Connecting with God in Hessed Community

Hessed is the Hebrew word for Agape, God’s love, our namesake. We believe that joy is found in Hessed connection with God and our Christian community.

How do we walk with each other in a hessed community that fully engages with God? The most practical answer is connection with Him in praise, worship, prayer, and intercession that keeps going back to hessed. A deeper look at the center of God’s holiness is His mercy seat. The center of manifestive presence is loving kindness, a place where forgiveness flows; but there were also the tablets containing the 10 Commandments. The fellowship of believers dwelling in hessed is identically modeled: a place of love; but also purity. This mercy is not just functionally the way we treat each other’s weaknesses; but it is who we are aspiring to be by walking out the life He has called us to—holiness! 

Holiness was made possible by one Man (who is forever God) coming and fulfilling the Law by being sinless (perfect in keeping the righteous requirement) but also taking our punishment (for our disobedience to that Law). In light of Jesus’ hessed, our own righteousness would still be filthy rags. Even a strong attempt to “keep or perform” the Law would still pale in comparison. So, what does the Lord require, especially in the light of hessed?

A proper way of understanding the Law hebraically would be to actually “guard” the Law. I guard the Word of God by loving what it says, agreeing quickly with its truth (even if I have disobeyed); and I begin to see that abiding in His word has made me free of my bondage. I now guard that truth by continuing to abide in deep relationship with Him…(His name is The Word of God).

As Jesus was in the garden praying with His disciples, He admonished them to be on guard — “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Jesus’ prescription to temptation is to be on the guard. What a beautiful way to guard His ways He has fulfilled for us, that we would be free to follow Him fully!

We are also told to “Keep (guard) your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The reality of not sinning isn’t to just do more good things. Psalm 119:11 tells us, “Your word I have hidden (guarded) in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” The Scriptures are clear that guarding the places His Word/Law dwell is of utmost importance.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace (Shalom) of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). This is how hessed works when engaged with our Abba who created us! We guard the way He has asked us to walk in, and He meets us with grace to overcome.

Agape First Ministries Hallmarks

Connection verses Change

At Agape First Ministries, we stress connection with Abba Father rather than simply changing sinful behavior. We believe that as you connect with Abba, the change will happen in His timing. Our Heavenly Father meets us right where we are at. Jesus hung out with the broken, the sinners, tax collectors, drunkards, and prostitutes. His relational connection with them transformed them. Jesus died for us while we were sinners so that He could attach to us in that place of death and make us fully alive.

Made to Love verses Betrayal of False Identity

We each were made fully in God’s image, and we were made to fully love. Sadly, the enemy has done much to confuse those with sexual brokenness about their immeasurable worth to Abba Father. Toxic shame can easily make us feel like we are deformed, an abomination, or our attempts to love God are wrong. Combine that with wrongly-applied Scripture, and toxic shame becomes enforced—giving us a false identity that yields betrayal. Deeper on the inside, beyond that false identity, we find the “Image of God” we were created in. This image remains unblemished regardless of how much trauma, abuse, or brokenness we encounter. Jesus sets us free to bring out the beauty of who He created us to be—Lovers of God that love others well. This forges us deeply into the identity He sees us as, not the identity the world, others, or that we ourselves would assign to us. Furthermore, we have been made expressly to worship God, and to love Him in a First Love capacity. As we grow in our true identity, being Lovers of God becomes our primary desire.

Freedom to Walk in the Spirit verses Right Behavior through Rules

Many of us make the mistake of just crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires, but never walking into the resurrected life on the other side of that cross we each bear. As Jesus transforms us from the inside out, we learn the freedom His Father created us to have—a vibrant life of walking with the Holy Spirit, who gives us grace. Simply trying to follow rules only ends in failure and further mars our hearts in comparison with the deep healing touch only Jesus can bring. As we learn to walk in the Spirit, we learn to guard our hearts and minds in such a way that the workmanship He is making us into comes forth; and every work becomes His work through us.

