Chapter 9: Strangers and Prisoners
“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:47, NAS)?”
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…(Hebrews 13:1-3).”
Do you remember the question, “who is my neighbor?” Well, here it is again. Not only are we cautioned to love our brothers (which can often feel virtually impossible), but here we are encouraged to do the same with those outside our brethren. Are we who are extending love to those within the body only doing so at the least possible level, or are we pushing ourselves to go beyond our borders and love those without? We never know to whom we are showing kindness or hostility; we don’t know who may be an angel among us.
And more than that, what if they’re not an angel? What if they’re just some random person who needs kindness, a comforting word, or God’s love expressed to them? We are not to choose whether or not we love our brothers or love our neighbors or strangers or prisoners; we are to love all people at all times, even when admonishing someone.
I love the line in Hebrews 13: “…since you yourselves also are in the body.” Prisoners are a passion of mine because I recognize the undisputed fact I too could be behind physical bars if I had remained married to my first ex-husband. Someone was going to get hurt somewhere along the line! I could have been pushed to do something untoward given the demonic nature in which he operated. Any number of things and circumstances could have led me down the wrong path and caused me to do something prison-worthy. No one knows of what we are capable until a situation arises.
Furthermore, there are people not behind physical bars but behind internal bars, chains, and other barriers. “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them” states Hebrews 13. We are in the body therefore we could do something stupid at any moment should the flesh get the better of us. In this, we must all be compassionate toward those who most folks deem unsavory. We would be wise to remember how our flesh acted prior to surrendering to Christ. I am painfully aware I must surrender the nature of my flesh daily. Just because I live in a fleshly shell doesn’t mean I need to be driven by it, though it genuinely wants to take the wheel of my life.
Those who are externally or internally imprisoned are so because, somewhere along the line, the flesh got the better of them. Neither you nor I are exempt. Have compassion. Have mercy. Lend prayer. We never know what stranger or prisoner may be an angel in disguise, but don’t be motivated to kindness because of that as if to think, “I don’t want to mess with an angel!” Perceive everyone as someone in need of the same love Christ extended to us in our time of need.
Chapter Thirteen: Igniting God’s Completed Work, part II
Paul’s mission was to correct and teach every man with all wisdom that they may be presented as “complete in Christ”. What does this mean other than, once in Christ, we are considered as dead to self and alive only through the identity of Christ. The words, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…” is not only in reference to Jesus’ death, but the co-death of all mankind. Through His flesh, He buried the fleshly nature of sinful man. Death for Jesus was literal but it translates to mankind as spiritual. We “die daily” as in, every day when we awaken in our natural state, we subject all of ourselves to Christ so that our only life source is the resurrected life of Christ.
Why are you, a born-again follower of Christ, praying for the attributes of Christ such as wisdom, patience, kindness, self-discipline, love, joy, etc. when God said He’s already given you the fullness of Christ? If you have Christ, you have all you need and which can be given because every good thing is wrapped in Christ. All of which we pray and ask that can be granted, through Jesus Christ, is already ours. We need only to know how to position ourselves so as to receive and function appropriately. In other words, if you are one with Christ, you need not pray, “God give me wisdom” but rather “As I humble myself before You, Lord, I thank You that, through Jesus, I have all wisdom. Direct me how to tap into and operate in it.”
Colossians 2:6, 9-12, state emphatically, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…for in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Basically, we need to learn how to access what we’ve been given instead of trying to obtain something we have already been granted as though we don’t already possess it. The difference is accessing versus obtaining.
To reiterate, the Word of God, in Yahweh’s timeline, was written and fulfilled before the creation of anything in existence. Furthermore, your life, my life, and the lives of every person past, present and future are already finished; we’re merely watching it play out step by step. Faith of this magnitude (that it’s already completed) ignites God’s completed work and allows it to be made manifest in your life. This is the life which will draw all men unto Himself.
One may rebut, “So, if everything is complete, I can do anything I want and whatever will be, will be.” This person thinks they can live willy-nilly and everything will work out fine but, this is not so. The instruction of positioning ourselves so as to bring the perfect will of God in our lives is a matter of holiness. It is a matter of praying in agreement with God in all things, humbling ourselves before God and man, honoring the King in spirit, soul and body, worshiping in spirit and in truth, rest trusting His promises, and loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is positioning ourselves in order to usher the excellence of Christ, come what may.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28, NAS).”
“He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death (Colossians 1:22, NAS).”
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).”
