The Battle Of Keeping the Faith

A friend of mine recently asked me if there is anything that could cause me to walk away from God. As a growing Christian, I realized how important and relevant this question was. In this article, what I’d like to do is bring to the surface some of the ways in which the Christian faith is challenged by a world of skepticism, doubt, and resistance. In doing so, I hope to bring encouragement to believers as well as clarification for those who are weary or questioning the idea of faith, so that we may all be well-informed with the ways in which a Christian not only can be motivated to love boldly and to live confidently in Christ, but to hold true to our faith in the face of our darkest adversities.

IS GOD GOOD?

When my friend first asked me what could cause me to walk away from God, the first thought that came to mind was, “If God wasn’t good, then I would question the existence of any such God altogether.” Why do you think that is? Would you believe in a God if you didn’t believe He was good? Why does goodness matter? For me, I can’t imagine life as relationally driven as it is to have been birthed to life by any force that wasn’t intrinsically loving. The reason why is because, through the human experience, we derive our sense of self from our awareness of and attention to (expectation of) love. We anticipate love, whether subconsciously or consciously. See, we cannot address ourselves with hatred and still retain some fathomable desire to continue living. If we were to be made with hatred, our lives and purpose would be centered on hatred—and hatred, if we were to hypothetically consider it as the core of any relationship—would bring our focus down to that of narcissism, bitterness, resentment, and regret. Hatred cannot breed a healthy relationship, only love can. Therefore, since human beings are obviously relational in that we need people to thrive with and connect to, it is ridiculous and irrational to believe we were made for hate. Considering this, I have the hardest time fathoming the idea that a hateful God created us to hate each other. God, if we can acknowledge one, must be that of love in order for us to experience an intrinsic need for love in order to live prosperously; fulfilled, satisfied, and complete. Therefore, if God created us out of love, then He must be good

THE IMPACT OF PAIN

The amount of pain we experience in this human life is another source of skepticism to dig into for a reason to believe in a good, loving God. When we lose a loved one, or experience the slow, torturous process of watching a loved one battle with cancer or other malign disease, we question where God’s love and goodness is. We can’t fathom how such a loving Creator who placed us in the universe on the one planet which can sustain life would allow cancer and disease to destroy us slowly from the inside. A lot of what we don’t think to consider while in emotional state during this type of situation is what tends to obscure our ability to see God’s loving action at work. While watching a family member or close friend suffer from cancer or a malady is excruciatingly painful, sometimes we overlook the role we play in their lives, and the importance of that role in the long run. In the bigger picture, what is more important: That we understand why God allows such horrible malignants to spread chaos and agony on Earth, or that we are His example of love, compassion, concern, and selflessness during that process? Think about this for a moment. The next section continues to address this issue.

THE IMPORTANT ROLE LOVE PLAYS IN PAIN

When we watch others suffer while we live life without that kind of pain, sometimes we forget the importance of loving those people, and being the light that they themselves may not be able to see while in their experience. Loving on people who are suffering is more important than questioning why they are suffering. Loving people when they are suffering does not make God evil or bad, but rather, loving others shows that God is indeed at work in others’ situations, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Perhaps their body cannot be saved from cancer, but their spirit cannot be touched by anything other than their choice, and we play a vital role in that choice by the way we love others in their pain; be it mental, physical, or spiritual. When we refuse to love others but instead emanate resentment, bitterness, or hatred towards the reality of their suffering, we miss out on loving them with everything we are.

This is God’s gift to us in the most intrinsic form; not that we would complain about why He allows what He does, but that we would shine through the darkness of pain and suffering with the everlasting glow of His love; that we would display patience and appreciation for the mere presence of those we are supporting—especially those in our lives who are hurting. It is in these situations where it is essential that we express thanks for the remaining moments we have left to share with our loved ones. Rather than blaming God for pain, we can show others that, because of the love of Jesus, pain does not get the last say; that love, hope, a listening ear, a gentle hand, a warm hug, a sincere smile—a hearty laugh, and a compassionate spirit overcome through Jesus in the light what Satan can only attempt in the dark.

SKEPTICISM AND DOUBT

Skepticism is a good thing when implemented with intention and precision. What that means is that asking questions and thinking deep are useful tools when it comes to new things that may or may not make much sense right away. Anything from a product a salesman is trying to sell us to a belief system that someone is trying to help us understand—it is more important to ask the hardest questions so we can be absolutely sure of what we are buying and why we need it, or what we are believing and pursuing with our spirit and soul, and why. What impassions us doesn’t always impassion others. Why? Not everyone is in the same place, or they aren’t on the same path at the same time. And that’s okay! What’s amazing about a good, loving God is that He meets us wherever we are on our journey and builds us up from there. What is the guide in which He uses to do this? His word (Bible), community (church friends who support other church friends), and time intimately spent with Him in prayer and devotion/intention. He meets us in our skepticism and doubt and speaks clarity into our situation by revealing one truth at a time so that we can process in chunks what may feel so new to our spirits. 

I can tell you that coming to know Christ more personally after 21 years of rejecting Him was not easy for me. I spent years not taking the faith very seriously. The biggest reason for that was because the newfound way of looking at faith was like living in a dark room for 21 years, then opening the door and walking outside into the 1pm sunlight on a bright Saturday afternoon: It was beautiful, but quite blinding on impact. 

LEAVING NO ROOM FOR UNCERTAINTY

To ensure this message is taken properly, I want to reiterate how important asking questions is when we’re unsure of what we’re believing or buying into. If we don’t know how a product really works, then what we’re really buying is the salesman’s smile and tactics more than what’s in his hands. Likewise, if we believe something without asking solid questions and breaking the ice, we might end up believing something we don’t agree with and then not know how to live when life is hard and we aren’t sure how such a belief system affects our lives on that deeper level. With Christianity, questions like these are always redirected back to community. If we are experiencing hardship, “Do you want to talk about it? May I pray for you? Do you have a support team who is encouraging you and reaching out to you?” (Maybe not back-to-back like this, but these will be the commonly asked questions by a supportive Christian friend) Someone may even offer their number to us so they themselves can be the friend they’re asking about.

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO ADVERSITY IS COMMUNITY

In Christ, we believe the body (the church) of Christ is a supportive network of people working, acting, and living with the authority of Jesus given to us by His blood on the cross, and consequent resurrection from the dead. Our faith in Him enables that power, and for others who do not yet believe, we use the power of prayer to express that it is not from ourselves from which we derive our answers or our esteem—that it is through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection that instills pure hope and joy on the deepest level; that because of Him, this new lifestyle and new life-changing perspective is what re-establishes and redefines friendship, support, and healing for all those who believe.

Before Christ, we had just as much reason to depend on ourselves for support as we did any other response to pain, suffering, bitterness. But in Christ, knowing His power and love for us as His creation, we know He does not leave us to figure ourselves out; He does not leave us to heal ourselves while He just watches from the throne. Jesus gives us the power we need by living within us and being next to us in our most vulnerable moments. He wouldn’t miss anything. Jesus calls us as a church of believers to join in with that same support with His authority to dispel evil and repudiate doubt in His name with the encouragement of a supportive community. We are never asked to run on this adventure alone, Christ goes with us wherever we go.

QUESTIONS?

