Encouragement

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.

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call To Brotherly Love

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Chapter 14: Give Unrelentingly

I could write an entire book on giving but, for sake of time, I’ll attempt to give a brief overview on how the Lord calls us to give. I’ve added a list of texts at the end of the chapter. “Giving” is not what we see in churches across denominations where we robotically take our 10% or whatever amount and place it in the offering plate Sunday after Sunday. If we are called of God to do that, fine, but giving as Christ calls His people is far beyond that. I hear all the time, “I saw a beggar and I didn’t give him anything because…” 

  1. They should get a job
  2. They’ll use the money for booze or drugs
  3. I have my money set aside to give to my local church
  4. I don’t want to
  5. I hate beggars
  6. They’re lazy
  7. They’re undeserving
  8. They won’t pay it back
  9. They’ll rob me
  10. I prayed for them already
  11. They’re ungrateful
  12. I don’t like them
  13. They smell badly
  14. They look scary

There are many other reasons, but these seem to be the most frequently used. Luke 6:30 begins with the words, “Give to everyone who asks you…” That alone debunks all excuses pertaining to not giving. It further states, “If they steal from you, give more.” That dethrones the remaining excuses used to not give. If we want to go further, read James 2 where we see praying, alone, is insufficient. Faith has legs and hands and feet and money. Faith in Christ will cause us to give, not just prayer, but physically meeting the needs of others.

If we’re still wondering when, how much, and to whom we should give, I John 3:17 clarifies with, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” If we have the means and someone is in need, give. It’s that simple. In the early church, those who had plenty sold their goods so that no one was without. Selfishness was not an option. When they sold their possessions so as to give, it didn’t leave them penniless, it merely allowed everyone to have and no one was in need.

Why aren’t God’s people giving in such a fashion? It’s because we’ve become calloused, greedy, and hard-hearted. It is time to thaw our frozen, stingy hearts and begin to love one another with prayer, time, energy, and money.

***

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him (I John 3:17, NAS)?”

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that (James 2:15-16, NAS)?”

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back…Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you give, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:30, 38, NIV).”

Additional texts: Deuteronomy 15:10, 16:17; Proverbs 21:26, 3:27, 11:24-25, 22:9, 28:27; I Chronicles 29:9; Matthew 6:3-4; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 3:11, 6:30, 38; II Corinthians 9:6-10; John 3:16; Acts 20:35; Romans 12:8

Encouragement for Parents of Chronically Ill Children

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Question #1: How do I handle watching other healthy children who easily forget about my child; those kids who move on and don’t look back. There are days when it is just too much as a parent and I want to escape from it all, but I know I can’t because my child cannot so I just continue feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and sad.

As a parent of a child who was chronically ill ten years and, though recovering, still has bad weeks here and there, I can attest to the frustration and deep sorrow a parent feels watching healthy children live their lives with no thought of your sick child. I can’t count high enough to recount all the times I would be in church or around people with healthy, thriving kids and feel so compelled to cry aloud that I could scarcely contain my sorrow and utter agony. It isn’t that we want the well kids to be ill, rather we desire for our own child to have the freedom to run, grow, and thrive like their peers.

There is truly an inexpressible pain a parent feels watching their unwell child day in and day out with no signs of improvement. If one is not careful to self-adjust, jealousy can set in quickly. For those who know the Word of God well, you are aware that jealousy is a murdering spirit. It will annihilate the best of relationships, yourself, and those around you. Most parents don’t equate these feelings to jealousy but, if we are honest and if we look deeply enough into our soul so as to access the root problem, it is jealousy at its worst. I defer to I Corinthians 3:3 which reads, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrels among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”

Most liken this Scripture to different circumstances, but I believe it aptly describes the root of a parents’ problem when we feel such things. It is veiled jealousy in so much as it doesn’t at all feel like jealousy. It feels more like just wanting the best for your kid. This is how jealousy attacks – it is disguised as love. We want so desperately for our child to be well that we begin, in our heart of hearts, to pine after wellness. This pining, per se, comes from pure motives yet morphs into sin, the sin of jealousy. Believe me, I have experienced this first-hand and it is ugly! I’m not generally a jealous person so it took me quite by surprise when I felt it so strongly the first time. If I’m being completely candid, the spirit of jealousy stems from pride. Allow me to explain.

