Chapter 3: Who is My Neighbor and Who is My Brother?
First, it is imperative to establish that the term “brethren” or “brother” is not about gender but about a spiritual position in Christ Jesus. Just as the terms “son” and “bride” in the Bible are not about gender but about position in the Kingdom of God, so is “brethren”. It’s only when we begin to view the Word of God from a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly that we can understand the meaning as God intends. We must identify with the Spirit instead of the flesh so as to gain insight from Heaven.
Throughout the generations, people have been inquiring, “Who exactly is my brother and who is my neighbor?” Personally, I believe that, when a Christian poses such an inquiry, their heart is not in the right place. Their focus is not on the Kingdom of God, but on themselves and their desire to find a loophole so as to get out of loving the unlovable. Nevertheless, since the question isn’t completely without merit, I’ll attempt to enlighten people so there will be no more question as to whom we must love as a brother or a neighbor. Brotherly love, or rather, the love from the King and His Kingdom, is to be extended to all people.
“We are to be at peace with all people so far as it is dependent upon us” is stated in Romans 12:18. Peace is an offshoot of the love of God. There is no genuine peace absent of brotherly love. Let’s take a closer look at how God defines our neighbor and our brother.
As we all know, our proverbial neighbor is anyone, anywhere with whom we come into contact. Some would cite, “They (whomever) are not my brother, so I don’t have to treat them as such.” This is errant because, even though they are neither the biological or spiritual brother in Christ, we are still commanded to extend brotherly love. Our neighbor can be family, friend or foe. They can be our neighbor in the house next door or the person down the street or across the state, country or continent. If we come in contact with them, they are our neighbor. Our neighbor can be of the same affiliations, race, creed, color, gender or anything else, or they can be someone we would otherwise justify hating. They can be Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, American, Jewish, British, Asian or other and still be our neighbor. Our neighbors are all the people around us.
I once had neighbors which were grossly unfriendly to everyone. They were rude and reclusive and wouldn’t allow our daughters to play together even though they were nearly the same ages. I did not want to extend neighborly love, not one bit. Yet, the love of God compelled me to give love when it wasn’t reciprocated. Likewise, my neighbor is the customer service rep with whom I need to speak about a product dispute. I have caught myself on more than one occasion growing weary with irritation when they weren’t resolving my issue. The representative may have been in California, India or the Philippines; regardless, they too are my neighbor and I am to extend the love of God. I have failed countless times when I have allowed my aggravation to dictate how I speak to such a neighbor. I call myself to accountability so as to purpose to regain my composure and my conduct.
A brother, on the other hand, are those specifically within the body of Christ no matter their gender, race, nationality or anything pertaining to the natural man. Our ‘brother’ is anyone doing the will of the Father.
To reiterate, a “brother” is a position, not a gender. Our brother can be attending the same local body of believers or someone who does not. They can live close geographically or across the globe. We may know them our whole lives or never meet in person. Our “brother” is someone who shares the same heavenly blood and DNA of Jesus.
We cannot rightly exert prejudices of any kind against a brother and be in right standing with the King of kings. By the Spirit, we will know them. If we are led by Holy Spirit, He will bear witness to our brethren. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).” When I witness firsthand or hear of a “good godly” person persecuting a brother in Christ because they do not look like them, worship as they, or in any way resemble themselves, I am flabbergasted. When will God’s people realize and accept we who walk according to the flesh are not conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ? People who are alive in Christ are the brethren of all others who are alive in Christ. Period.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, KJV)
“You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:17-18, NAS).”
Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50 NAS)
Chapter 2: Known by Your Love:
“By this, all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35, NAS).”
The Greek word for brotherly love is Philadelphia (Leviticus 19:18; Revelation 1:11, Romans 12:10, I Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1, I Peter 1:22, II Peter 1:7, I Peter 3:8, Revelation 3:7). It is easy to find innumerable hateful Christians, but you will never encounter a hateful authentic follower of Christ (with the exception of someone having a rare moment, but it is the exception and not the rule). Many call themselves “Christians” but do not follow the simple command of love. Everyone can have a bad day, absolutely, but there are many who think themselves ‘of God’ yet are hateful, negative, discouraging, depressing, hopeless and more. This is not of Christ as it is the opposite of Kingdom love.
