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.

Fleeing or Resisting?

Recently, I’ve discussed with a few people about the four voices we must learn to discern, that of: God, self, the adversary, and godless influences. I heard this taught on several occasions and thought it would be helpful to revisit. I believe if we get any of these mixed up, we can have some major issues in our lives, where blessings become curses, and curses would be registered as blessings. This must not be so with us. In “A Portal Called Prayer”, we read about how God’s blessings come with no pain because we are to be conduits of His blessings, and not containers. How neglecting it would be if we started seeing God’s blessings as something from the devil, and we banished it from our lives, and others! But how tragic it would also be if we saw the blessings of God and thought it was earned by our own strength!

Why do I bring up the concept of the four voices?

Because without spiritual clarity, we can be 100% sincere, yet 100% inaccurate. This is the challenge with being and becoming individuals of passion. It’s that we can become passionate, yet distracted – yielding fruit of frustration and unable to serve in God’s kingdom at the level of effectiveness He designed us to operate in.

Distracted by what, you may say? Well, self, the adversary, and godless influences. We must be mindful that the distractions of the flesh aren’t dealt with in the same manner as distractions of the adversary. The Scripture gives us initiative to “[put to death] the deeds of the [flesh]” (Romans 8:13). In contrast, there is no Scriptural inspiration to “put to death” the adversary. Throughout the New Testament, believers and disciples of Jesus Christ are instructed to SEVERELY deal with the flesh. The flesh and its self-seeking desires are something that must die, be destroyed, be crucified, be enslaved, and be dissatisfied (Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:24, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 3:5, 1 Corinthians 9:27, Galatians 5:16).

Why such harsh dealings?

Because the flesh of mankind – that is, the self-seeking desires – will ALWAYS want to override the plan, will, person, and blessings of God in our lives. (For more on understanding the work of humanity’s flesh against God’s will, read “Humanity’s Problem With Love”, alongside “The Blessing of Losing Control”). On the other hand, when it comes to adversarial conflicts, we are COMMANDED to put up a fight, put on God’s armor, war in the Spirit, be aware, cast down, cast out, and resist (1 Timothy 1:18, Ephesians 6:10-18, 2 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Matthew 10:8, James 4:7).

I find it necessary to distinguish these two approaches because we can fall into a cycle of sin and defeat by dealing with the adversary how we are supposed to deal with the flesh, and dealing with the flesh how we are supposed to deal with the adversary. With the flesh, we are supposed to sever its influence, while with the adversary we ought to confront and defeat. It’s like a minister once said, “Nobody has yet ever cast out flesh. Devils are easy to cast out. But flesh takes years to train, sometimes”. Might I add, the disciples could cast out devils WITHOUT the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10). While it can be claimed that both battles require vigor, I want you to consider the fact that there is an area of the flesh that we definitely must not deal with, like we do the adversary.

The Scriptures command that we ought to FLEE fornication, idolatry, covetousness, and youthful lusts (1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 10:14, 1 Timothy 6:5-11, 2 Timothy 2:22). Apparently, there are youthful lusts and elderly ones. So what are youthful lusts? The characteristics that define adolescence typically fall under the pursuit of temporary pleasures and fame.

Consider this! Why does the Scripture tell us to FLEE these things? If you haven’t guessed it yet, it’s because these are works of the flesh, not of the devil. Galatians 5:19-21 states, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery (characterized by temporary pleasures and a lack of faithfulness), fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings (works with seeking fame), murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. I believe many times, we think we are dealing with devils, but we are really dealing with our own flesh. Therefore, we try to CONFRONT and RESIST our own flesh when we should really be FLEEING or HAVING IT DIE. I believe this is so vital to living a victorious life in Jesus Christ. The adversary finds an anchor in our lives via the flesh’s self-seeking desires, because the flesh is the greatest enemy of God’s work in our lives (Romans 8:7). In Galatians, Paul denotes the works of the flesh, but John, in 1 John 3:8, breaks down the works of the devil. And guess what? JESUS HAS TAKEN CARE OF THAT. It is affirmed in Colossians 2:14-15, how Jesus spoiled principalities and powers, humiliating them through the work of His cross. What WE must do is surrender OUR will to God’s Spirit that we may destroy the works of the flesh, also putting to humiliation the works of the devil through OUR own cross.

From these discoveries, I have learned more about how the flesh is a much more present challenge than any devil is; and that people fall into the same sin because they try resisting, when they should be fleeing. Similarly, people don’t have breakthroughs in God’s kingdom because they flee the devil, and not resist him. So what’s the major consequence of living out this revelation? We end up realizing that WE CAN confront and defeat the adversary, bringing him under our feet. WE CAN tread on serpents and scorpions and NOTHING shall by any means hurt us. I challenge you to reevaluate how you process the thoughts and voices you face, because we have a vast liberty to conquer through Jesus Christ. What are you fleeing from, that you ought to be resisting? And what are you resisting, that you ought to be fleeing?