When you or I are in a situation we do not understand, do not like, and is altogether gut wrenching, after a while, pride says, “You and your child deserve better. God is not in love with mankind as a whole, and definitely not you or your child personally. If He were, this would not be happening. How can such a good God allow such heartbreak and agony?” The thing with which I had to come to terms is that, if I am to tell the absolute truth about the matter, we all deserve hell because of the sin-sick nature of mankind. Anything short of hell is a bonus, at least so far as I can tell. In other words, anything less than hell is God’s intense mercy on me, my child, or anyone else on planet Earth. I recognize this can sound harsh but, I promise you, this is how I had to bring myself back to reality and by “reality,” I mean God’s truth v. my skewed perspective of how I believe things should be.

I like to reference Job in these matters. Job suffered and initially blessed God. He lost everything except his nagging wife. Eventually, he suffered intense bodily afflictions. By chapter 30, Job was complaining about his poor estate. Chapter 31 shows Job defending his integrity. By chapter 32, the young prophet Elihu rebukes Job as led by Holy Spirit and this goes on several chapters. By chapter 38, God rebukes Job intensely because of him defending himself and demanding the counsel of the Lord so as to question Him. Chapter 42:1-6, the last chapter, Job is humbled in the presence of the Lord and says to God, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear me now, and I will speak. I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Job repented. This is crucial to understand in any case of intense, long-term suffering of any kind. Job plead his case expecting God to “fix things” due to how well and long he had served the Lord. This point of view was ungodly and wrong in every way. In the end, once he repented the situation (surrendered to God’s holiness), his life was Spirit-filled instead of based on “things he didn’t really know.” In the end, life was better than before the trial started. God had a plan Job could not see or understand at the time. All God wanted him to do was relent, surrender, and watch and wait for God’s supernatural hand to move.

What is my point? As parents, we want the best for our children. When, in our exhaustion, we get caught up into the emotions of the situation, we cannot see clearly. More specifically, we cannot see God clearly, even though we say with our lips, “I believe. I have faith in God.” Too often, we say it out of habit, but not truly from the heart of faith. We are frequently so irritated that God isn’t healing our child as we believe He should or fast enough, we completely lose perspective. By “perspective” I mean heavenly perspective. We are to set our minds on things above and not things of this earth and illness itself is of the earth. Our focal point is wrong. Other healthy kids as a focus is incorrect. Our child not healing fast enough is not the correct focus. We are to be sober and vigilant in our communion with the Lord. The only way to combat the jealousy is to request of the Lord a change of perspective instead of constantly begging for a change of situation. Playing the comparison game in our minds is terribly misguiding.

It is completely natural to want our kids to be like normal, healthy kids.  I feel the same way. However, normalcy should not be our goal. Holiness and God’s perfected will in every matter should be. God has made us supernatural in His image once we receive His Spirit. My favorite author, Watchman Nee, said something to the effect that God’s people are usually too quick to beg to be well when, all the while, we should have the patience to see what God is doing in the trial, and he was a man of severe ongoing suffering. I agree. The body in which we dwell is flesh, which means it is flawed due to the entrance of sin into the world. Some bodies hold up better and longer than others. I have no explanation as to the selection of who is who. What I do know is that, as a parent specifically, we get terribly caught up in the emotion of dealing with our children and, in our emotionalism, we miss the hand of God. We pray the wrong prayers or with the wrong motives, though we are sincere.