There is so much to talk about on this one subject, but I’d like to hear it from you—where are you when it comes to battling faith? What is the hardest question for you to answer for yourself, and what question do you need to ask that would help ease any doubts you have in pursuing faith in God through Jesus? What are you facing right now that is causing you to believe that if there is a God, that He is good? Do you have a community of people who support you in these times? If you don’t, would you be willing to find a church where people can encourage you in your pain? 

I would really like to hear from you, readers. Please write any questions in the comments section below, and I will do my best to respond promptly. I’m happy to meet you where you are and encourage you in your doubt, pain, and struggles. We all have them, but not all of us have Christ. Not yet. That is why this blog exists, so that you may have Christ brought you where you may not have Christ being brought to you elsewhere. 

CONNECT WITH ME

If you resonated with what you read in this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. May God bless you as you process these thoughts and come to the table with thoughts or questions of your own. May He meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined. In Jesus name!

Doubt

How Faith In God Makes Sense Of Our Pain

When I lost all hope following my parents divorce, my scarce understanding of God miscommunicated my need for Him. In turn, I put my hope in all the wrong places; where pleasure I received was tangible but not eternal; where love was lusted but not grounded; where joy wasn’t joy, but instead was the duplicitous mirage of permanent Earthly bliss.

UNAVOIDABLE CRISIS 

I longed for connection, but the very picture of connection had been convoluted and misshapen by the brokenness of my family’s divorce. Relationship lost its identity and I was redefining it for myself amidst an internal trauma that was as punitive as it was inevitable. The trauma incurred an internal crisis at 11-12 years old which subconsciously renegotiated the first 10 years of my life as I tried to make sense of the sudden thrust of painful change and coercive emotional agony. My thoughts were looking back instead of forward, hoping to aid my past in keeping my present from completely dilapidating. But the longer the present continued pulling me forward, the more narrow my hope became that my past had a chance of surviving the excruciating present. When my motivation to retain the past was exhausted, I couldn’t handle the pressure of such a threat, and that is when my picture of intimacy, closeness, security, and safety was crushed into despair. There was no place in the back of my mind where I felt I could hide my hope because I understood there was no going back to what was, and understanding that merely procured more hopelessness. 

FALSE IDENTITY IN HINDSIGHT

Looking back as a 29-year-old man, I understand my parents’ divorce does not define my life. What I can admit however, in honesty, is that my parents’ divorce was a turning point for me as a human being. What I mean by that is that as a boy becoming a man—and as a boy interpreting the emotional incursions of divorce into the reality that is life—I came to understand that what defines a person is what material we’re made out of. After moving to college, I came to unavoidably experience internally and what I was not made out of. I was not made of internal strength, will power, any kind of belief system, or some image the world made of me. My mind had realized that my exterior had all along been a concoction of external influence, peer pressure, and the desire to people-please. But that was all a facade, not my identity. During my two-year stint in Florida, I learned so much about what I had been holding up in front of me for so many years, and I came to understand more clearly how heavy it was to hold up something that had never been me to begin with. You see, in my mind, my identity had begun with my parents’ divorce because my mind had overwritten the first ten years and redefined who I was based on the newfound pain. That was my premature response to dealing with trauma when I was doing everything I could to refuse the reality taking shape. Moving to California after that helped discover the next piece of the puzzle in finding myself. 

THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

Realizing who we aren’t is no one’s epilogue; it is merely a cliff note alluding to the cantankerous reality that is human life in a corrupted world. Realizing who we are, on the other hand, is the body of our story on Earth. This is what I came to understand after I left Florida and found myself in California. 

Jesus Christ is my Lord and my best friend. But I didn’t know that until I moved to California and felt His presence come alive in me. If you’re wondering what that feels like, I can’t promise you that what it felt like then and what it feels like for me today is what it would feel like for you. God’s presence is like so many things. For me, it’s like wiping the dust and dirt off of my glasses and my eyes and peering into the world without distraction or filter. His presence feels like clarity, the way it feels to look out a window into a brutal rainstorm to witness what the beauty of danger looks like without being harmed. His presence brings satisfaction to the soul even if it doesn’t bring complacency to the body. God’s presence reveals the beauty behind everything, even disaster, and it opens my eyes to witness the majesty that is behind His creation: His fingerprint, His signature; His love. 

OUR PAST IS A VEIL TO THE PURPOSE OF OUR LIVES

The reason why it’s important to keep the past in mind is to understand as a witness the way God works through pain, suffering, challenge, trauma, adversity, confusion, and doubt. But the past isn’t the dictionary of our soul; our past is the veil in which, when removed, reveals the true beauty in believing there is more to this life and its agonies than merely leaving the veil draped, mystifying the purpose for why we’re here. We’re not here to hold up facades or to be defined by our pain; we are here to learn, understand and receive how God works, speaks, and lives in our hearts—that even in every moment of Earthly pain—with Jesus, we hold a higher purpose through our pain. 

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s past plays a significant role in the way we choose to move forward. The problem is, we cannot move forward if we choose to live in the past. This is why hindsight is a blessing: We’re able to look into the past to remember why our present is so important. The past isn’t meant for dwelling, but rather it is meant to be a reference point for improvement. Our pain is a way of reminding us why we wouldn’t want to make the same mistakes again. Even doubt rather than belief is significant in pointing out to ourselves why we are skeptical about one thing but more open or receptive to another. The veil of disbelief, for example, covers over not only our lack of belief, but over our ability to witness meaning in life beyond the value we place on our jobs, marriages, or families. When we live for these things, we depend on them for our happiness. But these things will always disappoint, sooner or later, causing us pain. This is the veil of skepticism at its worst. When we must objectify the meaning of our life to circumstance, we have forgotten purpose altogether, disparaging our present by declaring that our every breath is as meaningless as the pointless suffering we must battle stoically without belief that our suffering happens for a reason. In other words, if we depend on circumstance rather than hope and purpose in something beyond this life and this moment, then we set ourselves up for disappointment, constantly pleading for our present to live up to an expectation that it could never achieve.

THERE IS ONLY HOPE, THERE IS ONLY NOW

This is life when our past controls us, when we refuse to learn from the pain of our past rather than use the pain to clarify our present and cling to a reality that no longer exists. This is disbelief in the face of a world that contends a purposeful life—where God uses our greatest hopes to help us reap the benefits of growing through the pain in what we experience—above a life where circumstance will never live up to our hopes or fantasies. Here, we let go of the acrimony of the past and cling to the hope that God instills through strengthening us in His love. Here, we experience His presence and come to know Him not only through Scripture, but through personal testimony, prayer, community, nature, and the actual sensations in our heart and spirit reminding us that not only are we not alone, but that our pain is but a means of growing closer to God by seeking intimacy in the presence of His grace, love, mercy, and compassion.

I am not my parents’ divorce, one of the most painful experiences of my existence. You, too, are not your worst pain. Through Christ, we are made stronger because of our pain and through our pain, and our Lord God promises we will never be alone, nor will we ever be forsaken (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Be encouraged with this truth, and remade with this promise, in Jesus name.

LET’S CONNECT

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today

Conquer

How God Uses the Damaged To Change the World

Almost 9 years ago, I let Jesus into my life in a way that I had denied Him for the previous 21. Letting Him into my life was one step; desperately calling Him into my heart was another. 