In my 50 years of life, jealousy has never been something to which I have commonly subscribed. I’m always elated to witness success and assist others so as to catapult them into greatness. That being said, having a chronically ill child has, on more than one occasion, provoked a spirit of jealousy within me. I deal with it in the throne room of grace, to be sure, as soon as I feel it. Nevertheless, the pangs of such a vile emotion rear their ugly head when I least expect it. When I see all around me the kids of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers who are perfectly healthy and thriving, as awful to admit as it is, I feel the sensation of jealousy. It is not for money or possessions, but for good health for my daughter. I weep for my sweet Sophia as I know others weep for their suffering children.
From family to family, it’s a sliding scale of illnesses and severity but, I assure you, pain is pain. I don’t have less sorrow for my child than a parent of a child with cancer or more sorrow than a parent with a kid with an infection which is taking longer to subside than average. Hands down, it is all horrible watching your child suffer while other children run, play, go to school and do the things healthy kids do. Sophia has begun a two month regimen of medication specifically for her issues. It’s been two weeks and we’ve seen some improvement. She’s been getting caught up in some school work and able to spend time with friends here and there. It has been encouraging to watch as slow progress is still progress.
Yesterday, just as Michael and I had embarked on a much needed date night, we had just sat down at the restaurant to order and the phone rings. Sophia called bawling her eyes out because, while at her friend’s house, she threw up repeatedly and was in a lot of stomach pain. What’s more, she was/is very frustrated she can’t seem to kick this and the correlating problems. This morning at church, a friend was excited to revel in our mutual friend’s daughter’s achievements where she had deservedly, once again, taken 1st place. Of course, I am thrilled for my friend’s daughter; in fact, she’s my best friend. Our daughters are only a year apart and we are each other’s daughter’s god-mothers.
I thought to myself how astonishingly disgusting it was that I would feel such pain and jealousy for one I love so dearly; its a bit of a paradox. Even as I type, I weep at the unbearable thought that I would have such emotions. It was all I could do not to cry the entire service knowing my baby was hurting and feeling the way I did. Notwithstanding, the fact remains, people in my shoes do feel surges of jealousy with the desire for our kids to be able to enjoy childhood/teenhood just like everyone else’s kids.
Just the other day, a friend wrote asking me to pray for peace for her because she was feeling jealousy for reasons I just described. She is a follower of Christ and knows God has a perfect plan for her child, yet struggles with such feelings. She mentioned that watching photo after photo of other kids doing so well and having such joy brought her more pain.
I responded like this (roughly): “My personal peace comes from reminding myself that, at the conclusion of this part of Sophia’s life, it will catapult her right into the perfect will of God. If I may be frank, you do not need prayer for peace, you need to believe God has a plan and that it is good; belief is where the peace lies. I don’t know what God has designed for your daughter’s life, but a part of that is not you feeling devastated as if there’s no hope. I say this to you as I must daily remind myself.” Knowing, believing, trusting and accepting God does have a plan is the key. This knowledge is how I am able to:
- Call myself to accountability in my incorrect emotions
- Pull down (away from) my mind all thoughts not of God
- Pull those thoughts into the obedience of Christ until my obedience is made complete
- Refuse to allow my mind to continue a process of comparing Sophia’s life to anyone else’s
- Remind myself God is faithful, He has a plan, He is in love with her and He purposes the best for her
- Believe all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who walk according to the Spirit
- Trust God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength – regardless of what my eyes see or emotions feel
- Reestablish peace that passes all understanding
If I may help you in any way, please reach out to me on Facebook, email or in the comments section. If there’s help for me and my child, there’s equal hope, help and peace for you. Jealousy of others will only lead to further destruction, chaos and confusion, it is a murdering spirit. Just because we feel something in a moment of weakness does not mean we have to allow it to overtake us. Focusing on the love of God chases out feelings which are not of God. Blessings!
Proverbs 14:30: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Chapter 7: Content in Weakness, part I
No Shame in Weakness:
“So the last shall be first, and the first last (Matthew 20:16, NAS).”
“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 1:8, NAS).”
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13, NAS).”
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God (I John 3:21, NAS).”
There have been times in the last many years with all the suffering we’ve endured with mine and Sophia’s health that the “righteous” have shunned me. At my weakest, they accused me of hidden sin, unrepented sin, demonic oppression, and more. I knew I had “done all” as directed in Ephesians 6:13 so I didn’t allow myself to buckle in shame at their negative words.
