Love, Fear & Vulnerability

If I would ask an individual what the opposite of love is, it’s likely they would say “hate”. Although, I would contend that hate is only a fruit of love’s antonym and not the root. The Scriptures state that “there is no fear in love; but [complete] love casts out fear; because fear has [punishment with it]. He that fears is not made [complete] in love” (1 John 4:18, Strong’s G2849/G2851/G5046).

While love does not room with fear, complete love confronts and casts out fear, wherever it is. It appears that it is possible to have God’s love operating in our lives, but not possess maturity in God’s love, causing us to not confront and cast out fear. Hence, a mature flow of God’s love in and through our hearts causes a third party to become involved. For the sake of this writing, I will be using “complete”, “wholesome”, and “mature” interchangeably. Here’s an example of what I mean: let’s say Alan possesses love that is given by God – two parties. Since Alan is not operating in mature love, he does not confront and cast out fear. On the other hand, let us meet Alan operating in COMPLETE love. He is compelled by God’s complete love to confront and cast out fear, which was not resident with Alan since the beginning. Alan must be drawn to Brian (3rd party), in order for God’s complete love to become evident and impact Brian and his challenge with fear. God’s complete, mature love is only achieved when a third party is involved. I believe this is why John said that if a man does not love a fellow believer whom he has seen, how can he love God, whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). John sets the foundation in verse 12 stating that “if we love one another, God [actively] dwells in us, and His love is [continuously MADE COMPLETE] in us”. So in order for us to grow from God’s love to God’s complete love, we ought to simply exercise the initial love of God we receive, as a seed sown into the lives of others – because the process of giving, is the process of maturation in God’s love.

Now why bring vulnerability into all of this? I believe vulnerability is the human experience that acts as the middle pivot point which holds the seesaw of love and fear. How we handle our vulnerability is what can cause us to go further in God’s love or further into fear. Consider the moments where you have felt vulnerable. Why did you hesitate? Why did you feel the call to insecurity? Why did you begin to open the invitation to hide? Why did you feel fractured? And seek to become disengaged?

I believe it was because you began to feel the spirit of fear begin to beat its drum on the side of fear and not allow the Word and Spirit of God resound the beautiful tempest of truth on the side of love. I would not be afraid to say, that God’s love is terrifyingly beautiful. The terrifying portion being a product of the fact that God’s love meets us at the degree of our EXPOSURE – whether mental, spiritual, emotional, or even physical. God’s love is first manifested as a response to our exposure. This is a reason why the Scripture states that God demonstrated His love towards us, that while we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus shows us His love at the highest degree of human exposure: the point where a human corrodes in their sin. Now let me quickly and simply define sin: “missing the mark” (Strong’s G266). I sin whenever I miss the mark. It could be a simple request from God, but me still miss doing it how He asked, by His means, not my own.

I define sin because even when dealing with our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, we can sin by insisting on hiding from God. God is the epitome of patience. Yet, if we refuse to come before God with our vulnerabilities, we sin in His sight; for it is a good thing to come before God with our weaknesses (James 4:17, 2 Corinthians 12:9).

So we get to choose what we do with our vulnerabilities. Many people teeter and totter on this seesaw of love and fear, trying to bear some vulnerabilities with the love of God and others with the fear of exposure. When the truth is, vulnerabilities ought to be cast everyday, not carried (1 Peter 5:7). We must cast our vulnerabilities at the feet of Jesus, where we can walk towards the side of His love, to grow unto complete love and cast off fear behind us.

That is love, fear, and vulnerability in the context of Jesus and us. But here’s the additional layer that God uses to challenge us into growing with complete love.

The people closest to us.

These are the individuals that learn what makes us tick and what makes us ticked. And it’s possible that we would have more trouble being seen of others than being seen of God. It is possible we have more trouble being exposed to those closest to us than being exposed to God. There are many reasons why this can occur – whether it is a childhood experience, lack of effective communication, unhealed wounds, conflicting perspectives, and much more. Yet, God uses these relationships to produce COMPLETE love in our lives, because a third party is now involved. This is the valuable characteristic that God wants to produce in us: complete love.

So, on this weekend when many celebrate Valentine’s Day, remember to thank those who, with God’s complete love, have helped you confront fear in your life when you were in a vulnerable place.

Same Gift. Different Administration.

Fellow Young Minister,

Merry Christmas! I hope its going well for you on the road. I hear traveling weekly and preaching can get pretty lonely and presents its unique challenges. People are expecting you to show up with the same results everywhere you go, yet each church you’re with has a large variety of differences that show up. Talk about pressure. We know, its only pressure if we let it become so. But, I remember you mentioned how you felt the people expecting you to preach a certain way, because you are an evangelist; which typically means people are going to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, be baptized in Jesus name, miracles and healings are going to show up. Despite the expectations of the people, you mentioned you went ahead and followed God’s Spirit and there was demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This letter is not about the definition of demonstration, but I’m thankful for how you said that you focused on just “doing the will of God, and staying in your lane”. That really went a long way with me. I decided to look into the office God has appointed for you, from a biblical perspective, and the subject became bigger than I thought it would be. I have other friends called to the same office and became very intrigued, because while the Spirit and gift is the same, the administrations are different (1 Corinthians 12:1-4).