HINDSIGHT AND ITS TREASURES

Nine years of asking questions, of challenging the skepticism/doubt of my atheistic years, and coming to understand the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally has brought me a long ways from where I first began when I moved away from Michigan in search for who I was. Without God, I was without an identity; I had defined myself with the rage in my heart for all the aching of my adolescence: The heartbreaks, my parents’ divorce; the confusion, the pain, and the idea of a loving God amidst the struggle to even consider living another day—these themes smeared my identity like tattoos. I wasn’t bound to religion, I was bound to what the secular mentality taught me was the way life must be lived when faith in something higher than me didn’t make sense. 

THE REMNANTS OF A DEAD WORLD AFTER CONVERSION

My heart has been aching again lately. Christianity is not a cure-all pill that makes the world perfect when you accept Jesus. Depression is still depression, moods still vacillate; pain still hurts, loss still burdens—and therefore, most importantly—hope is still imperative. Faith in Jesus doesn’t erase divorce, struggle, cancer, breakups, or poverty from existence, but it does give us hope that these forms of worldly suffering are not the conclusion to our story. When I think of my relationship with Jesus today, what hits me as I seek Him more often is how seeking Him has needed to become a lifestyle rather than a bullet-point reference on a “To-Do” list. Seeking Jesus is either who I am, or it’s who I’m avoiding to be. 

THE SUNNY-FACED CHRISTIAN FALLACY

One of the distortions I came about believing over the course of affirming myself as an atheist and later converting to Christianity was the fallacy that people need to see Christians smiley and sunny-faced. To me, not smiling and lacking the sunny face meant Jesus mustn’t be as good as people said He was—but that’s just not true. What I had to learn over time is that feelings are feelings no matter what our beliefs are. A Christian can still feel depressed just like an unbeliever can. An unbeliever can feel happiness and express joy the way a Christian can; the main difference is that the joy of a Christian is not based on circumstance, but rather on the joy of the Good News that Jesus Christ has saved us, and that in Him, we have a reason to be selfless and to look forward to the future, making the present moment that much more significantly meaningful and purposeful. That has nothing to do with emotion or feeling, but with the faith in our heart. They are separate concepts, and combining the two as one is a mistake that perhaps many believers out there do not yet understand. To understand that difference, and to explain it in more delicate detail, is the purpose of this article.

THE FEELINGS-BASED FAITH MYTH

There is no such thing as “feeling like a Christian.” Christianity isn’t an emotion like being happy or angry is. Faith in Christ is exactly that: A walk of faith. What is “the walk” part? The journey of trusting in God above intuition, ratiocination, or our knowledge base, and the way our trust in Him transforms the way we live into a matured, dependent lifestyle based on asking God first before every significant move; whether we “go here or there,” or “say this or that.” The source of a person’s trust is a huge difference between a secularist and a Christian. A believer in Christ will pray to a personal God that he or she fully believes is listening, where a secularist might either pray to “the universe” (which is actually tantamount to Pantheism), which may embody (to the perspective of the secularist) the appearance of chance, luck, fortune, or something like that of fate (the belief in the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power, but not “God”)—or—they may not pray at all. Feeling like a believer is a redundant, weightless phrase; there is no such thing. There no amount of feeling to define someone’s walk of faith. The measurement (if you want to call it that) occurs in the heart: How much do we trust in God to be our only answer to every question?

FAITH DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS

Some unbelievers have the idea that believers consider themselves happier because of their faith. This is not true. Some Christians also have the idea that all atheists and unbelievers are unhappy, and this is also untrue. Faith, or a lack thereof, does not so much affect a person’s emotional status, but rather—faith impacts the mentality of the person, which is another way of saying that it gives them the hope and joy of a life beyond this world that comes in believing that Jesus’s death and resurrection is reason to believe there is a Heaven, and that being transformed in Christ takes us to where He is when we die physically on Earth. While on Earth, however, the transformation does not bring about happiness in the way some people believe. The fallacy that believing in God fixes our Earthly problems may be a distortion of the idea that faith in a loving God automatically brings us a sense of hope in our daily adversities. And while God does bring us hope (hope in Christ), our belief in Him and His son does not change that we still experience struggle on Earth.

Jesus even warned us of this:

John 16:33 “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.”

TWO DIFFERENCES THAT DEFINE HOW WE LIVE

We are not to be fooled into believing everything will be idyllic once we believe. The difference between belief and disbelief is not merely emotional—the difference is noticed existentially in how we live our lives based on who we trust (God, or the world), and from where we derive our sense of hope (transient situational pleasures, or the hope of a transcendent, permanently blissful, perfect life without pain or death by believing in Christ as Lord). These two differences change the way we live our lives, noticeably enough to impact the people who witness us living out these choices in our actions. And make no mistake, people seeing us live this way does not influence mere happiness, since what is being emanated by Christian rebirth is not happiness. What do I mean? Let me explain.

SHORT-LIVED HAPPINESS AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING JOY

You may be asking, “What do you mean, you’re not happier?! You believe in Jesus!” I am no happier as a Christian now than I was an atheist almost 9 years ago. Why? My soul has been renewed in Christ in that my reason for everything (for example, why I think the way I do, or the reason for my actions and decisions) is now based on my faith in Christ, but the way I feel is still influenced by my current experiences. For example, I am joyful in Christ even when I have a horrible day and want to scream. My joy is locked in the Truth I believe in that states one day I will no longer experience the hardships and pain that I do now. I am happy when I eat chocolate, or when I am given a genuine, sincere hug from someone who truly cares about me. I am happy when I get to go to the movie theater, or when I’m reading a great book.

These moments never last, however, and that is the difference between joy and happiness: Joy is my all-encompassing reality, like the bird’s-eye view of my own heart, whereas happiness is the situational, hormonal reaction to what occurs in my day-today, hour-to-hour experiences. I can’t stay in the movie theater forever because I’d never see anyone, do anything, or be able to pay my bills; I can’t eat chocolate all day and night because eventually I’d get sick; I can’t read a great book forever because when I finish, I won’t need to reread it immediately 100 times over—I’ll want to read something new and challenging. This is what happiness looks like in this life. We experience happiness in spurts in the same way we put on a warm coat in the winter while taking it off in the summer; but we experience joy the way we live inside of the same body our entire lives. Our choice not to experience joy is the consequence of not receiving the hope and joy in something beyond that of ourselves and the ephemeralness of this world. Joy is provided in knowing Christ’s promises are set in stone—He not only fulfilled over 300 prophesies, He literally rose from the dead and was witnessed by over 500 people! Because of this, joy takes a new definition, and happiness becomes a reminder that what happiness we experience in this life is but a glimpse of what it will be in the future Kingdom to come.

THE REASON WHY WE DO “THE RIGHT THING”

Again, my soul has been renewed in Christ in that my reason for everything is now based on my faith in Christ, whereas before my reasons for being who I was capped off at explaining “I just wanted to do the right thing.” That is a secular response when it is the conclusion of our thoughts. When a Christian says, “I wanted to do the right thing,” they can and will further state that they wanted to do what Christ asked of them, or inspired them to do. A secular mind will stop at “the right thing” and be stumped when questioned further because they have no answer to offer in order to explain what makes the “right” choice the right one in their perspective. There is no scale or means of judging the right from the wrong because the secular mind allows morality to fall subjectively and arbitrarily per situation, and not every one of the more than 8 billion humans minds on this Earth would explain right from wrong, or good from bad the same way. In effect, doing the right thing is a weightless answer when it cannot be explained beyond the self. The difference then for the Christian is that our reason is not limited to the self, but rather, it begins with Christ and is then emanated through our actions to encourage others towards an exemplar far beyond the quarrels of human contradiction. 

