Encouragement

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).”

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter Twelve: The Word of His Power and Strength of His Might

Right away, I must address the powerful few words of Hebrews 1:3: “He upholds all things by the word of His power.” Such an amazing testament to the Triune God! It doesn’t say, “the power of His word” no, it’s the word of His power. To express it another way, He is all-powerful, all power and, when He speaks, the words merely express His nature of power. In this, it isn’t words alone, it’s that His words are an extension of who He is. It’s His power that allowed Christ to purify sinful man through a willing crucifixion, and that which also permitted Him to sit at the right hand of the Majesty of high. Just awesome!

Now to Isaiah 50; what a powerful commentary from our Lord. He asks the question, “Why was there no man when I came…there was no one to answer? Or have I no power to deliver?” In between these words He asks, “Is My hand so short it cannot ransom?” It is imperative for God’s people to awaken to His majestic power whether He speaks or is silent. We must believe and know unwaveringly that, no matter how difficult our situations, He is all power and there is nowhere His righteous right hand cannot reach.

Then He continues, “…that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.” This is simply breathtaking. No one was there for Him when He came to them and I can only assume by reading the whole of chapter 50 that they had no confidence in His power, in who He is, or in what He is able to accomplish on their behalf. His holy people had sinned against Him due to lack of faith in His supreme power. He is 100% capable and willing to sustain the weary and able to do so with only one word of His power.

What will it require for His people to come out of the slavery of religion, tradition, and the world’s wicked system so as to comprehend His power and willingness to share that power with His holy people? God’s power to heal, sustain, refresh, and restore is without limit; it is we who limit His power because we do not believe in it or in Him. If we did, we would experience restoration and power prior to things being remedied. We believe, therefore we are supernaturally able to see before it manifests in the Earth and in our daily lives. There is no limit to His power.

Strength and might have nearly the same meaning, yet the Bible was compelled to say “the strength of His might” as if two separate entities. To me, it reiterates the infinite power of God. The repetition of ‘strength’ and ‘might’ reveal something so powerful it’s far beyond our natural comprehension. God is all power, all might, all strength; He is in all things, through all things, and all things were created by Him. That’s the strength of His might!

We have the ‘word of His power’ as well as the ‘strength of His might’. How incredible that our perfect, holy God would grant feeble, sinful mankind such unlimited power. When you read “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)”, what does that mean to you personally? When He tells mankind, “I satisfy the weary one and refresh everyone who languishes (Jeremiah 31:25)”, how does that resonate with you?

 Too many are quoting Scriptures but they don’t mean anything to them, not really. When they’re in a gale and the wind and rains of life hit so hard they can’t breathe, their true beliefs come front and center. When their child is dying of cancer and they can’t understand or even see God, or when they’re facing foreclosure on their home and have no idea where to take their family, or their marriage has crumbled unexpectedly, mere theology, church membership, and good deeds bear no weight; they have no eternal spiritual value because they are not rooted in relationship with God, who He is, knowing His promises are authentic, or that He is who He proclaims Himself to be.

Going through all we’ve endured these last many years caused moments of pause in me, I assure you. When we were being hit over, and over, and over again, there were flashes of, “Really? God, are You there? Is there a point to all the praying?” I am not ashamed to admit this because, in those moments, in the questioning, God proved Himself repeatedly. I can’t help but recognize God in every nuance. When we question with the desire to learn, He always responds. We need only pay attention.

Every single time, without fail, His strength and His might would overtake me one more time. When I was so physically weak, God would provide a way to accomplish whatever necessary. I was never alone, I was never without power, I was never without His might, joy, grace, love or mercy. God’s might and strength often come in the quietude of life, the softer more delicate moments. He isn’t always a sonic boom, but rather a hush that accommodates peace when all else is seemingly falling apart.

***

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power (Isaiah 40:29, NAS).”

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3, NAS).”

“Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.  The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word (Isaiah 50:2-4, NAS).”

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10, NAS).”

“…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10, NAS).”

“The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places (Habakkuk 3:19, NAS).”

 

 

Encouragement for Parents with Chronically Ill Children

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Joy is altogether possible in the face of sorrow. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” is seen in Nehemiah 8:10. These words came on the cusp of having fought tirelessly so as to rebuild the city wall. They toiled and, simultaneously, stayed prepared for battle. Exhaustion must have been merciless during that time. Nevertheless, they rejoiced recognizing that, literally, joy in the Lord was the strength that kept them going so as to succeed in their mission. Joy was their hope, their power in duress.

So it is with parents of chronically ill children, be it physical, mental, or emotional illness. Only in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ can anyone endure such a task as watching their children suffer, taking them here and there for treatment, trying new diets and/or medication, and so on. I cling to the words of Roman 15:13 which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

I retain joy and hope in Christ in the inner most part of my being while, on the surface, I feel intense sorrow for my child’s anguish. Just as the torrents of rain, wind, and hail pound upon the surface of a well’s water, the deepest part of the well is unmoved by the turmoil. My spirit-man (the inner most part of me), which is one with Holy Spirit, is unmoved by the elements which cause temporary sadness.

