from hell but a person led by Holy Spirit would be able to recognize what God was allowing to happen and even why, instead of tail-spinning out of control and losing sight of God’s reality. Just because one is led by Holy Spirit for a long time does not mean that, in an instant, they can’t revert back to the flesh. Satan is crouching at the door waiting for an opportunity to stumble you. You and I must daily die, which is merely a result of having been transformed into the image of God.

When my first husband left with a note on the coffee table, I fell apart. I began cursing, ranting and raving. Why? It was because I had no grounding in an intimate relationship with God. I had never once said, “Father, show me everything that is wrong within me. Lead me into righteousness.” I had received salvation at the age of six and went on my way “getting people saved” as I was taught. I didn’t drink, curse, sleep around or do drugs. I was basically a “good” kid. However, in reality, it was all a lie because there is no one good but God.

I failed to hear from God, receive warnings, admonition, or anything of the kind. If I had, I would not have married two wrong men. I knew nothing of God except being able to quote a few Scriptures. In my mind, making a profession of faith was equated to “an intimate relationship” when it was nothing more than the beginning of what should have developed into an intimate relationship. I was weak in Christ on my best days and was so because I thought myself spiritually strong and mature.

A terrible weakness in God’s people is the feeling of unworthiness, yet we call it humility. When you focus on your own unworthiness, you are focused on self. Although it certainly appears humble and righteous on the surface, contrary to popular belief, this is another lie from Satan. It is actually false humility, self-abasement, and self-righteousness.

False Humility: “I am unworthy to walk in the shoes of Jesus, so I won’t. I’ll sit here quietly in my recliner of do-nothing. Praise God, one day I’m going up yonder in the sweet by and by. I’ll wait here ‘til I get to Heaven to throw my crowns at His precious feet. Who am I to walk in authority and speak with boldness? I’m too humble to do that.”

True Humility: “I am unworthy and I know it. However, with that knowledge, I (the unworthy one) choose to surrender and live only unto Christ (the worthy One). I choose His worth and allow Him to speak, think and operate through my mortal body. I choose to walk boldly and courageously in the authority and power He projects through me. I give God all praise, honor and glory for all accomplished.”

I pray every believer will get this imbedded in their spirit, heart, and mind. God is not asking for your perfection or power since you have none to offer. He is asking for your willingness to allow Him to move through your weak mortal body as you are merged with Him as one entity. Allow refinement when the hard times hit let you be overtaken by the evil one through despair. God is the perfection in the weakest places of life. Yoked together Christ is the only hope for strength and a sound mind.

 ***

“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:7, NAS).”

 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7, NAS).”

 

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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I must be transparent. The “mamma bear” Alexys and the “minister” Alexys are often in conflict. As a minister, I purpose to live a life of balance, love, patience, kindness, holiness and to be at peace with everyone, at least as far as it is up to me. Adversely, as a mother of a chronically ill child, I often feel the urge to, at the very least, tell someone off. Or, at the worst, punch someone squarely between the eyes for their neglect, bullying or disregard for my child who only wants to be well and accepted by her peers.

For example (in no particular order):

 

  • Dealing with doctors who pass her around from this one to that one or one questions another’s diagnosis or treatment and look at me as though I’ve done something wrong.
  • When kids her age at school or elsewhere tease and/or bully her because they don’t understand her situation, why she likes colored hair, why she’s so shut down, or why she doesn’t fit the acceptable body image.
  • When the youth pastor at our church refuses, though begged repeatedly over a year, to reach out to her or have girls her age reach out to her. He visited her once, had a couple girls text her a few times and, just like that, she was quickly discarded and forgotten like yesterday’s news.
  • Dealing with the school powers-that-be who threaten to call truancy because they question the word of doctors as though she isn’t really too sick to attend; who demand meeting after futile meeting.

 

In the aforementioned scenarios, yes, I definitely want to scream at and hit someone albeit completely contradictory to who I am in Christ. These are the times where I preach the Word of God to myself so as not to completely ruin my testimony for the Christ whom I love and serve. Mamma-bear has, on occasion, gotten the better of me because I despise the injustice thrown at my kid.

The struggle is real and I have to combat it on a regular basis. When these people who are in positions to help my child do not and, furthermore, cause more harm, I battle with mamma-bear, with the inclination of my fleshly man to do what would otherwise come very natural to me. My personality is very aggressive, forthright, proactive and protective and, therefore, it would be nothing for me to blast someone (and I have). I purpose daily to walk according to the Spirit of the Living God versus my natural man. I have to daily find the balance between knowing when and what to speak to whom and just letting loose when the notion strikes.