For me personally, I had to regularly and repeatedly take my eyes off my child, off other children, off what I believed should happen and when, and begin to praise the Lord for His goodness and mercies which are new every day. What I am saying is not for the novice Christian but rather for the one who desires the perfect will of God in everything. It doesn’t mean we don’t have emotions, that we don’t ever feel frustration, sadness, or irritation. It does mean we must filter all our emotions through the Spirit of God. We must inquire of the Lord, “What should I pray? What should I do or not do? Reveal to me how to rest amid this horrific storm. Father, I believe, help me with my unbelief. I trust You with my life and the life of my ill child. I thank You, Father, that You are more in love with my child than I ever could be because they are Yours first and then mine secondly. Father, orchestrate my footsteps. Lead me to the right place so that I will properly do my part as a parent, but help me relinquish the other parts which are not mine to fix. Thank You that those other children are healthy and do not know the anguish of my child. Help me to set my mind on things above, to meditate on Your Word night and day, to be sober minded and vigilant in Your will above my own, to see as You see, to respond in accordance to Your righteousness, to cast down imaginations and strongholds, and every high thing that exalts itself above the name of Christ in my life, and to think on whatsoever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, and of praise. I surrender this situation to You completely. Thank You for the rest which only You can supernaturally provide for my soul. Selah.”

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 13: The Last Days

If anyone doubts we are living in the last days, read the Scriptures below and turn on the news. It will verify that what we’re witnessing has been foretold. The disciples were living in the last days and that was over two thousand years ago. One may suggest there are no “last days” since it’s taking so long, but I encourage you to look at God’s timing and not man’s timing. If a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day, it has only been a little over two days since the resurrection of Christ. God is not slow, we simply need to see how He sees.

II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…” Establishing God’s timeline is vital when assessing the times. Once we understand how God’s timing works, we’ll be less impatient for His coming and readily able to focus on the task at hand. Additionally, we’ll better handle what we’re seeing, not in fear, but in faith.

When I hear the news (I refuse to watch it), I am not afraid and I am never surprised at the level of wickedness going on. Matthew 10:21 is playing out verbatim. People are killing people; brothers are killing brothers, parents and children are killing each other, and much, much worse. I just heard a story where a mother gave birth to twins in a toilet and then smothered them to death. The days are evil and, though they’ve always been evil, people are growing ever more so. Hearts are waxing cold, faith is wavering, hope is dwindling, and people are narcissistic on unprecedented levels. Morality is fluid as opposed to God’s Word, which is absolute and concrete.

With this situation of fluid morality, God is not the bar; each person’s own relative sense of morality is the bar. Each person who is not surrendered to God sets their own level of what is right in their own eyes; hence, the outcome is disastrous. God has set a solid working precedent. With the falling away from Yeshua, who then determines what is good or evil, right or wrong? One says, “Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, pedophilia, or other sexual sins is right” and another says it’s wrong. One says, “Abortion is a woman’s right,” yet another says it’s murder. One says, “I have a right to hate my neighbor or brother” yet others say that right does not exist. The only true demarcation line is in God’s sound and holy Word. It is definitive and unchanging.

In these final hours, God is revealing who are wheat and who are the tares as noted in Matthew 13:24-30. The more dire things become, whom we choose to follow (Jesus or Lucifer) will testify as to whether we stand for God or for lusts of the flesh. Matthew 10 expresses we will be tested and, if we choose people over God, we do not love God. This may sound contradictory to brotherly love, but rest assured, they go hand in hand.

We are to love as Christ loves and He is in love with the human race He created. Contrarily, when we choose the way of mother, father, sister, brother, etc. over the ways of God, we are against Him. In other words, I love my brother or sister, but not to the point where I’ll allow their wickedness to sway me into sin based on my love for them. If my best friend or loved one hates a person, I cannot jump into hatred with them just because I love them. Selfish love would dictate I follow them in sin because I do not want to disappoint them or lose their love. Selfless love will always command standing against their wrongdoing even if it means them walking away.