LIVE IN JESUS’S NAME

When I finally understood that sunny faces weren’t necessary and that the best expression of Christ is allowing Him to work through us in every state or phase we’re in, I finally grasped that I can still worship Jesus even on a bad day. Many days, I just feel an indelible frown on my face and I don’t have a care in the world to turn it around. But what helps me is when I put Jesus first and help someone in need by doing so in His name. No matter how I feel (transient emotion), I can always live for Christ. When I am angry, I believe in bringing the reality of my rage to the Lord and being honest, surrendering the core reason for the rage and letting go by asking Jesus to take it away. How does that work? Trusting that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), calling a Christian friend who supports the belief in surrendering all anxiety to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), and praying with a contrite heart. A contrite heart can be birthed from humbling ourselves with honesty. When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth usually reveals an intention or motive that we can either surrender to God in repentance, or one that we can accept His grace for in recognizing there is no reason to hang onto the hurt which led us to feel the anger. In these ways, casting our worries, fears, aggressions, and disappointments to Him can be rectified in His grace, mercy, love, fellowship, community, Scripture, and trust. Everything done in His holy name.

THOUGHTS?

What I would like for you to take away from this article is that if you’re a recently converted Christian and you think you have to wear a certain face to show Jesus to the world, just relax. Jesus can’t work through a facade. He can work through every authentic heart, however. When we are real, Jesus works through us the most. When we are angry, He wants us to come to Him. He asks us to come to Him as we are, not after we’ve figured ourselves out (which we hardly ever do anyways). If this is you, breathe, close your eyes, pray, and release your troubles to Him who saves. No cliché here. Let it go. No need to hang onto excess baggage. God can and will handle it—just allow Him to work through the real you. The disappointments, the rage, the bad days, everything. Let Him shine through you no matter where you are in your faith. Try to do it your way and others will not see Him, but instead the will see you trying to be someone you aren’t. Live the way He calls us to live—authentically and in faith—and He will work wonders through us. 

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today

Controversy

Movie Review: Logan

(THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW)

LOGAN

The soul of this entire film rests in two lines of dialogue from this movie, both of which will be explored in this article.

While the story behind “Logan” is ultimately about Wolverine helping a child cross a border into safe territory, the real story—and the message of the movie—lies within the character of Logan himself. As I watched this film for my second time, what didn’t hit me as strongly the first time was how metaphorical and relevant the message is for everyone watching. I’ll explain exactly what I mean by that later in this article. But to start off, Logan, at its core, is about humanity, and how we as humanity—when we strip away the belief in something greater than the meaning of our Earthly existence—cannot effectively explain why we even consider waking up tomorrow.

THE HUMANITY OF WOLVERINE

Throughout his 17-year-career as the Wolverine, Hugh Jackman continued to dig deeper into the identity of the character of James Howlett–Logan’s name before the adamantium claws came out. The more Hugh dug into the humanity of Wolverine, the less plastic-like and one-dimensional the character was and the more relatable and likable he became. The claws became heroic rather than horrific because Logan used them to save his friends and innocent people from the harm of dangerous enemies. In all the nine previous X-Men films which included Wolverine (two of those being cameos), Logan’s claws did more work defining him more than anything about his character. Marvel merely tickled the surface in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” inviting some backstory to complement the character leading the original three X-Men films. But even in “Origins,” Wolverine remained very close to the corner of the room, hiding the majority of his true colors in the dark. In Logan, James Mangold–the film’s writer and director—truly allows transparency to shine on humility of James Howlett, and we finally get to see the human behind the claws.

This, above all the other aspects of the film to be recognized, is what made this film not so much a Marvel comic-book adaptation, but more of a character study of the famous and well-recognized antihero. While there is still plenty of action, the true strength behind this film is the character development, and James Mangold does not hold back from telling a complete story. By the time the credits roll, we have learned something significant not only about Logan, but about ourselves—and this happens through sentimental, carefully drawn-out storytelling. 

I will return to Logan, but there is a point that must be made before I continue which will add layers of depth to our understanding of the beautiful, rich story behind Mangold’s film.

HOLLYWOOD’S SUBSTITUTE FOR GOD

Secularism runs rampant in Hollywood, and it sells in abundance. What do I mean? When most Blockbuster films feel the need to tease audiences with sexual promiscuity/innuendo even in just the trailers themselves to get the viewer’s attention, that says a lot about Hollywood’s opinion of society. Same thing with violence—there’s a reason there is so much killing, torment, bloodshed and vindication in films: These themes sell without much effort—people will pay to see more.

When I was watching the trailers before Logan played, I realized something—there are so many films being made now about “life beyond Earth,” the most recent of which to advertise such an idea being “Life,” (coming out soon) with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, among several others. The trailer itself portrays the story of a crew in space who find life on the Moon and then realize it’s evil, but only after it’s too late. Hollywood’s definition of anything mysterious and supernatural seems to be that it is evil, dangerous, and to be feared. It advertises the unknown as scary, intimidating, and threatening. First Hollywood approaches the idea of “life beyond Earth” as inviting, adventurous, and even swooning—as if to say that the discovery of “what lies beyond” is meant to whet our appetite for the metaphysical and supernatural, feeding our frenzy to understand what we cannot explain. 

Another film being advertised is “Alien: Covenant,” where “The path to Paradise begins in Hell.” While this “sells” because it carries elements of mystery, thrill, and action, it still flaunts Hollywood’s classic slogan to use religious parlance in a non-religious setting where unbelievers can be entertained by the idea the words conjure up while distorting the foundation for which the words naturally belong. In other words, movies like “Alien: Covenant,” and advertising horror films like this in such a way only distorts the viewer’s perception and opinion of spirituality by connoting the stoic use of religious paraphrases to the idea that faith is a joke. 

Being as Hollywood is not founded in Christianity, their answer to the unknown is that it is either evil or non-existent; they either mock it or connote the notion of a spiritual realm with something unpleasant and treacherous. There is no middle-ground where there is a loving God in a place where souls are forever encompassed by eternal happiness and an inimitable, foundational joy—not without facetious jokes and harmfully mistaken distortions of exegesis (the critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of Scripture). Hollywood creates dialogue Jesus might have said in order to use it in a situation where they know the audience will roll their eyes and scoff. This is Hollywood’s sarcastic depiction of God, Heaven, and all-things spiritual.

THE INFLUENCE OF FILM

Furthermore, Hollywood knows people watch movies—that there are many people in this world who worship movies like gods; claiming the fantasy of the film-world defines and explains the reality we live in outside the theater or our own homes. For example, people 9/10 times will reference a movie or a scene from a movie to clarify a point about a real-life situation. This speaks loudly for how much people depend on movies for something to cling to in order to define their perception of something, or to explain their beliefs. They’ll reference character dialogue or a storyline as if talking about their next-door neighbor, despite the character’s dialogue fictitiousness and their never having actually known the person. This is how real film is for many people.