I have definitely learned, throughout all of this that, in fact, I am fully capable of restraint, patience, and silence; that I can choose to be self-controlled, to be silent when necessary, and, when I speak up, I can do so without yelling or demeaning the person at which my words are directed.

I Corinthians 1:27: “but I discipline my body to make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter Thirteen: Igniting God’s Completed Work, part II

Paul’s mission was to correct and teach every man with all wisdom that they may be presented as “complete in Christ”. What does this mean other than, once in Christ, we are considered as dead to self and alive only through the identity of Christ. The words, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…” is not only in reference to Jesus’ death, but the co-death of all mankind. Through His flesh, He buried the fleshly nature of sinful man. Death for Jesus was literal but it translates to mankind as spiritual. We “die daily” as in, every day when we awaken in our natural state, we subject all of ourselves to Christ so that our only life source is the resurrected life of Christ.

Why are you, a born-again follower of Christ, praying for the attributes of Christ such as wisdom, patience, kindness, self-discipline, love, joy, etc. when God said He’s already given you the fullness of Christ? If you have Christ, you have all you need and which can be given because every good thing is wrapped in Christ. All of which we pray and ask that can be granted, through Jesus Christ, is already ours. We need only to know how to position ourselves so as to receive and function appropriately. In other words, if you are one with Christ, you need not pray, “God give me wisdom” but rather “As I humble myself before You, Lord, I thank You that, through Jesus, I have all wisdom. Direct me how to tap into and operate in it.”

Colossians 2:6, 9-12, state emphatically, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Basically, we need to learn how to access what we’ve been given instead of trying to obtain something we have already been granted as though we don’t already possess it. The difference is accessing versus obtaining.

To reiterate, the Word of God, in Yahweh’s timeline, was written and fulfilled before the creation of anything in existence. Furthermore, your life, my life, and the lives of every person past, present and future are already finished; we’re merely watching it play out step by step. Faith of this magnitude (that it’s already completed) ignites God’s completed work and allows it to be made manifest in your life. This is the life which will draw all men unto Himself.

One may rebut, “So, if everything is complete, I can do anything I want and whatever will be, will be.” This person thinks they can live willy-nilly and everything will work out fine but, this is not so. The instruction of positioning ourselves so as to bring the perfect will of God in our lives is a matter of holiness. It is a matter of praying in agreement with God in all things, humbling ourselves before God and man, honoring the King in spirit, soul and body, worshiping in spirit and in truth, rest trusting His promises, and loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is positioning ourselves in order to usher the excellence of Christ, come what may. 

***

“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28, NAS).”

“He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death (Colossians 1:22, NAS).”

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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If there’s one “skill” I have honed having a chronically ill child, it’s patience. Patience, as many know, is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. My entire adult life, I’ve functioned in two speeds: fast and faster. I made quick decisions in everything; procrastination is not in my vocabulary. This can be an asset but, also a liability depending upon the situation. With a child who is perpetually ill, there is no such thing as “instantaneous”. There’s waiting on getting an appointment with specialists, waiting on meds to kick in, waiting on doctors to decide the next move, waiting in a lobby to be seen by doctors who are running behind (sometimes hours), and so on.

In this, I have learned (by force, in a manner of speaking) that patience is an invaluable asset in the Kingdom of God and, in turn, my life. Although, there are times when going fast can be good because we need to think on our feet, it can cause a stream of destruction by refusing to slow down long enough so as to properly evaluate the end result of our momentary actions. Patience comes from pause and pauses are very good. Pauses allow us to properly assess what is happening and what needs to occur next if, that is, we are wise enough to stop whining through the halt.

Impatience has proven itself deadly or, at the very least, tumultuous. Abraham birthed his own enemy through Ishmael. The prodigal son received his fortunes immediately but, then lost everything until he humbled himself. Judas received his fortune by selling out Jesus and his end was quite horrible. Eve’s impatience for more caused the death of mankind; on and on the stories go. The impatience of my youth caused me to marry a vile man; the repercussions took two decades to subside. On the flip side, Joseph, because of his intense patience, became ruler over all of Egypt, second only the Pharaoh. Patience, once Abraham surrendered to God’s timing, birthed many nations in his old age through Isaac.