Love is a balancing act. We are to love and honor all mankind, but not to the point where we step out of bounds with God. In the last days, being a “lover of self” will cause a person of God, even the elite if possible, to stumble because they have not made definitive demarcation lines in their hearts. True brotherly love as from Heaven will not allow us to follow the crowd. Likewise, the last days will cause people to kill one another over petty differences. Do not allow an evil heart of bitterness to grow. Do not allow a heart of luke-warmness infect us. Followers of the Lord Jesus must be sober and vigilant at all times and in every circumstance so as not to be deceived in either Kingdom directive.

***

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the Word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (II Peter 3:3-9).

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death (Matthew 10:21, NAS).”

“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 (I John 3:12, NAS).”

For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:35-38, NAS).

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 12: Unselfish Release

Many Scriptures reveal unselfish release for the greater good of God’s Kingdom. Brotherly love, or any authentic godly love for that matter, is always unselfish. It is giving and kind, generous, wanting the best for those whom we love. In the Scriptures below, we read where such selfless love is granted. They released those they loved and needed the most so as to help others in their spiritual or physical crisis.

 Brotherly love will allow us to give up the ones we love so that they are free to do the will of God even when that means never seeing them again. In biblical days, there was no modern technology as we know it, e.g. cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of quick communication. When they released someone to another group of people far away who needed them more, they would hear nothing from them for extended periods of time. Notwithstanding, they allowed them and even encouraged them to go, even though it was often at personal sacrifice. This is the way God loves. This is the way we all should love.

I Corinthians 13:4-7 reads, “Love is patient, love 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, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Although nearly everyone claiming to be a Christian knows this text by heart, they have not taken it into their hearts.

 God’s love will not allow one to be self-seeking, arrogant, untoward, unrighteous, false, faithless, hopeless, or to abandon someone in their time of crisis. As much as we say, “I love you,” unless our actions are aligned with I Corinthians 13, we do not love. It’s like saying, “I love God,” yet will not love their fellow man. We cannot love God and hate our brother, our neighbor, stranger, or foe. We cannot love our brother and selfishly use them or keep them from their God-calling because we want them all to ourselves. Selfishness and selflessness cannot simultaneously abide in an entity.

***

“But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity (I Corinthians 16:12, NAS).”

“We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches (II Corinthians 8:18, NAS).”

“We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you (II Corinthians 8:22, NAS).”

Philadelphia: A Kingdom Call to Brotherly Love

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Chapter 11: Devotion, Consideration, and Honor

Devotion, consideration, and honor are greatly lacking among us, the body of Christ. We are not called simply to love, but to devote ourselves to loving one another continuously. This is the difference between limited human love and limitless eternal love. To “give preference to one another” isn’t favoritism as in preferring one person over another, but to favor everyone so as to honor one another. We must think more of others than we do ourselves. Selfishness is a characteristic of the father of lies.

I love the Scriptures above in both Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8. Both lead us to understand that, even though something in particular is not a sin to us, if someone perceives it as a sin, we must refrain from partaking so as not to cause them to stumble. This is putting others above ourselves; their needs above our own. It’s a matter of being so attuned to the needs of others that we quickly give up something so as to not cause them to falter.

I hear time, and time, and time again, “God knows my heart. He knows I’m not sinning,” in reference to living with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They state, “We’re Christians and we’re abstaining from sex before marriage so it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks.” My response: “Oh, but indeed it does.”

What we do matters. It matters to God, it matters to onlookers, and it must matter to us. We are to do nothing selfishly such as, “I don’t care what so and so thinks.” If we as followers of Christ do something knowing it could cause someone to fall spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially, we are in sin. Living with a person we are dating, though not engaging in sex, still has the appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22); in this, it becomes evil. Instead of justifying whatever we’re doing that is wrong, we need to ask ourselves how our actions will affect others for the positive or negative. We must be so devoted to one another that we think of the effects on people prior to taking a step. This is brotherly love, consideration and devotion. This is honoring others and it pleases the Lord.

***

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10, NAS).”

“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3, NAS).”

“It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles (Romans 14:21, NAS).”

“Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble (I Corinthians 8:13, NAS).”