This one poignant verse in John 13 sets a tone for all other Scriptures concerning love. This is indeed a hefty statement because, when the truth is told, few walk according to such supernatural love. As I look around the professing body of Christ, I dare say, according to this one verse, most who say they are followers of Christ are not. I can make this bold statement because of the severe lack of love permeating from our ‘good church goers.’ To be a Christian is not necessarily the same as being a true follower of Christ; the terminology “Christian” is vague at best.
I do not say this to condemn anyone as the purpose here is love and to guide us all into deeper levels of love. However, I say this so as to address the problem so that it may be rectified. There really isn’t much more I can say so as to elaborate about such great love for the brethren as it speaks plainly to the heart of the matter. I suggest to everyone who believes themselves to be called by the name of Jesus to take a personal assessment, to do a self-evaluation of how they extend love toward themselves, family, friends, co-workers, bosses, clerks, strangers, and, equally as important, toward their enemies.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:44-47 (NAS)
What we see depicted in Matthew 5 is scarcely visible in the modern-day church. For those who’ve attended any denominational church in their lifetime knows full well the lack of affection one has for another. People fight for rights to leadership, positions, to have their voice heard, and any other such nonsense. Without the body of Christ unifying as we ought for the greater good of the Kingdom of God, we will continue to shred God’s name, His Kingdom and His Word; hence, many who believe themselves filled with God’s Kingdom have been deceived by a lie from the great deceiver. Religion as a whole is set directly against the Kingdom of God so as to delude the masses into thinking they are “of God” yet are of the evil one. Remember, Christ was killed by the religious.
I ask with all humility: When will the fighting, hatred, and malice end? When will we cease being lovers of self and begin to place others above ourselves, the Kingdom of God above our own desires, and to walk a life of ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’? How we treat our family with love is indicative of human nature. How we treat our enemies with love is indicative of how much we love, value and reverence God, His Word and His Kingdom.
Whom Do You Love More?
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. II Timothy 3:1-5 (NAS)
II Timothy 3 speaks volumes about the condition of man, not just those in the world but those who call themselves by the name of Christ. All the things listed above are clearly visible by many who call themselves Christians. Why? Because we are in the last days and, if possible, even the elite will be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Right under our noses are preachers, teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists under the ruse of Jesus’ name only to spread more dissention. These people are the false ministers for which we have been warned. True apostles, prophets, preachers, evangelists and teachers will lead us into the unity of the Spirit instead of their own group. By example and word, these will teach the hearers to follow in the footsteps of love.
When someone who claims to follow Christ breeds prejudice or hatred of any kind, be assured they are false; they are of the evil one, the father of lies. Let us begin to set our hearts toward the Holy One of Israel and find the love to which we are called. We must begin to view our brethren and neighbors as ourselves, not as merely a partner against whom we have the right to fight.
Chapter Seventeen: God’s Present Glory
In II Chronicles 7:1-3, we witness the magnificent display of God’s glory overtaking the house of the Lord, so much so that the priests couldn’t even enter. That must have been something to behold! What a beautiful expression of the majesty, radiance and power of God’s glory. If we skip to Revelation 12:23, we again witness the vast physical visual of the radiance of God’s glory. It was so externally bright there was no need for the sun or moon to shine. This is how the illumination of the Lamb of God is so bright there is no need for any other light source. The light of Christ, the Lamb of God, is beyond brilliant.
This brings us to expounding upon the value of the more subtle complexities of God’s present glory; the way He reveals His glory in everyday life. Obviously, we don’t experience the physical presentation of the brilliant illumination of God’s glory on a daily basis. That wouldn’t be conducive or productive as we’d be blinded! To round out the message of finding God’s strength in our most advanced weakness, we must look at God’s glory and how to tap into it on a daily basis.
Take a look at the following passages about the glory of God:
“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).”
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, NAS).”
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (II Corinthians 4:6, NAS).”
Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the radiance of God’s glory. He is the same Son of God that radiated the house in Chronicles and the city in Revelation. This same Lamb (Jesus), while walking in human form, did not go around glowing and overwhelming people, though He could have. Glory has varying definitions as listed above and I love #6, “a height of prosperity or achievement”. Jesus is without question God’s height of prosperity. Additionally, He is the height of splendor and beauty; the praise, honor, distinction, and renown of God the Father.
