Bloggers Recognition Award

A little over a week ago, I was nominated for the Bloggers Recognition Award by Beautiful Southern Heart’s own Kristen Walker. I’m incredibly humbled to have received this nomination and grateful for Kristen’s heart in this world. Her writing is vulnerable and real, and I appreciate her openness. As a Christian writer, I can see the way her faith influences her writing with the purpose of helping others to be better versions of themselves. Kristen, keep it up, there is a hungry world for people like you who have something meaningful, powerful, and intentional to say.


rules

  • Thank the Blogger that nominated you!
  • Write a post to show your award!
  • Give a brief story of how you started your blog
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers!
  • Select 9 Bloggers, you want to give this award to!
  • Comment on each blog to let them know you have nominated them, also link your post to their nomination!

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Though I began writing my blog in January 2016, I was writing long before then. I first put pen to paper for the intentional purpose of writing out thoughts when I was a sophomore in high school, soon after my first major heartbreak. Someone important to me lied to me and broke my heart, and that spawned the idea to write out emotional words of anguish, betrayal, pain, frustration, and many others. While I started off just writing words that rhymed together with the harsh acrimony of my darker emotions, this outlet eventually transmuted into poetry and song lyrics. Writing remained one of my outlets alongside weight-lifting, and by the time I graduated high school, I had written hundreds of songs/poems. By then I thought I was finished, but I couldn’t see my future then the way I can see my past now in hindsight: My writing continued throughout my college years in Florida and into my life in California, where I would start writing here on my blog.

This blog began with me writing about random subjects (my first article had been about mental pain and how role models help inspire those people in pain—it is deleted now as well as many others) and slowly, over the course of a few months, became a blog about my faith in Jesus. It was after I felt called to write about my faith rather than merely about my opinions about life that I began focusing more seriously on writing about the impact of faith on life. My blog enabled me (and continues to) to pour faith into places a blog can reach and where I (physically) cannot.

I believe the entire world needs to know about Jesus (the Bible calls us to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations of the earth Mark 16:15), which is why I make this blog public. I try to make clear that I am open to answering questions and hearing others’ thoughts, especially with regards to faith. I mean to help others to feel heard, acknowledged, and understood by letting them speak their minds/hearts, and giving them the space to do so.

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I’ve done a lot of reading in my thirty years of existence, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge from the minds and vernacular of other writers and their thought processes/beliefs. Over the years, I’ve grown fond of finding difficult words and ideas which made me slow down and think; not merely about a new vocabulary word, but about the complex ability to consider thoughts and beliefs far outside that of my comfort zone. Increasingly, this became something I rather enjoyed because I equated this “shock value,” if you will, to determining how much there was that I still didn’t know. This transformed the fear of the unfamiliar to unparalleled zeal for the unknown.

Throughout this process, I have come to realize this is the way I love writing most; taking others out of their comfort zones, and challenging them not only with new words, but with new thoughts, considerations, beliefs, and ideologies far outside of what they may be used to or familiar with. I consider the act of such a perspective shift to be a blessing and a courtesy, because without it, we would remain “blind” to the ‘outside’ of ourselves. This said, my first piece of advice would be to allow ourselves to be challenged and brought “outside of ourselves,” that we would know more than our “self” is already telling us. For me, faith in Christ has renewed my spirit and given me hope for an eternity far outside life on this earth. I would never have considered this if I had remained blind and uncurious, and I do not desire this blindness for anyone else.

PIECE OF ADVICE #2

My second piece of advice would be to seek and find what love means to you by coming to know the character, story, and truth of Jesus. I spent most of my life not believing in Jesus, and when He opened my eyes to see Him during my mid-twenties, my heart was radically changed. In this way—through coming to know and understand Jesus—I believe we come to understand love, and by understanding love in such a fundamentally different way, I believe we eventually discover the reality that God is love, that love is not God, and that the result of such a discovery is the seed to understanding why we’re alive in this world.

There is a plethora of relevant, important minutiae we have the capacity to learn in this lifetime; such as how to change the tires on our car, how not to stain or shrink clothes in the laundry; how to balance a checkbook, maintain an interesting, engaging conversation with another person—but none other is more important or more intrinsically pivotal than our understanding of love. Without this, we will find (inevitably, whether sooner or later) the rest of our knowledge intake has significantly less importance in the bigger picture of life.