For another graphic example, take The Matrix. The Columbine shooters took from both the wardrobe and the main concept behind The Matrix and claimed to be “waking people from their dream” when killing students and teachers at their high school. Now, please hear me, this is not a bash on The Matrix films; this is a point about how seriously people take movies to define life outside of the movies. When we take films too seriously and relate to people we have never met while believing what we watch draws a clearer picture of our world than our personal experience—we misunderstand how ironically the opposite is true: Filmmakers take from life to create movies

A filmmaker who is capable of writing a script that ultimately ends up resonating with its audience is a job well-done—but to glean cinematic history to define our culture, our political opinions, our love lives, and even our belief systems—that is going too far. Film is used to influence, that is case in point. But to reference film as a reflection of reality is paranoiac and illusory. 

BRINGING LOGAN BACK

So, what does any of that have to do with Logan, you ask? The movie isn’t as much about helping the little girl, Laura, cross the border to safety; it’s about Logan’s introspection and realization that life without meaning isn’t worth the struggle. How does a mutant view the concept of life’s meaning any differently than a human? That’s exactly the point: A mutant doesn’t view it differently at all. Logan is James Howlett without the claws; a man with a story, a family, several lifetimes worth of experience and pain, and then claws. Logan, the movie, isn’t so much a comic-book Marvel film, but a story about realizing that life must have more substance to it than who we get along with, where we work, and the circumstances outside of our control. 

CHARLES XAVIER

Patrick Stewart has several fantastic, meaningful lines of dialogue in this film as Charles Xavier—or Professor X, as fans would say. I will not spoil your opportunity to experience them without watching the film first, so I will only touch on the one that is most pertinent to this article. 

During a quiet point in the film, Charles and Logan have helped a family and their horses off of the freeway and the family offers them dinner at their home in gratitude. After they’ve eaten, Charles says to Logan, “Logan, this is what life looks like; people care about each other. You should take a moment and feel it.” This is HUGE for Logan because, as those who have watched all of Hugh Jackman’s portrayals of Wolverine know, Logan is not very interpersonal at heart; he doesn’t show himself emotionally. He’s more blunt, straight-forward, stoic, and bitter; a raging tornado—whereas someone like Charles is something like that of a cool river. When Charles says this, it is not to mock Logan or to express scorn, but to teach. I also believe that line could be said for many viewers who are watching, a reminder that home is where people genuinely care about you, where they look after you, love you, and do what they can for your best interest. This is foreign material for Logan to comprehend, and when it is spoken, the words do not so much reach deaf ears as they do a disheartened, distraught heart full of pain, regret, shame, bitterness, and stoicism—and Hugh does a phenomenal job portraying a character hearing these words after having experienced and survived as much pain as such a character in such a fictitious world would. 

LOGAN SPEAKS TO THE WORLD

In another powerfully moving scene, Logan has been in battle, and is talking to another mutant. What he says is something I believe we all need to hear: “Don’t become what they made you.”

While he’s literally speaking (per context of the scene) into the situation of having claws and a name notorious for violence and a temper—I also found that he could be metaphorically speaking into the hearts of viewers in the way we depend on the world to define us. Like I mentioned earlier, we use film as a strong means of influence. We also look to culture, politics, music, books, and other places. Sometimes we “look” so hard that we fall face-first into the fantasy world and forget that our book is still open. While this topic could certainly open a new article of its own, I have written about identity before—and what is important to note here is that if we shape our identity by the world, then we are really a reflection of the world, not an exemplary role model in the midst of it. Logan, when saying those words, speaks into the truth that no one has to be anything outside of who they want to be. We all worship something, our choice is what we worship.

If we worship vengeance, bitterness, and rage, then we live the life of the permanently damaged, unable to choose to see how beautiful life really is. If we worship entertainment, we forget what reality looks and feels like. When we worship power and status, we forget the humility of recognizing we aren’t the only ones who exist on planet Earth. Logan’s words (written by James Mangold himself) remind us that we are not who the world says we are or what the world influences us to believe about ourselves, we are who we say we are.

As a Christian, myself, I believe I am who God created me to be, and the world does not always speak into this place. In fact, the world taunts that place repeatedly, hoping to dismantle the faith of someone like me (and millions of others) and jar us back to the place it considers to be reality. But the world wouldn’t make any sense to me without God, and less sense yet without Him having sent His son, Jesus, to do what He did on the cross and rising from the dead, sending eternal ripples throughout history. The world wants me to believe I have all I need in the power of my body and mind to be whole; but if I believed that then I wouldn’t be able to form a viable explanation for the existence of shame, guilt, sin, and the need for justice; not to mention the hope of an eternal home where shame, guilt, sin, pain, and death no longer exist. The secular world (Hollywood) mostly preaches of a humanity where religion is target practice for crude, convoluted jokes, and where sex and violence are a necessary means to enjoy oneself in this life. Logan’s words remind us we don’t have to listen to people who believe that. We don’t have to be someone that somebody else says we are. And I believe there is truth to that; in fact, I believe that is the very heart of this film, and for that matter the reason why, so far, this is the best film of the year. 

PARENTAL ADVISORY

There is absolutely no reason to take a child to see this film. A child wouldn’t understand the message I’ve explained in this article, let alone would (or should) a child be able to handle the graphic violence and pervasive language. There are f-bombs throughout the movie, and the violence is wincingly graphic at times. I don’t even need to go into detail here. The film is incredible, but absolutely inappropriate for children. To truly capitalize on the R-rating, the director even gratuitously throws in a teenage girl flashing a character, which has no purpose in this film other than to gavel the R-rating. I’m not telling anyone what to do with regards to protecting your children’s minds, but I highly, strongly urge parents against allowing your child to see this film until they are older. It’s just unnecessary. 

I would give Logan 5/5, because the story, message, action, and writing flow so naturally throughout that it’s even worth another viewing. I highly urge adults to watch this if you’re a fan of Hugh Jackman, any X-Men related stories, and James Mangold as a director. I doubt you will be disappointed. 

If you like what you’ve read here, and you would like to read more, please follow my blog and pass word along. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below–I would love to hear from you! May God bless you!

Pattern

Thank You!

This is just a little thank you note to all of my 100 followers—thank you for reading, for commenting, and for following my blog! 

My intention and aim in writing is to bring you encouragement in your faith, and where there is little or no faith, to love you by bringing you the challenge of considering ideas and thoughts beyond those of your own. When we become too comfortable in our beliefs, we sometimes forget how significant of a role our beliefs play in who we are, and who we choose to be. This blog has also been my way of reaching out to everyone open-minded enough to consider that which may seem mysterious and complex. In writing the way I do, my hope is that God will speak through me and break concepts down in such a way that is easier to understand, to follow, grasp, learn from—and most important—to apply. 

I love receiving comments from fellow readers who have something to say; some constructive feedback, a question, or even a response telling me that what you have read has positively impacted you in some way. Each of these are more than welcome on my blog! I’m also very open to receiving ideas for what you would like to have written about in the future, so feel free to share those in the comments of my articles as well! 

Again, thank you so much for following my blog! My hopes and prayers moving forward are that you continue to take something positive, encouraging, uplifting, and maybe even challenging away from reading my articles. What is most important to me as a writer, however, is that you are able to find something overall useful and applicable to you in some way that helps you develop as a person and a child of God. 

May God bless you all, and may He meet you where you are in your spiritual journey; whether that is in a place of question, or your desperate, humble search for His presence in your life. My prayer is that you will feel His gentle tug on your heart and that you will be overcome by the beautiful, unconditional, unstoppable, and irresistible love of God through Christ Jesus! I pray these things on your behalf, in Jesus name!