A Portal Called Prayer

Prayer.

A vast subject that many talk about, but much fewer accurately practice. Did you know that there is an effective and ineffective way to pray? The Bible makes it very clear that we can pray and not receive what we pray for, because we pray “amiss”, that we may spend what we receive from God on our own pleasures (James 4:3). Yes, I am submitting to you that there is an inaccurate way to pray. What is wild to me is that we can pray 100% sincere, yet be inaccurate in our approach; causing us to likely become frustrated. Yes, God knows our heart. But do we know His? If we love God or want to know Him, we ought to want to pray in the manner which is most effective.

As children, and maybe even adults we are encouraged at times to repeat after others in order to pray. While this may serve as a launching pad to understand a proper approach, it can also become a clear example that repetition is not equal to obedience. God is a being. Infinite in His nature, yet accessible in His person. Furthermore, humanity was created in His image (Genesis 1:26). Huge common factor? We have specific forms of communication that get across better than others.

You know what causes God to turn His listening off to our prayers? Selfishness (Psalm 66:18). If we want things our own way, God won’t give us access to His way. They are diametrically opposed to each other. Our humanity is bent on having things done its own way and one of the greatest things God can do for us is not listen to us when we are being selfish. Even looking into the interpretation of “lukewarm” in Revelations 3:16, reveals that selfishness makes God want to vomit (Strong’s G1692, cold water is to refresh others from a long journey, hot water is to provide medicinal provision for others, Laodicea was bent on selfishness). So, as gross as it sounds, God is being emphatic about the fact that if He were to listen to us in moments of selfishness in prayer, He would vomit on us.

Either you find that funny, or tongue-in-cheek, or just plain gross, God is serious about wanting to establish effective communication with us. Why? Simply put, humans are the only other being that have the right to exercise personal will, either for self or for God. No other being in all that exists, has the right to do that. Not animals, not demons, not devils, not any of God’s angels. Only humans.

The value of HUMAN WILL, in the eyes of God is insurmountably precious. Again. Why? It’s majorly because of God’s love that functions through the vehicle of God’s will. God’s love, while offered, must be received to become fulfilled. The Scripture makes it very clear that God does not want anyone to perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). That is His will, for us to have eternal life. But His love only comes full circle when we receive what His will is.

So if selfishness in prayer causes God to turn away from us – and His love is married to His will, being incomplete without each other – then it must be that praying God’s will and God’s love is what causes God to turn toward us. I’ve often wondered; why do many people only equate an “answered prayer” as a “yes” from God? Resulting in people thinking a prayer that was given a “no” as “not being answered”. A prayer that is truly “unanswered” is one NOT RESPONDED TO (a prayer with selfishness). Moreover, many people say God mainly answers in three manners: “Yes”, “No”, or “Wait”. While as sincere as that may be, I’m not sure of the last meaningful relationship I had in my life where communication was based off of: “Yes”, “No, or “Wait”. God called Israel unto Himself to REASON with them (Isaiah 1:18). If we just looked at prayer through the Old and New Testament, we would see how elaborate God wants to be with us through this portal called prayer. God wants to share His wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and mind with us. How fascinating is that?

So how do we enter this portal, having God’s attention? We’ve got to give HIM our attention. In case you missed that, to get God’s attention, He’s got to have our attention. This is what praying His will is about – fixing our attention on who God is, what He wants, what He is doing, what He wants to do, why He wants to do it, how He wants to do it, and all of those wonderful secrets of His (Psalm 25:14). People that think praying God’s will is grievous, because it’s about Him, don’t understand how involved and focused God is on having our best interest at hand.

This is why when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how they should pray, He IMMEDIATELY focuses on God’s role, God’s position, God’s holiness, God’s authority, God’s mission, God’s will, God’s desires, and God’s objective before anything about US is mentioned. Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 6:9-13. Because when these things are prioritized, then “all of these things [that we have need of] will be added unto us” (Matthew 6:33).

Prayer must be our priority. And we ought to pray HIS prayer requests over ours. What are His prayer requests? OH, if we just searched the Scriptures for all of things God is and wants to do! We would walk in mighty peace, provision, and spiritual prosperity. You know the Bible says if we ask anything, in His name and according to His will, God will do it (John 14:14, 1 John 5:14)? Why? Because HE WANTS TO DO IT. How simple, yet how powerful! But why would God not do what He WANTS to do, unless we PRAY it?