Love is the “party” of life; not the things inside the delusion of earth as our final destination, where we each try to use “things” (sex, drugs, alcohol, food, work, etc.) to fill in the void of pain. But we can only acknowledge such a truth as this when and if we finally admit the nature of our deepest pain. It is bearing witness to the scar-covered wounds we’ve tried and failed to heal with the distraction of ignorance (rather than finding ourselves welcomed into vulnerability with a trusted and loyal friend), and seeking the forgiveness of someone we’ve hurt (or giving the forgiveness to the one who hurt us) that exposes the darkness of our pain with the light of God’s grace, inviting us to receive the gift of a fuller, richer life in Christ.

Love permeates through the spirit of God through Jesus Christ, or it lies flat in its own grave of obscurity through the blindness of the uncurious human mind. We either open our hearts to receive this Truth stemming from outside of ourselves, or every single lesson we could ever learn only points back to the lifelessness of solipsism; believing life only matters because we are in it. Life itself would remain an ambiguous question without answer, ultimately leading the human mind to suffer from self-inflation (i.e. all of life is about ‘me’ in order for it to be entertaining and therefore bearable), or self-implosion (degradation of the mind+heart and failure of the desire to grow or continue to exist, leading to depression and/or other worse maladies). Without understanding love and continuing to understand our understanding of it, we are like a balloon unsure of whether or explode or implode into airless, breathless beings without reason to remain intact. My prayer for each of us is that we will continue to seek Jesus above all else, accept (by coming to understand by the grace of God) the love He generously bestows through the Holy Spirit, and live according to His statues and commands (Deuteronomy 6:1 and 1 Kings 2:3). This will indubitably lead to us a fuller life, if not without the humbled smile derived from a life of delayed gratification in the wait for a better world with a perfect King.

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The Beautiful Rebellion – Mara, although she hasn’t written in a while, has phenomenal posts about such sentimental and engaging subjects, and her delivery is both personal and tangible. I love reading her posts as she has an amazing eye for what matters and the heart to help us to see why.

theclippedbutterfly – Ann writes short and sweet or short and moving/powerful, and I love this about her posts. They are beautiful, sometimes poignant in a meaningful way, and they are always engaging. Ann, bless you as you continue to seek God as He works in your writing!

pennyforyourthotsblog – Penny is always simple but profound, making simplistic points about complex subjects and delivering the message in a way that is as easy to follow as it is honest and real. God bless you as you continue to let the world see the gold that you have to offer, Penny!
Shattered in Him –  JD writes incredible articles about hard topics and her words land powerfully because they are authentic and based in a reality one cannot ignore. I love reading what she has to say and I look forward to reading more from her.
Nickel Boy Graphics – I love this writer’s ability to capture a story within pictures and then explicate the message with some down-to-earth yet complex studies of Christianity and faith. I encourage you to check out his site and see his work for yourself!
First and Second Blog – Bethany has beautiful words which accompany her amazing faith in Jesus, and I find this both inspiring and uplifting. I heavily encourage you to check out her site and experience this for yourself. She is a blessing to the blogging world and I’m grateful to have found her site.
Imagineateweb – Sparsha is poetic and visual with her posts; they are engaging on a level that I really enjoy and respect as a writer. I think she has an amazing gift and I do hope God continues to bless her with the ability to write such moving posts! They are a joy to read.
A Writer’s Reflections – Heather is an incredible writer with some very interesting things to say. I heavily enjoy reading her posts and getting to know her mind more. She’s gifted and filled with the treasure of knowledge. Check out her site and enjoy what she has to offer!
Joseph George – Joseph has really entertaining, thought-provoking videos combining elements of Christianity with the message of recent movies. I love hearing his perspective and I find his points of view refreshing. I do hope he continues to generate these posts which give the world something new to consider.
There are so many writers in this blogging world which deserve credit and I truly hope you will check out the websites above to experience the treasure of their gifts. We each have something to offer, and I hope others will be willing to experience these unique, raw talents.
Kristen, thank you so much for nominating me! I’m truly humbled that you considered me, and I’m just in awe of how God moves through us and speaks to us through others. Moving forward, may God bless each of us as we continue to seek the answers to the questions which matter most, and may we desperately seek to let go of ourselves in order that we would find God instead. In Jesus’s holy name.
If you’d like to read more of my article, you can 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 all!
Lance Price Blog 2017