The Significance Of Pain

The shock of trauma is the deadliest lie about pain, influencing the idea that pain is to be associated with fear. Where setting the surface of our skin on fire feels atrociously unpleasant, it teaches us not to do what led our skin to be caught on fire ever again. In this one sense, the existence and experience of pain is made purposeful, though excruciating. Likewise, the modern fallacy that pain is bad is exhaustively misguided by the preemptive decision to connote the message of threat to the experience of pain, marking it as meaningless and morbid. If pain is truly without purpose and therefore unnecessary, then what is to be explained of people’s opportunistic chances to learn from their most painful experiences?

Why write about this? If we continue to view pain as an obstacle to overcome rather than a tool to utilize, we will forever resist what was meant to help us develop into stronger, pertinacious individuals; remaining cantankerous in the face of challenge and childish in the absence of maturity. In this article, I will reiterate an approach to pain that I hope you will find helpful and indicative of a healthier response to our multifarious circumstances.

THE ROOT OF HEARTBREAK

Heartbreak is a form of pain, and it is also an opportunity to leave an otherwise potentially noxious relationship. Sometimes separation happens when we least expect it, whereas other times it doesn’t happen soon enough. The excruciation of heartbreak operates in the same way as catching on fire; instead of standing still and burning, we move and extinguish the flames before permanent damage is incurred. In this way, heartbreak tends to project the notion that we were meant to live alone, that we aren’t worth loving, or perhaps that the love we project is dangerous for someone else—leading us to believe we are incapable of loving others properly and convinced our perception of love is so convoluted as to be warped with no hope of redirection. These are the emotional “flames” of heartbreak. How does one extinguish these flames?

Well, first off, we need to acknowledge those thoughts written above are all fallacies, of course, rooted in the fear birthed from a lack of feeling like we belong anywhere. Since the fear of being unlovable or of being incapable of loving others occurs in our first relationships, we know our fear is rooted in family. 

FAMILIAL EMANCIPATION AND THE MEANING OF “HOME-LESSNESS”

For the first ten years of my life, my family introduced me to movie nights or TV show-marathons on Fridays, outdoor fun on Saturdays, Catholic church on Sunday mornings, and playing ball outside on weekday nights; it was either the American Dream, or it was my idyllic fantasy of a perfect life before I was aware of such a phrase. As many of you know, my parents divorced when I was 11. That familial schism caused such a traumatic ripple effect that it literally sent all of my three siblings (I am the youngest of four) to three different states, each at their own time. While I’m sure personal endeavors at least partially inspired my siblings to their distant locations (college was among those inspirations for the oldest two), what is more telling is how they didn’t came back for more than holiday visits.

They say home is where the heart is, and while many young adults do in fact move out of their parents house when they are old enough and can afford an independent living—not every grown-up child intentionally moves out-of-state, far away from their parents and maintains that geographical distance long-term. That is the story of my family however, and indeed, that is also a big picture view of the effects of divorce. 

Needless to say, the experience of that trauma led me to believe that there was something wrong about me, or about life as a whole, that it would include the agony that I came to experience so soon after the divorce. What happened to me emotionally after the divorce is nothing shy of what happens to every boy when he loses the confidence in his parents’ love for him: He looks for it elsewhere, all the while sure that he is unworthy of it because his own parents couldn’t extend it in a way more palpable than separation and the ambiguities of “what it all means” when everything is finalized.

Divorce “breaks the rules” of a healthy home life, debilitating the image of a stabilized family regimen and disparaging the emotional security of what it means for a home to be home. Having two homes is not better than one when you must acclimate on an exhausting weekly basis to actively participate as a sentient constituent of two households, two very different and distinct ways of living, and two very opposite family dynamics. All of my teen years were spent trying to be the right kind of son to two very different parents in very different home lives. And that is why home, for me, post-divorce, completely lost its definition altogether. What happened to me next propelled me to understand what it means to need to know why we as humans are alive.

ELONGATED SUFFERING

The pain of my parents’ divorce led me to attempt suicide multiple times, which stirred tension namely for my mom. I discovered creative ways to employ pain on myself; I felt I deserved to bleed if I deserved to experience such excruciating pain such as divorce, so I would cut myself and watch the blood trickle out. Those experiences left scars that remind me of a time when I truly experienced the reality of self-loathing and the most extreme convolutions of detachment. My view was that if there was a loving God, He wouldn’t allow such pain to come to exist. That, still even today, is among the most prominent of arguments for atheists who disbelieve in an all-loving God as described in the Bible. I can speak with extraordinary empathy for each and every atheist for that matter because I used to be one. And the reason I am no longer an atheist is because of what I discovered through experience, time, insistence, intention, and the unstoppable urge to find answers to intrinsic questions that left me threatening myself once again with suicide if I couldn’t find the answers. 

THE UNSTOPPABLE URGE TO DISCOVER MEANING

Years of inner torment would lead anyone to desire extreme outcomes. For me, those outcomes were as simple as they were extreme and possibly even morbid. Either I would discover a purpose beyond myself that provided a viable reason for me to want to live, or I would end my life with the confirmed and inarguable truth that there was nothing worth living for, breathing for, or even remotely trying for. When I was 20, I discovered I wanted to attend college to become a filmmaker since I loved movies so much. I thought the idea of becoming a filmmaker sounded cool and impressive, and it fed my ego. So I worked for one more year at the grocery store I’d worked at for four years prior to save up some money for that trip. When I finally got to move, I drove myself with my mom (who flew back to Michigan after helping get me there) down to Florida, but it wasn’t just a move to study film; it was a move away from the traumatic memories of my parents sitting me down to tell me they were getting a divorce; it was a move away from the many heartbreaks in school that ripped my heart to pieces and made me feel even more worthless inside. And most intrinsically, it was a move towards finding myself and my purpose in a place not encompassed in the atmosphere of familial agony and self-abhorrence. 

WHEN MY SOUL DISCOVERED ITSELF

After moving to Florida and far away from everything familiar, several factors hit me in the face like a cement wall:

  1. I had no idea who I was, and I was shell-shocked at how little about me I actually knew.
  2. Faith in Christ is less about knowledge, and more about empirical experience; obedience, faith, and slowing down enough to examine how God’s love works through our every-day circumstances, others in our lives, and the small blessings (i.e. the taste of food, the sound of music) as well as the bigger and possibly more obvious blessings (i.e. affording rent, having a family to come home to, etc.)–and worshipping Him for providing these blessings!
  3. My self-worth had been pulled back from my family’s influence and handed over to women for many years. In other words, I came to realize through faith in Christ how I had been associating my worth with how much women wanted me in their lives romantically (which wasn’t much, which made me all the more desperate).

I later learned after I’d moved away from Michigan how number 3 is common, and that for boys without a strong bond with their parents, basically, we take a lot of perspective of ourselves from how our parents view us and treat us, and we project that perception from our parents onto others, further ingesting others’ perception of us in the same manner we would our parents, thus associating the weight of our worth based on others’ opinions of us. When I realized this of course, I had to learn to retract my old habits to allow Jesus to help me structure in new habits; healthier perspectives that would allow me to see myself without outside influence.

All of these realizations culminated in me understanding something I never had before: When I die, I’m going to be somewhere—and where I will be will depend on the belief in my heart, and concordantly the way I live based on that belief. This meant that I had something inside me that was constantly being influenced and challenged; something deeper than character and personality, more eternal than thought and more intrinsic than emotion—in short, a soul.