With the glory of God defined this way, we can then begin to see how God’s glory is present in those who become the temple of such a Lamb. The radiance of God in daily life is not going to be a loud boom filling you (His tabernacle) with such physical brightness because no one could come near you; no, He will be more subtle, gentle, approachable. His glory, His illumination, will present in other ways.
God’s radiance will shine brightly through you when you can face the worst fears, struggles, and adversities of this life with grace, fearlessness, power and authority foreign to those who walk according to the flesh. God doesn’t generally, as noted throughout the Bible, remove our difficulties; rather, He allows us to get to the weakest and worst place possible so that, when He strengthens us, His glory is revealed.
My pastor, Mike Turner, said it like this, “God reveals His glory when you let Him into the defeated places of your life. Ezekiel’s promise for us today is how the Lord brings restoration to everyone with a broken heart who will trust Him.” If you will choose to trust Him, allow Him to dwell richly within you, and obey His commands out of love for Him, you will be overwhelmed by His present glory and His supernatural strength in perilous times. Allow Him to transform you into His image from glory to glory. His strength and power are readily accessible when you humble yourself to the point of absolute abandonment of self.
Colossians 2:20-23 poses the question, “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?” The verses then state, “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Religion and traditions of man can neither exemplify nor manifest the glory of God. It is only in the abandonment of the natural man that you are no longer bound by such heavy laws and regulations. Rules and regulations cannot draw Christ near unto your heart; therefore, they cannot strengthen you. Surrendering to Christ is sweet in the bitter times, calming in chaos, beauty in the face of this heinous land in which we temporarily sojourn, and liberty from the temptations of the flesh. God’s glory will become visible to you when you surrender spirit, soul and body. God’s power, strength and authority will become evident and accessible when you no longer utilize anything of the frailty of self.
May the glory of the Lord be the guiding light in the darkness and the strength in your weakness!
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).
Many people dream of luxurious homes, cars and vacations; making six figures at their perfect career and living a life of world travels while raking in the proverbial dough. I, and other parents like me, have no time for such dreams. We dream only of our children getting well and being able to live life where they aren’t hurting and stuck in bed, and are able to socialize with friends while attending school. We are unable to think of ourselves on any level because our world has become, to the fullest degree, finding answers for our children’s’ illnesses.
Wrapped in all that, we search for the right medication, the right doctor and trying to get insurance to pay for whatever services are required so as to facilitate their healing. Countless phone calls and emails are extended throughout any given week. We long for an entire day where our child can enjoy something, anything. We pray for expeditious healing all the while hoping Jesus will hear our prayers and execute sudden change. Our dreams are not those of people whose children are well and thriving.
While mainstream parents are dreaming about what college their child will attend and other academic issues, in what sporting events their child will participate, what dance, aerobics, equestrian or other extracurricular activities toward which their child will gravitate, those with special needs children dream only of them getting through a day without being in pain. It’s an entirely different dream system to which we have inadvertently subscribed. Additionally, we parents dream of a day to ourselves, which happens next to never, or never.
It is virtually impossible for those with healthy children to comprehend the level of exhaustion parents with chronically ill children (any special needs) endure. Before you assume this blog is about us whining, it is not. It’s more of a call to others in the same position to know they are not alone. Countless parents, grandparents and caregivers tend to become shut in, of sorts, even if they’re out in public regularly. There is an internal shutdown due to feeling like no one could possibly understand their situation and, let’s face it, most people do not. Most parents to not wish to bore other people with their troubles and, in turn, they begin their descent into isolation, depression and even suicidal tendencies.
I am here to say, “You are not alone.” This group is to bring people together who are experiencing the loneliness and stress of caring for a special needs child on any level. Please reach out. If not to me or someone in this group, someone: a pastor, friend, neighbor, co-worker, etc. Do not allow the darkness of loss (child’s health and/or personal life) build to a place of no return. There are people who can help cope with the hardship of having a chronically ill child.
I Thessalonians 5:11: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Chapter Fifteen: Strength for the Weary, part II
Weakened Unto Death:
What a beautiful act of unwavering love when God sent His Son in human flesh weakening Himself, the Almighty, so as to rescue those who are weak. Honestly, I can’t mention this enough as we, His creation, seem to keep missing this incredible act of kindness, thoughtfulness and, yes, weakness. He became all things to all people so some may be saved. I become overjoyed and saddened simultaneously when reading I Corinthians 9:22. The gift of Christ thrills me; adversely, the fact He states “some” may be saved is sad. Only a few will answer the call of Christ by surrendering their fleshly strengths so His strength can prevail.