Triumph

Under the Microscope: The Fallacy Of Christian Niceness

LUDICROUSNESS OF FAITH

Humility is one of the main attributes of Christianity, one which gives the believer the ability to swallow their insignificance in this vast universe, while simultaneously drawing courage and purpose from the Spirit who spoke the universe into existence. Humility also changes the way we receive the Word of God: Learning of Jesus from the Bible either draws solid faith into the absence of hope, or its extreme claims become the items of religious caricature. Put differently, when people hear of Jesus, they either take Him seriously, or their shock in light of His story forces their logic to consume the lies of the world to make sense of what appears to be the ludicrousness of faith. 

 CHRISTIANITY AND NICENESS

One word in the English language which seems overused in describing the Christian character is “nice.” In this article, I would like to explicate the value of Christianity and its influence on the attitude of the believer, as well as why this should not be confused or mistaken with the correlation of faith. While niceness is a positive attribute, it does not add any measure of extraordinary depth to Christianity; rather, Christianity interjects authenticity into the character of niceness—insofar that our attitude isn’t a mirror of self-merit, but a reflection of the light of faith within. Let me explain.

TRANSCENDENT JOY

Receiving good news from a friend often brings momentary periods of joy through the conduit of empathy; however, this sensation lacks the effervescent joy we can find in Christ since earthly joy does not transcend reality. Furthermore, if we are to consider the notion of realities, we would be wise to also consider the way earthly joy inevitably foreshadows something rare and ecstatic: The high hope of a better world without pain or death or tears—Heaven. Sadly, the doubt of disbelief cloaks the mind and obscures this hope under the rigidity of logic. 

In this light, we can recognize how each of our ephemeral circumstances, whether or not they stimulate joy—are not transcendent of life’s circumstances, and therefore they do not inspire us to have hope beyond this moment. While happiness is as transient as joy is steadfast, earthly joy is like happiness in that it does not gain momentum from any eternality; only faith in Jesus commands the interior walls of belief to leap into the ‘beyond’ from limitation, revealing a more splendent joy as connected to our spirit. 

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Our spirit, once faith has been embraced through grace, no longer witnesses the self without first gazing through the love and provision of Christ. While we still desire pleasure and comfort, this short-sighted viewpoint is overseen by the wisdom of trusting in Jesus. Being encompassed by faith reinstates through the spirit our deeper and more intrinsic desire for a purposeful eternity: Hope in Christ not only answers our search and desire for this, it also heals the broken pieces of who we are from the wake of the destruction of our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

THE “SMILE” OF NICENESS THROUGH FAITH

In this way, the joy of a Christian stems from their faith, not through an act they’ve carried out or a mood they’re in. Because of this, the expression of joyfulness, which is sometimes mistaken as its own entity—is more or less described as “nice,” in the sense that joy is commonly expressed through a smile and cheeriness. I love to smile at people because I know a genuine smile communicates an effective and positive message, but it isn’t to say, “I’m smiling because I’m Christian!” This reasoning would be so spiritually forced as to be histrionic. If belief in Jesus means, “We smile because we’re Christian,” then faith is simply an act of the will while hope is a mood enhancer. But this isn’t true. Faith in Jesus is rooted in the soul, where desire for meaning and purpose can only be satisfied and fulfilled by the living essence of the transcendent (namely, the Holy Spirit). Why is that? Because we were created by a God who lives outside of the ephemeralness of time and space and sin, and it is to His home to which we are invited.