 

My point is this: there is good in every obstacle if only we look to God. “There are no problems, only possibilities and opportunities”, I heard back in the 90’s from a wise man. I must admit, I initially thought the man was loony but, it began a new quest to look at things differently. Fast forward twenty-five or so years: I could easily murmur and complain about how difficult this all has been with Sophia or, I can choose to look to God so as to recognize good which has come about through the intense difficulties we have faced. Patience allows us or, rather, me, to see with Kingdom vision instead of the here-and-now.

I am forever changed for all this and I know, with great confidence, it will (in time) change Sophia for the better. There will be people with whom she can relate whereas someone else may not. This will cause her to be a game-changer in the lives of those who are otherwise hopeless and helpless. It will make her far more compassionate and relatable than someone who can only assume how they would feel or respond in a particular trial. Patience in allowing ourselves to endure something with grace and growth instead of attempting with futility to “get out of jail free quickly” develops endurance, perseverance and victory.

Watchman Nee (my favorite author and man of God) said (and I paraphrase) God’s people try too hard to pray themselves out of tribulation when, all the while, God is purposing to train us through it. Getting out to quickly actually hurts us because we soon will have to start over in another trial so we may eventually learn what we need. God’s will is not necessarily to experience “healing” (in whatever capacity) instantly because we will miss its purpose. In this thinking, my friend was correct: There are no problems, only opportunities and possibilities. Are you looking for your possibility and opportunity?

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter Thirteen: Igniting God’s Completed Work

Faith, faith, faith and more faith is the key to unlock the Kingdom of God and His power therein. When I read Hebrews 11 in its entirety, I stand amazed; first at God, and, secondly, at the people who withstood things most of us can’t fathom in their wildest nightmares. What these folks endured is nothing short of a miracle because they didn’t buckle, not even in the face of death. The chronicle of these mighty people of God reminds me of Matthew 10:28 which instructs, “do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In this world and, more specifically, in the Church, people are far more concerned with what people think of them than being obedient to the Word of God (the expression of His power). Forget being concerned with being hung, beaten, burned or tortured in some capacity since we can’t get past being afraid of someone rejecting us. This is a sad fact but, looking around the churches, it’s evident. We are far more concerned with the opinion of our fellow man than following Christ outside the city walls no matter the repercussions.

How can we possibly walk an authentic life of faith if we can’t get past worrying about what someone thinks of us be it family, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, or whomever? This behavior does not and cannot please Yahweh. Having good intentions without faith cannot please Him; consequently, we squelch His power within us. When we are not walking in faith, God cannot materialize His completed work and then we’re left wondering, “Where’s God? Why isn’t He helping me? Where is His power now?” To quote my friend, Rachelle Freeman Sanders, “Faith doesn’t move God; faith is your positive response to what God has already done by grace. ‘Won’t He do it?’ you ask. No, He’s already done it!”

When you get to the place where you genuinely desire experiencing His power moving in your life, start with faith. This isn’t to insult where you are with Christ; it is simply a fact which applies to everyone. This is for me and this is for you. Faith is where Holy Spirit power ignition begins and ends and it usually comes prior to falling in love with Him. Faith is the vehicle which delivers into your life that which God has already accomplished before the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). Everything past, present and future was perfected before the Earth was set in motion, we’re just watching it unfold over the centuries. How you operate in faith in the face of your most ferocious adversary will determine how far God can present and produce His completed work.

Faith is paramount to any Christ-follower. Faith is the ignition switch to God’s power and strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Without faith, how can one have joy in Him? If we only have information about God with which we desire to share with others yet have no joy, where is the supernatural strength required to be displayed in everyday life so as to draw others to Christ?

We who desire earnestly to follow Christ must understand, all that is to be done is already accomplished. There is nothing more for Christ to do on your behalf. Money problems? Already solved. Children problems? Already resolved. Spousal problems? Already finished. Do you see? God sees the end from the beginning because, in God’s timing, the ending has already been fulfilled.

If this were inaccurate, how could God have spoken of Jesus in the Old Testament? How could the prophecies yet to come have been written? It’s because it’s already finished. Furthermore, how could Christ say in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” The “what is to come” part reveals what already is but is yet to be. The truth is, according to the Spirit of God, all is already complete. We’re simply awaiting it’s unfolding.

***

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval…and what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:1-2, 32-40, (NAS)

“and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2-3, NAS).”