WHAT IT MEANS TO DESERVE PAIN

Every time I hear the argument of pain and human suffering being a curse in life, I think of the times I cut myself because I believed I deserved it. I believed I did not deserve anything good and so cutting myself was my “rational” response to executing justice. How do I see it now? I understand where my thoughts were at the time, and I obviously disagree now, but what I see most differently is not what you might expect. I actually believe even more now that I deserve pain, but I believe that Jesus took that away when He was crucified. In dying for me, I believe He stood in the place of what I deserve for my selfish ambitions, for my lust, and for my pride. Through Him, I now believe He has taken justice for my actions into His own hands (literally nailed into them), and now I no longer have that price on my head. It was given to Jesus 100%. I have Him to be eternally grateful for every day; a reason to experience joy in every moment through faith in His life and resurrection.

THE VALUE OF PAIN

Considering this, what is the value of pain? We claim God would never allow harm to come to us if He was so loving, but how can we justify that? What kind of life would we allow our children to have if we never allowed them to walk by themselves without holding their hand to absolutely ensure they would never fall? Not only would they never reach independence, they would never truly live. What kind of life would we allow our children to live if we gave them everything they ever wanted every waking moment of their entire life? Not only would they be spoiled and feel no need to try at anything, set goals, nor put their mind and heart into a passion or hobby—they would expect the world to act the same way, and obviously that is not realistic as the world operates whether you acclimate or not. If we allow our children to fall, do they learn to get up? Of course! How else do they learn to go from crawling to walking, and from walking to running? Through repetition; trial and error. Likewise, when God allows us to experience pain, not only has He given us the freedom to know what to avoid and why to avoid it, He also opened our eyes to see what we could do instead. Pain is not a threat or a curse, it is a lesson. When we learn, we improve. How would we improve if we were never given the chance to try learning in the first place? If God always held our hand and never let us roam independently—while of course keeping His eyes on us to ensure nothing fatal would occur—we would never learn the ropes of the world, never grow adventurous or curious, and certainly we would not develop creativity or excitement for something new. When we experience pain, we learn something invaluable.

LEARNING FROM TRAUMA

In the moment, pain can be excruciating, as was my parents’ divorce for me. But since I learned about Jesus, I have come to understand things I never had before. I now understand that He was holding out His hand every time I fell down—whenever I wanted to cut myself, kill myself, write angry poetry, lust after women instead of Him, or live selfishly instead of seeking something meaningful in life to pursue (like loving others through Jesus)—and it was me who never reached back out and grabbed His out-stretched hand. 

The most important thing I’ve learned that applies to me about my parents’ divorce is that their marriage ending doesn’t define my present or my future, and so it doesn’t define me. My response to what happens to me defines me, and even more so, my faith defines me. Jesus defines me. Everything I’ve experienced and learned from has led me here, to this blog. Here, writing gives me one a way (of many) to use my pain to help others like you.

See, I experienced pain I would never want others to experience, but I believe pain is not a curse, but a blessing; a tool, if you will. If I had never experienced the pain that I did, why would I want to help anyone based on what I learned from it? How would Jesus have shown Himself to me if everything was always as idyllic as it had been?

I write this article to encourage you to look at pain and recognize it with a different perspective. We never “defeat pain,” we merely recognize it’s there and apply ourselves to what must be taken away from our experience. Through Christ, all things are made new. If my parents’ debilitating divorce didn’t ruin me, then the trauma you have experienced can help you to help others through Christ also. We can come to see how God works through suffering by understanding the purpose of pain is not to hinder us or to destroy us, but to develop our sense of reality and to teach us to live more boldly, confidently, and with a more sincere, genuine intent to help others who are suffering in their lives. 

THERE IS HOPE

I hope that in reading this, you can understand that pain is not something you need to hide from, but something to embrace:

(John 16:33 MSG) “I’ve told you all of this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today!

Platitudes, Wisdom, & God: Part 3… The Example We Are For the World

The words and actions that motivate our beliefs into a lifestyle are reflections of what we believe the state of the human heart should manifest more naturally.

Here in Part 3, I will connect to the points of Part 2 by explaining how secular wisdom does not teach or influence transformation. I will later explain the importance of why the difference between transformation and inspiration is worth our introspection. On a deeper level, the challenge of this article will be to engage how these distortions affect our interpretation of purpose and disorient us from discovering a purpose more fulfilling and befitting for our intrinsic desires. By writing this, my aim is to provide clarity and discernment for the way we live by understanding what we ingest intellectually and in what ways these ingestions affect us. In doing so, I hope we can form an understanding as to how these concepts can change, and ultimately enhance or transform the way we live intrinsically.

INNER STRENGTH & SURRENDER

The incredulous, doubtful face of secularism often disparages the value of its own words of wisdom with a lack of transcendental merit. This is not to pour hate on the secular mind, but to shine a light on the finitude of disbelief the secular mentality carries regarding inner strength. From my own previous experience as an atheist for many, many years, I can give testimony to the empty, fallacious nature of believing in one’s own inner strength as a source of pertinacity. In the carefully constructed yet corrigible room of inner strength, the secular mind is always forced into a trap in the corner; the trap of redefining every belief and reason for belief without a foundation, source, or understandable explanation for those reformations. While the skeptical, unbelieving mind can certainly adapt to such an atmosphere with enough resolution and stubbornness, what remains is how making oneself comfortable in this position (by believing the shadow on the wall is the reflection of authentic inner strength) does not translate as true audacity or fulfillment in oneself, but rather as the excuse to never leave the room.

Secular wisdom mitigates the purposes of struggle and dehumanizes the purpose of pain by minimizing the need for growth and personalizing the existence of adversity as a legitimate reason to disbelieve in the existence of a loving God. When speaking of peace, the unbelieving skeptic emphasizes the power each of us has to create a purpose for ourselves, not recognizing the reason for the incessant lack of fulfillment is due to how created purpose is separate from discovered purpose.

OUR “FLEETING, CAPRICIOUS, AND INSATIABLE” MEANING FOR LIFE

In Timothy Keller’s book Making Sense Of God, he describes the way the secularist may choose to create their own meaning in life, centered on something Earthly; like a job, money, political pursuits, or even something personal yet marked with vulnerable fragility like family. Discovered meaning, on the other hand, recognizes the way we were created by God for relationship with Him first and foremost, and how when we deviate from this, we feel we must create a meaning for ourselves in order find a meaningful reason to believe life is worth living. Timothy includes and quotes Josiah Royce from his 1908 book The Philosophy of Loyalty:

Royce therefore believed that finding meaning in life could be done only if we rejected individualism. “The individualist puts self-interest first, seeing his own pain, pleasure, and existence as his greatest concern.” Modern individualists see loyalty and self-sacrifice as an alarming mistake, leaving oneself open to exploitation and tyranny. To them “nothing could matter more than self-interest, and because when you die you are gone, self-sacrifice makes no sense.” Now, tyranny is certainly a great evil but individualism, according to Royce, was the wrong way to overcome it. If every individual seeks his or her own meaning, we will have fewer shared values and meanings, which will erode social solidarity and public institutions. All this will lead to intractable polarization and fragmentation. And ironically, Royce argued, individualism undermines individual happiness. We need “devotion to something more than ourselves for our lives to be endurable. Without it, we have only our desires to guide us, and they are fleeting, capricious, and insatiable.”