Boom. Here it is.

He wants us to participate with Him. To grow in Him. Being crafted into becoming like Jesus by praying and desiring what God wants, over what we want. That’s how we can pray and grow effectively.

I believe we should receive the challenge of the Scriptures and pray what God wants us to pray. Here are some references to pray. Enjoy!

  • The Disciple’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13
  • A Prayer Request by the Lord: Matthew 9:38, Luke 10:2
  • Paul’s Prayer of Thankfulness for Others: Romans 1:8-10, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3
  • Paul’s Prayer For Wisdom & Revelation: Ephesians 1:17
  • Paul’s Prayer For Joy & Peace: Romans 15:13
  • Paul’s Prayer For Peace & Unity: Romans 15:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 3:16
  • Paul’s Prayer For Abiding in Christ, Spiritual Strength & Power: Ephesians 1:17-19, Colossians 1:11, Ephesians 3:16-19
  • Paul’s Prayer For Growth in Love, Righteousness & Purity: Philippians 1:9-11, 2 Corinthians 13:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
  • Paul’s Prayer For Opportunities To Bless Others: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10

When God’s Revelation Messes With My Theology

God and I don’t always agree. But He is always right. There are plenty of factors that can contribute to our perspective of God and the supernatural world. For many people, it’s Stranger Things, Halloween Horror Nights, Bill Maher, or even politics. In fact, just about anything can affect our view of the unseen world because the things that we see with our eyes are made by the things we cannot see with our eyes. That truth and fact is first declared to us in Hebrews 11:3, before it’s ever mentioned in a particle physics class.

Consequently, there are places and truths in and from the biblical God that mess with my theology. There is an all-out war for what occupies our minds, because what we think about becomes our priority, and our priority becomes our investment. Whether or not those investments are healthy, these are the external fruits of our internal roots. I would contend that our view of who God is, is the single most influential factor that can impact the way an individual lives their life. The goal, although, is to match my view of God, with God’s view of Himself.

Ever thought you knew somebody because of what other people said about them – only to find out that it was extremely skewed? How about somebody you just met telling you, “I’ve heard so much about you”, all the while you’re wondering what that means.

Even Jesus faced this with his own friends and closest followers. He asked them who did others say He was, and people started throwing shots in the dark. Some confused Jesus with another family member, others said He was a lonely preacher, while others just labeled Him a usual prophet. In His humanity, I could imagine the thought coming across His mind, “Seriously?” Then Jesus proceeds to ask, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, one of the more vocal followers, speaks up and says, “You are the manifested humanity of the abundantly real God.” What a bomb. Jesus praises Peter for his accurate response, then a few moments later, lovingly slams Peter for thinking that he knew more than he knew.

I believe this can also happen to us more often than we think, where God’s revelation messes with our theology. I like to see it this way, there is a Jesus that I don’t know yet. Yet, the one I know doesn’t contradict with the deeper understanding I have yet to attain. It is a journey to know who God is.

I believe in God’s grace, mercy, compassion, righteousness, love, holiness, and a ton of other characteristics. I would even say I know them and of them – but not in totality. Why is this? Because of my human frame. Ask your electric company to connect the plant to your house without the use of any transformers and tell me what happens. Transformers are what allow electrical energy to get to our homes without burning them up like a piece of paper. I love the way the grace of God works in people’s lives but I truly don’t know the infinite ways it TOTALLY works throughout the many aspects of a person’s life. The reality of our limited understanding should make us in awe of Him and His grandeur, yet inspire us all the more to know who He is in His accessibility.

I remember meeting a large-framed man at the gym, who looks like a bodybuilding samurai version of Steve Aoki, and beginning to talk about God. His name is so fitting: Samson. He started asking me why Jesus didn’t show up to him, to which I responded along these lines, “Why don’t you ask Him to?” I’m telling you, I’ve never seen an intimidating man like him at a loss for words.

He said, “Well, I don’t know about that.” Evidently, he hadn’t tried. I said, “Are you concerned He’ll actually show up?”

“I don’t know,” he quizzically responded.

I have found myself in that same kind of place, where God’s act of revealing Himself to me in a new way, required my vulnerability. I believe God delights in messing up my theology, or “God-opinion”, because He likes to keep things fresh. Somebody once said, “opinions are like noses, everybody’s got one.” And someone else said, “and they smell, too.”

Everyone is a theologian, with an opinion of what God is like. I’d rather get to know God for who He says He is. If I’ve got to change my theology to find out that His grace empowers me more than I think it does, then let it be unto me. If I’ve got to change my theology to recognize that He’s more holy than I think He is, then let it be so.

I want to know Him, don’t you?