In Acts 8, Philip, biblically-known as an evangelist, went about Samaria preaching to people who had not heard of Jesus, having miracles and deliverance confirm the preaching (Acts 21:8). Likewise, people were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, but no one was receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We don’t hear of Philip getting frustrated over why none were receiving the Spirit, he simply sends word for Jerusalem to send Peter and John. These two apostles show up and Samaritans receive the Spirit. EVERYONE rejoices.

There are a few things I want to denote before going further. Philip ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still a need not yet met, that another individual is gifted for. In the same manner, when people receive the Spirit after Peter and John show up, we don’t hear of Philip thinking he’s a good-for-nothing evangelist. It doesn’t stop there. An angel speaks to Philip to pack his bags and go to a desert where he finds ONE man, an Ethiopian eunuch. He proceeds to preach Jesus to this man, who reads the Scriptures, and baptizes the man in the middle of the desert. Then, God literally translates Philip to another region, like straight out of the movie “Jumper”. What’s astounding to me is that Philip is fully confident in his office and gifting, whether or not he was ministering to a whole region, one man, people received the Spirit, or people were being baptized. I wonder how many places Philip would be “invited to preach” nowadays, if no one ever received the Spirit where he went. Nevertheless, God would speak to him and Philip would listen. Peter had his place. John had his place. Philip had his place. ALL were effective.

Allow me to take this further. You know who else was gifted as an evangelist? Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). The Scripture emphasizes that Timothy needed to be intentional about making “full proof” of his ministry. Yet, we discover that Paul had STATIONED Timothy in the region of Ephesus (1 Timothy 1). So how does one make full proof of their ministry, as an evangelist, when you’re stationed? We see here that the office of an evangelist isn’t limited to an “itinerant preacher” that’s invited to church services. Paul fully expected Timothy to appoint elders at Ephesus and still grow as an evangelist. It is for this very reason, I believe that Paul told Timothy to “not neglect the gift” that was within him (1 Timothy 4:14). Biblically, evangelists are individuals that are gifted for bearing the good news to SINNERS, not saints. Many times, we call traveling preachers evangelists, when they really may be operating as an apostle, prophet, pastor, or even teacher. I have witnessed young ministers become frustrated or skeptical of God’s gifting for them because it was not administered in the same manner others administered their gifting. They felt called to be an “evangelist” but never had “preaching opportunities” show up. Consequently, they felt like the bible studies they taught, souls won, and evangelistic equipping done in the local church weren’t good enough for a phone call to preach somewhere else. When in fact, it was the most terrifying thing that young evangelist could do to the kingdom of darkness in their hometown – and more importantly, to glorify the name of Jesus Christ.

Scripture talks about the “same Spirit” distributing “manifestations”, “administrations”, and “ministries” to every individual in the church (1 Corinthians 12). I would apply this principle to the five offices in Ephesians 4, as well. The same office, but a different manifestation or placement. BOTH just as effective. All evangelists are traveling preachers, but not all traveling preachers are evangelists. Whether or not traveling takes place right down the street, you’re traveling towards the destination of a soul’s heart, in order for God to intervene where they are at. I love how the Lord has such diversities of gifts in His body, and ALL MATTER. Paul talks about how the “unseemly” and overlooked ones end up mattering the most (1 Corinthians 12:23). It gave me so much encouragement to find this out, because our Lord really has a part for all of us to contribute through. Likewise, I am grateful and excited to know that I will continue to see God glorified in the manners He is through your life, in the years to come. It may be that you are in the same place Timothy was, in 20 years from now; but, God won’t be done doing marvelous things through you.

I suppose I can end this letter with saying, we’ve all received gifts from Jesus on our spiritual Christmas, and we rejoice that though our administrations may be different, the gift and Spirit is one and the same. Thankful to be partnering with you.

Merry Christmas!

Humanity’s Problem With Faith

What is biblical faith? Many of my church friends would quote Hebrews 11:1, while many of my dear friends with other worldviews would say something similar to religion. I would contend that faith involves both of those responses.

It was in the 11th grade that I first started engaging in biblical studies, during a time where I began to dive into popular literature from the Renaissance and study philosophers from ancient Greece, the Enlightenment and other influential movements. I became exposed to such impactful thinkers like Thoreau, Hobbes, Voltaire, Neitzche, Kierkegaard, Brand, and the list goes on and on. There was a ton of discussions involving faith and religion. It compelled me to know for myself what in the world “faith” was and what kind of worldview I really adhered to or wanted to adopt.

I discovered biblical faith wasn’t exactly limited to some people’s definition of “religion”. Neither was biblical faith exactly limited to some church-goer’s recitation. What became apparent to me was that with faith, came an expectation to change. Change is frightening for humanity. The human body is always trying to cope with change through a process called homeostasis. But, it’s more than natural, it’s spiritual. We wish to retain comfort in our circumstances and stay in control. But biblical faith challenges us to change.