What we can take away from this is that created meaning in life is birthed not only from our denial in something greater than ourselves, but that when we feel like our personal desires give our lives the most significant meaning, our created meaning is then rooted in narcissism; and like Royce wrote, our desires are “fleeting, capricious, and insatiable.” If we can understand the merit to this truth, can we still say we would rather create our own meaning in life if we already know our choice will lead to never feeling like enough?

BRINGING TRANSFORMATION BACK IN THE ROOM

Transformation begins with an action designated for a tug of the soul; not so much a force of the mind. Our individual interpretation of a transformational act (namely Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead as atonement for our sins) will instigate a choice, and it’s our choice that begins the process of transformation—that we would be so enamored by what is genuine, palpable, and promising that we would be driven to embody the hope of this promise with our entire self. Secular wisdom promotes the power of gauging oneself; of universal inner-peace, and of the power of love itself. While these notions are inspiring, they are not transformative. Why? The power of love, peace, and self are not only ambiguous (meaning it would take longer to explain them than to act out what they mean), but their faulty foundation lies in the transparency of their finitude—the very limitations and weaknesses of the corrupted heart—when we feel coerced to pull all that we need from ourselves in order to find fulfillment in life, we exhaust ourselves in the process. If in order to live a “fulfilling life” we must take from the very reserves of our being and ultimately deplete our sanity in order to dismiss the bigger picture of what it means to live a meaningful life by separating ourselves from narcissism—does this not raise the concern that there must be a better, more adequate source to pull our meaning in life from? Do we not want to live a fulfilling life where we pull from something stronger than ourselves who knows what we need and has an abundant supply to provide from? How does this tie into transformation?

ENCOMPASSED BY FAITH

When we are inspired, we think—we intellectualize—we introspect. But we don’t really change. Change takes place on the inside, or the change isn’t authentic. Change is not what we believe, but why we believe it. Similarly, transformation is not how we act, but why we act or behave the way we do. Inspiration starts in the brain and stays there, whereas transformation starts in the heart and spreads out towards the limbs, eventually coinciding with the brain as a spiritual complement to the intellect. When we act selflessly for others with no benefit to ourselves without so much as expecting a thank you or reward—and if we can do this without feeling resentment or bitterness—then we have been transformed by something outside of ourselves by inviting what was outside to live, breathe, speak, love, influence, and permeate all of who we are inside. To try something and be unmoved—this is not transformation.

To wear a facade that can’t slip off in the challenges of adversity is transformation; soaked through from the heart, overcoming and overriding everything that intellect claims; becoming not only convinced, but encompassed by a belief in something greater—more real, true, and intrinsic than mere desire; more significant than gratification and more fulfilling than created meaning. Whereas Earthly desire is merely the surface of our thoughts, transformation is the metamorphosis of our choice to surrender ratiocination in that we would replace it with faith; in turn, rewiring our habitual process from depending on our intuition in order to find purpose in life, and instead, depending on God by trusting Him to live inside of us, emanating through our words, actions, and beliefs. 

BRINGING THE PARTS TOGETHER

In Part 1, we brought kindness into question by objectifying it under the scrupulous lens of morality, understanding that either God created morality, or that we need to accept others when they deviate from kindness and dip into narcissism as the most viable argument behind the belief that morality is subjective (defined per the individual and their culture). To bring these parts together, how does transformation and inspiration tie into how kindness can be objectified by morality? 

With inspiration, something is triggered in our brain which influences us to rethink our older ways; forcing us to consider how seriously to ingest our inspirations and to decide whether we should heed them carefully or dismiss them entirely. The most common and impressionistic symptom of inspiration is observed most when we see others being inspired. This in turn provokes thought in ourselves—but once again, the action behind such thoughts often remains obscured and stagnant. This is the finitude—the very weakness of inspiration: That although we can all acknowledge the importance of being inspired, as well as the importance of ostracizing the social norms (what society expects us to say, do, and how they expect us to live—rather than what God wants) that separate us from exemplarity in the world—the only way to birth permanent change, and to influence not only our movements but the very reasons and intentions behind our movements—is through transformation.

We can see by now just how powerful transformation is; we know it begins in the heart, where many of us believe morality resides. What if a personal God who made us in His image and, out of love for us wants us to exist in relationship with Him—also resides in this place? Not only would that help us understand why we seem to have such a strong, intrinsic sense of morality (objectified by the power of God’s wisdom and justice), it would also bring the concept of transformation full circle: When we acknowledge the only God there is creates and builds everything out of love, we notice—or recognize—God’s love apart from any other form of comparison through people who have been effected spiritually by their faith in His existence and love for them through Jesus Christ. Truly, to be affected so deeply would not only change ‘this or that’ about a person’s understanding of their life, it would completely reframe their outlook and reshape their heart in accordance with the will and desires of the God whom they declare their loyalty to. When this all takes place, kindness is no longer an action derived from “just because” (narcissism), it is then an opportunity to point towards the Exemplar of kindness, compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy, passion, veracity, devotion, loyalty, trustworthiness, and fruitfulness. Kindness, when objectified by morality, extends its hand and points straight at Jesus; an action motivated by the heart of a person whose choice was to be transformed by the transcendent love of God.

THE EXAMPLE WE ARE FOR THE WORLD

If we are given the power as humans to be an example of strength, kindness, love forgiveness, and every other virtuous trait of an exemplar—how can we do this without first understanding what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we want to grow towards? There will never be a day for the rest of our lives where we won’t experience something, whether external or internal, that challenges who we are, that provides food for thought, or that moves us in such a way that invigorates us to learn why we are the way we are. We are not examples to each other because of merely due to work ethic or political statuses, we are examples by our pertinacity; staying true to who we are with authenticity, veracity, self-awareness, and a faith that does not wane in the face of a cruel world misunderstanding itself before judging others. Changing the world doesn’t just boil down to “living with kindness in mind,” and when we become convinced that life is just that simple, we have heavily mistaken purpose for attitude; we’ll remain blind, thinking what’s most important is perspective and not reality. Perspective derives from inspiration, but our reality shifts entirely when we are transformed. Truly, transformation doesn’t stall and cancel out in the heart; it affects the eyes, ears, mouth, and most importantly—the soul. If these aspects of perspective do not permutate and shift accordingly, we have merely been inspired to think, but not transformed to live. 

When we convince ourselves inspiration is all we need, we mistake motivation for movement, thinking what’s in our brain is all that matters. But what of the heart? What of what we do and feel and think when no one is watching? The veracity of our character is directly molded from the transformation of within. When Jesus comes inside, He does not leave us the same, as mentioned in Part 2. Transformation is the renewal of who Jesus originally created us to be, and who He intends for us to be when we listen to His wisdom and follow His ways. So, why choose transformation over inspiration? Because, presumably, when we do, we have discovered that we are ready and that we want to be changed forever from the inside. If we do not become ready, then our only call to answer life tomorrow is the inspiration to repeat all that we do in the same way as before; but we were not born to stay in our head, we were born to experience life from our heart.

THOUGHTS?

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. If you have any thoughts, questions, or feedback you’d like to share, I would love to read from you! I very much welcome comments by anyone, so please don’t be shy. I enjoyed writing this 3-part series, and I hope that reading it has helped you understand yourself, your faith, and the way you view transformation in a new light than before. My prayer is that walking away, you will see the choice to allow Jesus to work in you a little more tangibly, and less mysteriously. 

May God bless you all!! Have a blessed day!

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