NOT AN ACT OF THE WILL 

Why is it important for people to understand why niceness needn’t be directly attributed to faith in Christ? The reason is this: If we say we’re smiling because we’re Christian, then we give glory to religion rather than the Lord. In other words, we’re saying, “I’m joyful because I am a Christian,” rather than, “I am joyful because I live in the hope of Jesus Christ.” When we give credit to the belief, we redirect the mind to the act of the will (performance-based religion) rather than the gift from God (grace, and an intimate, personal relationship). In doing this, we give the impression that in order to be Christian, one must smile and “act” nice. This is precisely the fallacy which must be eradicated from the spiritual conversation and effaced from our hearts if we are to understand—and be transformed by—the authenticity of the spirit of Christianity.

EFFECTING THE SPIRIT

To be clear, niceness is not the thought pattern by which a believer operates; rather, faith is the conduit through which we breathe, desire, and move. If it is not through faith, then it is through selfishness/narcissism. Faith is not chosen, it is received through God’s gift of grace. The attitude and character of the reborn spirit are not circumstantial or ephemeral, but influenced by an eternality far beyond that of any association with the body or mind. Simply put, the Holy Spirit does not require our body to work properly in order for its power to be efficient; the Holy Spirit works through the spirit, not the flesh.

Transcendent joy is our new mentality and perspective, our very lifestyle, in fact—not merely a circumstantial event caused by external factors. From this, what we can take away is that niceness is only a single, minute facet of the natural response of our spirit to transcendent joy, not nearly an act of false banality derived of faith in Jesus. 

AN AUTHENTIC SMILE OF HOPE

When others see me smile, they tell me that it is genuine and authentic, and that is true. I do not smile because I’m Christian—I smile because I have hope for a life beyond this world. Another hope of mine is that others will find my smile contagious and grow curious. I’m always open to strangers asking me if I’m Christian (which has happened several times), because I’m always hoping they’ll see that there’s more behind this smile than the excuse of niceness. There is a Truth and a promise that we’re called to receive, and in receiving it, the consequent joy is invigorating to the extent that a smile (niceness) is merely a small courtesy of expression; an external indication, more or less, of such a gift received in the soul deep inside.

JOYFUL INTENTION

While I have emphasized at length the significance of a smile, this is obviously not the only expression of joy (and happiness/niceness), but one of many. My intent here was to use the smile as an example which others commonly recognize. Furthermore, I have witnessed churchgoers whose smile/attitude disintegrates as soon as their face turns a few degrees from mine, which comes across as incredibly forced. This is not authenticity as its best, for it is the absence of grace at work. Niceness is not only unnecessary with regards to those who believe niceness is solely an attitude associated with Christianity; many times it also has the power to propitiate the fallacy that faith in Christ enforces a fake persona in order to pursue. Quite oppositely, receiving Jesus begins at a much deeper level of the spirit, where niceness is merely a constituent of a much larger whole: JOY. Christians do not have to smile, but we do because we find hope and joy in Jesus.

In the late, respected words of St. Francis of Assisi: 

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

My point and message is not that we become silent Christ-followers, but to point out how our actions speak loudly—especially to unbelievers when our actions contradict the words of our mouthes. Christian joy builds the desire to be more generous with our time; the openness even to being silent with those who are suffering and merely seeking the presence of someone who cares. These are expressions which we, as Christ-followers, have joyful reason to believe beyond the fallacy of coerced spiritual niceness, are the moments which matter most. 

LET’S CONNECT

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, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!

Impression

Unveiled By Grace: The Blessing Of A Beating Heart

THE BLESSING OF A BEATING HEART

Earlier last week as I laid on my bed, the position I was in enabled me to feel the rhythm of my heart. As I became relaxed and still, I paid special attention to the movements, visualizing the organ as it circulated blood flow through its valves. Feeling these pulsations in my chest brought me to peace as I fell in awe and wonder of God: Do we slow down enough to appreciate that which we have no control over, but which have such significant roles in our lives? Feeling my heartbeat reminded me I am not in control of anything other than my choices. And by the grace of God, even those are influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus, that I can see what I would otherwise remain blind to without. What is it we cannot see without the grace of the Holy Spirit?

BLIND TO GRACE

The truth is that the answer to this question would be fruitless to those having not first received God’s grace. But receiving God’s grace undoubtedly answers the question on its own. In other words, to have received God’s grace is to be humbled enough keep it; to not have God’s grace is to be blind to the treasure of knowing we need it.