Think about this simple sequence: if I admit that the biblical God is real, I consequently acknowledge that the biblical God is right, with His own definitions of what right is. Therefore, I must make a decision in response to His reality and rightness. Whether we like it or not, no response is a response.

As an extension, what hinders people from changing as a result of faith, is not knowing and understanding where faith comes from. They find a lack of motivation to change, because they’re not linked to the sources of faith. These two sources being: love and their listening. The Scripture makes it clear that faith is actively generated by love (Galatians 5:6) and is a product of what we listen to (Romans 10:17). If faith is separated from love, we find little to no effective motivation for change; while if we listen to adversarial thinking, we end up developing faith in the adversary, which faith is synonymous with fear, and we do not develop it in the Lord Jesus Christ. God wishes for us to recall what He said and to listen to what He is saying, in order for faith to be produced in our hearts, and change to be established. This is the hangup that many bible believers and bible nonbelievers have, they think that faith is the SOURCE of the supernatural, not the PRODUCT. I have made a case with friends that God’s existence is not a result of my faith, in my worldview, but my faith exists because of God’s love. God and His love predate my faith.

To make practical application of this principle, I get to receive answers for my prayers not based off of what I “just say” in prayer, but based off of what God has established through His love. The effective examiner of my prayers, is whether or not I am praying what God has established and communicated, in order for a fruitful answer to occur. This is biblically called: praying the will of God. How in world do I pray God’s will, more so, know God’s will? Very simple. It is established through His Word. If we do not have a healthy relationship with God’s Word, the Scriptures, we will not consistently pray effectively. The Word of God is the first source of my faith in God, this is what I must listen to. Romans 10:17 makes it very apparent that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”, with the Word of God being a divine, unwavering, revelation from God about Himself, that is without contradiction. To read more on knowing what biblical revelation is, read the writing on “When God’s Revelation Messes With My Theology”.

The second source of faith, is God’s love. The Scripture makes it clear that besides light, God’s defining characteristic is love – biblical love, that is (1 John 4, 1 Corinthians 13). Knowing that God is speaking to me, on the basis that He loves me, makes me so much more attuned to listening. There are many people that are terrified to think that God exists and wishes to speak with them, because they do not understand this defining characteristic of God. This may be tongue in cheek, but their terror can be confirmed through their playful talk about hell, in which many psychologists discuss that people’s usage of phrases like, “What the hell?” or “How in the hell?”, are subconscious indicators of their fear of hell. Interestingly enough, God’s ultimate desire is not for humanity to find motivation from fear of hell, but from faith that proceeds from His love.

I believe I must pray every day that I would have “ears to hear, a mind to perceive, a heart to receive, hands to grab and release, feet to stand and go, and a spirit to saturate” what He wants to say and do. This positions me to produce faith when I listen to what God says, as a result of His love for me and others. On the other hand, if we are having struggles and challenges with coming closer to God or what is taught in the Scriptures, we should be praying for revelation of God’s love, not so much for more faith. It is God’s love that becomes the motivating factor for my change. That change can be a change of attitude, behavior, mindset, direction, decision, environment, you name it. But I must focus on the love of God for this to occur. I wish to write more on this subject, but I wish to respect the time you invest in other matters. I submit to you that humanity’s problem with faith has its remedy in God’s love being communicated to our listening. It can be overcome in our hearts, and we can aid others along the way.

Keep reading for more…

The Scripture makes emphasis on the fact that faith has 14 elements- you can tack on “of faith” to each one: the door, law, righteousness, measure, hearing, shield, family, joy, work, fight, assurance, prayer, gift, and spirit. You can couple these 14 elements into 7 pairs, seeing that faith is a force of agreement between God’s love and our listening.What is the family of faith, without the joy of faith? What value is there in the work of faith, without the fight of faith? What’re the grounds for the righteousness of faith, without the law of faith? Where is the power for the prayer of faith, without the assurance of faith? Where does the hearing of faith arrive, without the door of faith opening? How do we protect the measure of faith, without the shield of faith? And how do we operate in the gift of faith, without the spirit of faith?

It is crucial that as biblical believers we heed to the fact that faith is a PRODUCT and a PROOF of what is already established. Proof can be received or rejected, but its truth does not change. Hebrews 11:1 (Wuest’s New Testament Translation) says that faith is the “title deed of things hoped for, the proof of things which are not being seen”. Understanding that biblical hope is expectation and not some emotional high, faith is the title deed that God transfers to us, indicating that we have a right to receive what He has said, if we let His Word produce it through us. Likewise, faith is the “proof of things which are not being seen”. Mathematical proofs are comprised of axioms, which are pre-existing truths that result in a conclusion, or proof, that helps an individual conduct mathematical functions. It is the basis on which any math is performed. Faith operates in the same manner. It is comprised of the immutability of God’s Word and God’s love, in order to for us to come to a conclusion in which to act out His promises. We ought not to suffer in our faith because of unfitting circumstances or trivial rationalism. Though our humanity may be limited, we can rest full of faith in Christ.