Spiritually, we prayed, declared healing, repented of everything we knew, bound away spirits, released Holy Spirit, pleaded the blood of Jesus, broke generational curses, anointed with oil, and had elders lay hands in prayer. Physically, we took the proper meds and saw the appropriate doctors. I literally knew of nothing more to do spiritually or physically. When the accusations came and “friends” departed, I stood unashamed before God, man and demons. God had previously spoken to me of the forthcoming period of trials and false accusations so I was as prepared as one could be. All I could do was stand unashamed expecting great and mighty things on the other side of the suffering.
I also knew God was not allowing this to be quickly removed so as to temper, humble, and refine me and my household. I refused to be ashamed though there were weak moments when I questioned, “Am I doing all I am called to do in order to expedite healing?” Though I have never been prone to guilt and shame, believe me, there were moments when false accusations would bear down on me trying to make me go into hiding from embarrassment.
The Father always kindly reminded me this life offers plenty of trials and tribulations, but they are God’s tools to refine, perfect, and grow us in love, faith, perseverance and hope. As I mentioned in chapter three, perception is reality. With a heavenly reality, I could with ease pull myself together and refuse the condemnation coming from the brethren. I stand patiently in His Word knowing the first will be last and the last will be first. In other words, the last are the weak but, when God raises them from their weaknesses strengthening them as upon the wings of eagles, they will become first. Don’t let shame hurl you into depression. Firmly and confidently expect the unexpected because God displays His goodness when it seems most unlikely and impossible.
If my heart does not condemn me before God in whatever is happening, I do not need to allow condemnation from man to overwhelm me. I am not ashamed of the Gospel and I purpose to walk in all His ways. Knowing the fact that Holy Spirit forewarned me of treacherous weather which would be a lengthy process to navigate, I reject shame, guilt and condemnation. That which God is orchestrating, I will not allow anything or anyone to knock me over in guilt or feelings of inadequacy. I take up the armor of God and stand against the currents of life. Suffering of many forms comes to all who stand with the Lord. Keep your heart clean and the rest will resolve itself in due season.
With a God-visual, I can weather any storm and not be shamed in my weakness. I don’t have to buckle when naysayers accuse me unjustly. I check myself, then I stand unwaveringly knowing the excellent outcome is not only forthcoming, it’s already complete in the spirit-realm. My faith is in the Father. In fact, because God prophesied this was coming, I can recognize the growth which was required in me. The only way to usher such growth was through the stormy gale. For where I am weak, He is strong. No one can become content in weakness unless there is weakness present. Content means no shame and no pride; there’s only ease in the process.
Chapter 6: Becoming Base and Foolish, part I
“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (I Corinthians 1:27-29).”
Most view weakness as foolishness, as if it’s the worst thing that can happen to someone. Adversely, it’s when we weaken ourselves completely before the Father we are able to go beyond human ability. God purposes to nullify the things that are (anything of human ability) so that we have nothing left from which to boast or pull strength.
God has graciously granted mankind His image which includes a great many assets, gifts, attributes, talents, brains, brawn, and so on. His directive for such assets is so we may glorify the King and flourish in the Earth, subduing it as was intended in the Garden of Eden. We are to bring Heaven down to Earth. Unfortunately, mankind, in all its pride, has become more dependent upon such gifts from God in lieu of God. Instead of leaning upon Christ, we use them when we should submit them allowing God to utilize them for the good of all mankind. For instance, if you have a gift of prophecy, you may speak something out of your great intellect instead of waiting upon the Spirit to lead. This is using human power instead of Holy Spirit revelation. Furthermore, if you have a talent of painting, you may for the sake of a huge paycheck paint something not approved of God because you can. You did it with the mindset, “God must be blessing me” when it had nothing to do with God at all.
People who do subject everything to God are considered foolish, childish, silly, and worse. People say, “You can accomplish____________ in your own strength. Why do you call upon God?” These same people, in due season, become humbled by the same God on whom they spit. We who are hidden in Christ recognize we are nothing and no one outside the perfect will of God. We are to become as dust and ash as did Job at the end of his trials. He once leaned heavily on his abilities to accomplish all he did pre-trials. He stirred God’s wrath by justifying himself. Unlike the norm, Job finally saw the error of his ways, humbled himself and was then positioned before the Almighty to be doubly blessed.
When will we see from the perspective of Heaven? When will God’s people humble themselves, make themselves as nothing so that God may intervene? We’re so busy being angry with God for not stepping in or having allowed our predicament in the first place. We are remiss simply because we do not understand He’s attempting to bring us to foolishness so that He may be our wisdom, our solace, our Savior, our everything.
When All My Strength Has Failed
Chapter 6, part I of III
Alexys V. Wolf