I would like to spend this article appreciating God’s grace and looking more deeply into the experience of recognizing the beauty of what isn’t ours to give ourselves.

RECEIVING GRACE

Honestly, grace was, more or less, a weightless spiritual term for me before recently. While it held its place in the spiritual conversation, the character of grace did not live up to its name. Little did I understand until recently that it was because I had not received grace more fully (deep in the spirit); rather, I had only taken notice of grace on the surface. To know of grace as a religious term is to have knowledge of a word without its context or purpose; to receive grace is to feel the Holy Spirit influence and reshape our heart by the humility of knowing the control (of thought, choice, and action) we have is painfully flawed and in need of divine correction. If we have not received grace, we will not desire correction; we may view ourselves as a work in progress at best, giving ourselves the credit of believing we know how to fix what is broken. The problem is we believe we can correct ourselves in our current state of understanding of what it means to correct, when in fact it is our skewed understanding of “correctness” that brought us to our flawed state to begin with. 

DIRECTIONS TO A MEANINGLESS DESTINATION

Grace instigates a change on the inside. God reframes our understanding of what it means to receive what He gives us as an outpouring of His love, rather than knowing of His gift like directions to a place we’ll never travel to. What kind of difference would it make to know how to get somewhere we’re not interested in going? It wouldn’t. What difference would grace make then if we could not see our current state? Grace pulls away the veil and reveals with the light of Christ the dark space inside that is our blindness. We cannot remove a veil we cannot even see is obscuring our view

OUR TRUE NATURE REVEALED

Grace remaps our perspective. Say a friend tells you that you have something in your nose. This may draw different reactions, namely relief and surprise; surprise because you might not have expected such a comment, and relief to discover there was something to remove. Grace is similar, but obviously to a much greater and more fundamental degree—it is the revelation of Christ’s character. When our sinful way of living is revealed, we are likely to be surprised by just how off-putting our lifestyle really is, but we are relieved to know there is a much better way. First, we must understand what a healthy lifestyle looks like by comparing it to what is unhealthy, and ultimately desiring what is more healthy. Grace is the unveiling hand, revealing where we’ve chosen for the worse. 

INTERNAL EXCAVATION AND REBIRTH

Grace can be believed, but still not received. There is a difference. A received grace can be found in the fruit of a person’s actions, after the true nature of grace has been divulged to them. When we receive grace, there is a deep, internal shift—not merely permutation; there is no reordering or rearrangement of our spirits—there is an entire excavation of our original mentality to make space for a new spirituality; our old, dead spirit for our new, reborn spirit. Grace complements the process and reality of rebirth, where we surrender our old, “sinful self” for our new spirit in Christ. What is amazing is that with grace, we desire this excavation; the renovating of our very interior walls into our reborn spirit, where our new eyes can now “see” ourselves before and after Christ. We then begin to understand the end of Christ’s means through His death and resurrection, and we are witnesses to our own transformation.

CHRISTIAN “BRAIN-WASHING”

Some people fear or suspect this “excavation process” (my personal choice of words) to be what some might call the brain-washing effects of Christianity. Let me be clear—this is not brain-washing because there is no manipulation or deception: The Truth of the Spirit of Christ speaks for itself. We cannot stop grace from interacting with our spirits anymore than we can stop water from being wet—because this is merely the natural, organic communication between grace and our spirit inside. Grace does not need manipulation to have a sincere impact; grace’s intrinsic form evinces our most inner self by wiping the manipulation and deception of sin from our eyes; no facades, no defenses, no excuses, no masks—only the truth.

The reality of grace is that while it is a perspective change, the shift is triggered by the change of our view of the self (which is initiated by grace). In other words, when we see ourselves differently—spiritually-speaking—our new spiritual view changes how we see the world around us as well. This is as immutable as fire is hot: To see oneself differently is to perceive one’s world differently. A doctor cannot be a clown and a child cannot be geriatric; a doctor cannot accept his identity to be a clown lest he forfeit the nature of his responsibility anymore than a child could not accept him or herself to have diabetes or arthritis while youthful and galvanized. Likewise, once we understand what our true nature is by the power of God’s grace, there is no returning to our previous identity (life without God) because to return would be to merely pretend (like the doctor or the child) not to see what cannot be unseen, wearing a front in the name of self-denial. These useless, vacuous pretenses would far more likely be brainwashing our minds than the genuine, revealing nature of grace in our hearts. 