Mankind, better yet Christ-kind, gets so frustrated at God when things aren’t fixed the instant they pray or within a week, months or several years. They expect God, because they deem themselves a “good person”, to jump the moment they pray or, better yet, they expect to have no real life issues as though they are exempt. These people have deluded themselves into thinking they deserve exemption from hardships.
The truth of the matter is, God has already extended all the help there is to give – the sacrifice of His life. What we fail to see, especially within the confines of the professing Church, is that we are to relinquish our lives (all the good and the bad) so that we may position ourselves to receive His completed help, as previously discussed. John 16:33 states, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is a past-tense statement, not an “it is forthcoming” possibility. Furthermore, John 19:28-30 confirms with clarity, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished…when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
We become weary in situations of life, death, divorce, abuse, poverty, resentment, rejection, abandonment, or whatever life throws our way, and haven’t figured out how to receive the power and dominion we’ve already been bestowed while enduring hardships. When will we understand that weakness is the greatest place to be? “He gives strength to the weary”, reads Isaiah 40:29. This isn’t just a matter of saying, when we are weary, God gives His strength; it’s far more reaching than that. It’s saying, it isn’t until we are fully weakened that we are in a place where we can receive His strength. When we are strong in ourselves, who needs God or anything He has to offer? When things are great, good, or even bearable, we continue to cling to dead flesh. In turn, without intending, we forgo the rest and peace of Christ which can only be birthed through relinquishing ourselves to God.
If you truly want to be renewed in strength, stop resisting natural weakness. It isn’t a shortcoming; it’s the only place where Christ can actually take over. When you realize “it’s finished” and there’s nothing more for Christ to do on your behalf, you’ll quickly perish your fleshly nature so that His completed work can begin to manifest in every area of life.
When Paul became truly weary, he was positioned to receive the fullness of Christ. Jesus gave Himself over to utter weakness that the glory of God the Father could accomplish His perfection through His human death. Strength for the weary comes because you are weak. Because Christ was weakened unto death, He could bear us when we are weakened unto death. In other words, once we have suffered and disciplined ourselves to cast our cares upon Jesus, only then can we guide others how to do the same.
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:29-31 (NAS)
“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some (I Corinthians 9:22, NAS).”
Chapter Fifteen: Strength for the Weary
I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!
It is the enemy who tries to make you wallow in self-pity when you make a mistake. He wants you permanently derailed. God says that, if you get off track, get back on. If you sin, repent and stop sinning. If it was an honest mistake, repent and correct it. If it was blatant rebellion, do the same. God is not going to remove His Spirit from you because you missed a step unless you will not relent. So many find themselves in a frightful state thinking God will leave them abandoned. That too is a lie. His promise to the believer is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” When doubt tries to enter, take the authority over your own mind and pull down those imaginations and strongholds which try to take you captive. Quote the Word to yourself; it will not return to Him void.
In chapter 5, verse 7 of Nehemiah, when Nehemiah set out to rebuild the city wall, he “consulted with himself”. David encouraged himself in the wilderness. At your weakest, most vulnerable condition, if you have no one to encourage you and remind you of the promises of God, remind yourself. Pick up the Word and start quoting Scripture until you believe it again or for the first time. Allow God’s Spirit and truth to comfort and encourage you in weakness no matter in what form it presents.
There is a Holy Bible full of examples of God’s anointed missing the mark a time or two. Adam missed it. So did David, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Elijah, all the disciples, and many more in between. Get up and dust yourself off! Bind away a spirit of fear, doubt, depression, unworthiness, and anything else not of Holy Spirit and move on with God. Take up the authority Jesus Christ gave you at the cross and command all evil spirits to leave. Take up the mind of Christ. Take up the armor of God and press forward. You have a Kingdom destiny which only you are called to fulfill. Don’t let weak flesh have a foothold. Abdicate the flesh and all soulish emotions that quench Holy Spirit. A tragic weakness is in not knowing the power God has given you, or worse, refusing to use it.
“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:7-9, NAS).”
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power, love and a sound mind (self-discipline) (II Timothy 1:7, NAS).”