Immaturity verses Rebellion

There is a huge difference in the eyes of the Lord between rebellion and immaturity. Even as we struggle with habitual sins, if we have a sincere desire to follow Jesus’ lead, we are not in rebellion, and we are not His enemy. We are beloved sons or daughters and there is grace to learn to love Him fully by doing what He commands—to love God fully and love others. There is grace to grow into everything Abba has designed and desires for us to be. The Lord is very patient and kind—He disciplines us as children, He doesn’t judge us as He does His enemies. He fights against anything that would hinder us from fully encountering His love.

Fully Integrated & Alive verses Suppression

Suppressing our struggles, locking them away in the depths of our souls, and pretending they are not there is not healing. For most, sexual brokenness is an arrested development. When we have encountered trauma (an overwhelming situation we cannot overcome) we become stuck emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even possibly physically—thus not being able to grow. This suppression begins to fragment who we are in our internal world, causing more rules to follow, more addictions to act upon, more over compensation, all while not being able to return to joy, or to the image of God we were created in. As we begin to bring our trauma in connection with Jesus from a safe place, as we allow Him to unburden the fragments that exile us, and as we find our Abba Father enjoys being with us, even while walking through brokenness, integration releases fullness of life upon the undeveloped parts of us. We begin to actually live fully alive!

Self Acceptance—Seeing Glory & Discerning Identity by the Spirit

A huge part of walking out who God has created us to be is to stand outside of our struggles and let the very Mind of Christ inform us. As we become informed, taking every thought captive, renewing our mind, and guarding our heart and mind, becoming grace-filled—it simply flows naturally from the very presence of Immanuel (God with us.) As the Holy Spirit leads us deeper in our healing journey, the encounters of Jesus speaking our true identity takes place, resulting in transformation. As we begin to discern our true identity from the Word and our encounter, we begin to behold greater glory—we are children (sons or daughters) that have been made free by abiding in His Word, being His disciples!

We never overcome through religion

Having the “will power,” striving, legalism, “just stop it,” condemnation, and trying harder, are self righteous and only yield religion. This will never bring transformation. A deep, vibrant, relational connection with Abba Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit bring a yielding of our will to His design, resting as He fights our battles, Christ’s righteousness fulfilling the law so, we walk in the Spirit, true healing and deliverance and deep abiding intimacy with the One who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves! What a joy-filled life journey that lies ahead of us. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus), the word of our testimony, and not loving our own life; but being willing to lay it down. We serve the Faithful Witness, He cannot lie about us. He is leading us into deeper trust, belief, and obedience to His way—LOVE. Welcome to Agape First!

Johnny Max: My Testimony

I grew up in a nominal Christian home, where if I was good I would go to heaven; if I was bad…hell. My great grandpa was a revival circuit rider with the shouting Methodists, so there was a godly heritage that had marked me; but I struggled with the connection because I didn’t really know Jesus. Amongst a lot of abandonment (because of my parents drug abuse) & abuse that surrounded me, Jesus began His call on my heart. 

In the second grade, I went to bible camp, where a pastor shared Jesus’ plan of salvation with us. It didn’t make sense because of my paradigm of God; but Jesus would soon change that. Hanging in my room was a picture of Jesus knocking on the door. Every night I would go to sleep, my heart felt Jesus walk out of the picture & stand next to my bed–He would say He was knocking on the door of my heart. I always had my excuse why I wasn’t ready…I didn’t feel I was worth it. I continued to run for 6 more years…Jesus kept faithfully pursuing my heart. I ran to new age philosophy to fill the emptiness of my wounded heart, until a friend invited me to his church. The presence I felt there was so familiar–He had been waiting at the altar of that church for 6 years! Never once did He let His arms down, He never turned His face from me. I surrendered my heart completely to Him & immediately fell in love with Jesus. 

My heart has found any & everything that I could ever dream of! I am completely satisfied with Jesus & have found so much healing. My heart has been set free to sing right to Him–He always loves to hear my voice. I am fully convinced of His love & the reason for my joy is the strength of His heart of joy!