BIOLOGICAL REASONING AND DECEPTION

In this way, grace is not manipulation anymore than experiencing love firsthand renders us speechless. The experience of grace is not a trick or deception anymore than realizing what it feels like to love and be loved is “otherworldly.” We know we cannot amply explain love beyond chemicals and hormones (with strict regard to the biological argument), but we “know” our experiences are authentic, sentimental, and more precious than any other. This is our truth. Once we have experienced this love, or have come to understand it through the love of Jesus, we would not attempt to use logic to explain it away just because we cannot explicate the process further beyond our understanding of explicit biological reasoning. In other words, simply because we cannot explain love without using clichés when trying to break the argument away from science, this doesn’t stop humans from believing that their experiences are all the more real than much any other experience.

Likewise, we would not explain away grace as manipulation if we knew, from the spirit, the freedom of knowing (growing in awareness) our sinful identity is promoted by the deception of the enemy, and how having our eyes opened to the Truth of Jesus Christ is the most significant and essential reality to be encompassed by (reborn identity) and invited into. 

LIBERATED BY A LACK OF CONTROL

When I felt my heart beating while lying down, I acknowledged to myself that at any moment, my heart could simply stop. Not due to health problems or the position I was lying in, but because God allows each new breath to come, and He could stop allowing it at any time. This realization is grace itself in action, reminding me how beautiful it is not to be in control of everything, including the very breath enabling me to continue living and making decisions and realizations—all of which impact the people around me. We are given so much control, and yet to truly see our lives from the bigger picture (what I like to call the “bird’s eye view”), we realize that the control we have is so little—and yet, this truth is extremely liberating when we receive grace and realize how much more abusive of our control we would be without it.

FREEDOM BY OMISSION

When we can admit and acknowledge this abuse, we turn inwards with humility and gratitude that God gives us the grace to choose Him, again and again, and to not so stubbornly beg and plead for more control. Grace enables us to see the havoc and chaos which would destroy our identities without Him who extends the gift, and in seeing this Truth, we are not manipulated, but set free from the lie that so much control is actually better than surrendering to a personal, loving, unconditional, selfless, infinitely powerful and omniscient God—a God creating each new moment (allowing every heartbeat) for us to remember once again why we serve with humble eagerness. May our eyes be opened to this Truth, and may we all be filled with peace, hope, joy, and freedom in the omission of more chaotic control as we follow a God whose sole intention is to give us the best life we could possibly live. 

I pray this would be our new perspective, mentality, and source of relief. In Jesus name.

LET’S CONNECT

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, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!

Relieved

Emotions & Memories: Healing Our Broken Past

A HIGHER DEGREE OF AWARENESS

In this article, I’d like to cover how the formation of our memories and the substance of sentiment behind them drastically changes the way we perceive the reality in front of us. Additionally, by writing this, I hope—by the grace of God—to open our spiritual eyes by explaining the way our physical senses are but a subtle facet of our more intuitive perceptions—that through heightened spiritual awareness, we can live more fully by understanding the powerful substance of faith. By adding the dimension of faith to our perspectives, I would like to shine a hopeful light on the way we perceive our memories, influencing the impact our sentiment associates to them, consequently reshaping our view of our past. In turn, we can re-estimate the power of hope for our futures through Christ.

THE FORMATION OF SENTIMENT

The scent of freshly cut summer grass has sentimental value to me. After mowing my parents’ lawns (there were two to mow after their divorce) and spending hours upon hours of thinking as I listened to blaring rock music on my CD player (yes, back when we didn’t have iPods yet—and yes, I risked using a CD player while on a ridable lawn-mower) while heavily considering my life, the person I was, and the man I wanted to be but wasn’t—the scent of freshly cut summer grass gradually took on the form of a memory and gained the substance of sentiment.