Christ is my hope, both for my child’s wellbeing, mine and our family. For example, Sophia was doing well on the new meds until she contracted an infection. One round of antibiotics made it a bit better but was insufficient. Yesterday, we discovered she has an infection in her bones called orthomyelitis. She’s been in terrible pain with bizarre and never before experienced symptoms. She cries a lot. They’ve put her on a 21 day regimen of antibiotics and may possibly need IV antibiotics. These are the very meds which have caused severe and chronic stomach troubles. It feels as though we’re on a hamster wheel and can’t figure out how to exit.

Notwithstanding, what I feel is not aligned with the promises of God. I have living hope in my God, for He cares for her. I believe she is healed. I have faith, not in what my eyes see, but in who my God is. I cling to His promise that, what Satan means against her for evil, He will turn for her good because we love Him. Curses will turn into blessings. As I have stated in most all my blogs and books: God. Is. Faithful. Always. I refuse to lose faith or sight of the sovereignty of the Almighty. This is my power. This is my strength. This is my endurance to the end.

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter 11: Going Beyond Theology

For me personally, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not my theology, They are my reality. They are not (nor are They meant to be) a religious system so as to make me or anyone else more moral, but rather a Kingdom Government in action through God’s supernatural life living through mortal man.

Anyone can be well-versed in their theology, in their catalog of internal information about God. Very few, on the other hand, know God personally, intimately through Christ to the degree that one cannot be separated from the other. No religion or denomination in the world can offer such a relationship. Only seeking the face and heart of God and seeking understanding and wisdom from above can offer such a stable, unwavering relationship of oneness with Almighty God.

My personal stance is simply this: come what may, God is God, He’s on His throne in Heaven and in my heart and nothing shall move me. He is my entire existence, not merely in a section of my life. He is my God and I am His people. That isn’t theology, that’s the Kingdom of God active through my otherwise worthless mortal body. Though I may falter, my most earnest desire is to live only as one hidden in (consumed by) Christ.

It is in this condition that I can truly be strengthened by this Christ when I am weakened in the worst of circumstances. In this state, through years and tears, loss and heartache, I am fully persuaded that God will manifest His completed work. In so doing, curses transform into blessings, tears turn to laughter, and lost years are redeemed. In this, weakness is the blessing so that God’s strength may reign. I have nothing of myself of which I may boast.

Theology is merely a theory of sorts; it’s one man’s opinion of God. This is why there are thousands of varying denominations among those who claim to follow Christ. Building your relationship with Christ on a surface of theology has no foundation on which to firmly stand. It may seemingly work for a while but, when the rubber meets the road, you’ll quickly discover theology is sinking sand.

When your child, spouse or parent dies or becomes infirm long-term, you lose your great paying job you’ve had 20-30 years or all your possessions or, in some way, your status-quo crumbles before your eyes, you’ll find out promptly the ruse of theology. I read a story the other day about a young woman whose husband lost his life to cancer. Their two small children were devastated to have to grow without their daddy. She would now have to work so as to provide for these two while raising them without help.

In the article, she commented that churches don’t need more coffee bars or bright lights or any other window dressing  so as to draw a bigger crowd. In fact, she stated, she needed only Jesus. All the theology and fluff of the modern-day churches were as good as nothing without the presence and power of God expressed so as to heal her brokenness. She was weakened as unto death and only the word of God’s power has the ability to accomplish such an impossible task. No theologians debating whether or not she should be dunked or sprinkled, wear pants or skirts, slacks or khakis, read the King James Version only or another; whether the church should sing old hymns or have a praise and worship band, was going to mend her broken heart. Theology is, as far as I’m concerned, as good as nothing. Only a relationship with the Living Christ will do.

The Body of Christ, as a whole, must seek true transformation, not just a few characteristics of Christ or theology of old. In other words, you must be changed into the likeness of Christ at your root. At the Mount of Transfiguration, Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. He was changed into the likeness of the Father. He was already God in physical form; He was in every way “like God,” yet He still had to be transformed. There was a transition from one way into another entirely different one. His body remained the same, but the internal man became something otherworldly.

If Jesus had to experience transformation, you too must experience this metamorphosis. The problem with Adam and Eve was, although they were created in the image of God and were placed in the center of perfection, they had yet to be transformed. They were, as we’ve discussed at length, of the Earth. It was required of them to fall and then, having knowledge of good and evil, choose to be morphed from the inside out. Just because you’re saved from hell does not equate transformation. It’s altogether transitioning from earthly to heavenly and living accordingly.

Interestingly enough, we’re instructed to “seek His face,” yet He told Moses, “No one can see my face and live!” If you seek and find God’s face, you will be broken and changed forever at a mere glimpse; you won’t be able to live as you were. Since we’re called, post-resurrection, to suffer not the flesh, seeking His face and finding Him will accomplish that quite well. If, on the other hand, you seek only His attributes or characteristics, you will only appear changed for a time. Without your internal man being changed, this translates as nothing more than a farce. Religious theology seems to render only moderate external changes that have no eternal value.

 

 

 

 

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter Ten: Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind

The King James Version of II Timothy 1 uses the words “sound mind” (which I prefer believing it makes the message clearer) instead of “discipline”. That being said, a sound mind produces self-discipline so I believe the words to be interchangeable here. There are scads of texts referencing the mind so, we can logically deduce the mind is of great importance. When we are weak in body and heart, if we keep our minds sharp as to the person, promises and love of God, we won’t so readily lose our minds, as is so commonly stated as a natural reaction to weakness in times of trouble.

We must keep our minds clear because the world and all its woes will readily overtake us if we allow. We must be vigilant, watchful and sober-minded lest we fall prey to the one who despises us without measure. God has, with great liberty, given us a spirit of power and love and discipline. We are created in His image; thusly, we have His nature. We generally, unfortunately, choose the nature of the flesh over the nature of God. When we allow Holy Spirit to overwhelm us, we will have no room in us to be overwhelmed by the flesh.

To say, “I love the Lord” and think yourself close to God just because you prayed an unbiblical “sinner’s prayer”, you’re faithful to church, and do good deeds, is insufficient so as to sustain you in this world of muck and mire. We must know the Lord on the most intimate level if we can expect to be sustained through life’s trials and tribulations.

We are instructed in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” In other words, dwell on God, His Kingdom, His righteousness, His love, His power, His authority, His comfort, His promises, and whatever is of the Kingdom of God. There is no way, in the midst of chaos and confusion, any of us can set our minds on these things if we are not locked in to God 24/7/365. It’s difficult enough when you are, so you can understand the difficulty of being able to reroute your mind when you’re only a Sunday church-goer or Christian by title and not in daily action.

Life can be grueling, no doubt. I know, for me, even though I know God and His Word intimately, how challenging it can be to “speak that which is not as though it already was” as did God Himself in Romans 4:17. We are to speak God’s promises, not the circumstances. Inevitably, when I get worn down, sometimes the circumstances come right through my lips without even thinking. That’s the nature of the flesh at hand. I have to immediately pull down the words (remove them) and replace them by speaking God’s promises. As with Sophia, though it appears she’ll never be better (circumstance), I speak, “I thank God she’s already healed, in Jesus’ name. We will soon witness the physical manifestation of God’s promise of her healing.” If I didn’t walk and talk with God every moment of every day, I would not have His strength to overpower my fleshly weaknesses.

Throughout the challenges with having had toxic black mold in our home causing the auto-immune issues of which Sophia and I have had to contend, God has been faithful so as to speak directly to my spirit reassuring me we are both healed. Believe me, there were times all I could see was the pain and suffering but, regardless, because I hold fast to His promise, I can see the end from the beginning. No one can survive (much less thrive) in this wicked world with merely some theology and a lot of church activities. Survival and thriving through this rough terrain requires knowing God in such a way that no one and nothing can steal your faith. Having a mind set on the heavenly (whatsoever is good, pure, etc.) instead of that of the earthly (whatsoever is horrible, bleak, tainted, etc.) is a matter of life and death.

“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (II Timothy 1:6-8, NAS).”

 

When All My Strength Has Failed

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Chapter 9: Why Worry, part II

Circumstances are Irrelevant

“He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is upheld, he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries (Psalm 112:7-8, NAS).”

Your circumstances will no longer have effect on your walk with Christ. Your circumstances will no longer make you or break you. Your circumstances will no longer dictate how you conduct yourself. Once you realize in your heart and mind that,

  • His love is unfailing and His eye is on you always;
  • He has defeated the enemy;
  • everything the evil one does against you for evil, God has already turned around for your good;
  • the world is condemned and has no power over you;
  • the evil one has been overthrown and is acting on borrowed time;
  • you are more than a conqueror
  • Yahweh is a friend that sticks closer than a brother

 – you will begin your life of victory, strength, power, and love in Jesus!

Once I identified with Christ and related to Him on a personal level, I was able to come to a place that, when adversity comes, I literally laugh. As in Psalm 112 verses 7-8, I have no fear of bad news and neither should you. I know immediately that Satan cannot succeed against me or my family. I laugh even through tears knowing that whatever the situation, it has already worked in my favor. I could write a book merely on the blessings of God turning things around for my favor! Let’s stop giving Satan a foothold by worrying about everything that appears bad. Begin to praise His holy name that it, whatever “it” is, has already become a benefit to you and not a liability. Deny that old Adamic fleshly nature that Christ overcame on the cross.

 You are your own worst enemy when you do not fully know or understand who God has made you through the blood and the water. Peter refers to those in Christ as “aliens and strangers” because your origin has changed from the earthly to heavenly. Christ was a stranger on Earth, and, since He is your life, you too are a stranger. Do not act like the earthy man as through you are of this world.

Prayer: My Father, Husband and faithful Friend, I want to identify with You. I want to relate to You as You identify and relate to me, a mere human. As You chose to live as a man on Earth just to be able to identify with my plight and then die for me that I may live with You, I give my life to You. I hide myself in Thee, O Lord, so that all I know of my identity is that of Jesus Himself. Selah.