A SERIOUS DISPOSITION & RENEWED PERSPECTIVE

Over the course of several years in my teens, many people expressed recognition of my serious demeanor. Given the circumstances I was experiencing at the time, I was very serious. There was a lot of emotional baggage weighing on me inside; such as the pain, disappointment, anger, bitterness, and shock of my parents’ divorce. Adding ferocious velocity to my racing thoughts was the shock of the sudden death of my dad’s parents just weeks before my eleventh Christmas. Needless to say, hard rock music took off the edge like a drug. This is why I would play music on the lawn mower while I tuned out into my private world of rumination.

Today, I remember the scent of freshly cut grass, and the times I spent sitting on the mower and riding back and forth, left and right, round and round again for hours on end—daydreaming and thinking about everything in my life. Clearly, years later in hindsight, the scent has a different impact on me than it did back when I was younger and still in pain. More specifically, I’m not living with the heart I abused back then. In the very least, faith in Jesus has given me a renewed appreciation for the scent of freshly cut grass by replacing a rather poignant reminder of the past with something positive and beautiful. Instead of the reminder of a painful phase in my life, cut grass is a reminder of a good, loving, infinitely powerful God who is on my side and wanting what is best for me. This is an example of how faith interacts with our negative memories, forming new associations by distilling hope inside the substance of sentiment. 

SAFE MEMORIES

During the formation of memories, we associate emotional depth to them; this is sentimentality. All our memories have this, but they are not permanent. The reason why is so there can be made room for healing, growth, and change. There is also space and room for further damage, which is why, with the more mature we get, our experiences refine our discernment and enable us to know who is safe to make memories with. This is so we are less likely to form memories we will later regret. Memories can be fragile; the people we make them with—when the memories are damaged with hurt and pain—are untrustworthy. Our memories with harmful people fluctuate in terms of sentimentality, swaying into confusion, worry, and fear.

THE PIVOTAL DIFFERENCE OF SENTIMENTALITY

When we make a child with our spouse, for example, we form the precious memory of emotional and physical intimacy, and how that can lead to new life. This is an extremely sensitive layer of sentiment which, when cut through with the excruciating pains of divorce or death, causes us to heavily reconsider our decision to have committed ourselves to that person, which in turn alters the sentiment previously associated with our memories with that person.

With regards to faith, Jesus works into the sentiment of both: He renews our ability to gauge sentimentality by refining the way we develop the forming of emotional bonds. Basically, Jesus reminds us of the importance of emotions, that we were created to feel these emotions, but that He created us to love; not to live in misery or deprecation. Alike the way we cannot fail in Christ, we also have the ability to form healthy associations with memories by understanding the way Jesus’s love for all people impacts the way we view regret, pain, change, and failure. 

SETTLING FOR LESS THAN GOD

The cost of settling for human affections, expecting them to replace our intrinsic need for an “invisible God”—is the loss of fulfillment, ultimate joy, eternal hope, and a meaningful purpose in dark world. If we can grasp the truth behind these words and the weight of their testimony, then as humans, we may have taken our first step away from agnosticism and the cynicism of Christianity, and towards the hope of an improved, renewed, reframed tomorrow.

Tomorrow only comes with the fallen debris of the past when we carry ours with us like excess baggage. When we let the past go into Jesus’s hands, all that’s left is the hope that if a God like Jesus is powerful enough to keep our world from imploding or exploding in the universe, dying and rising from dead, and carrying our past for us—He certainly can carry us (proceeding, of course, our choice to follow Him obediently in faith) through the rest of our lives—adversity, pain, confusion and all.

We have hope because of Jesus, and when we place that hope in our lust for any one or more things under the umbrella of this attention-seeking, status-grasping, entertainment/social media-addicted world, we forget the importance of understanding the true meaning of whose image we are created in. We intentionally set aside the eternal purpose for which we are called into, and we settle for the desires of our body rather than the needs of our soul. If we cannot see the world beyond that which the world advertises to our lust, we will not understand our need for a hope Jesus was already prepared to share with us from the beginning. 

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

My hope is that we will choose to see the world through the eyes of Jesus, and that in so doing, we will give Him our baggage by realizing its redundancy in our futures. Additionally, I hope with recognition of His love and grace, we will come to see the importance of living for God instead of ourselves. A life of selfishness leads to a future of disappointment; a life of giving for the sake of reward leads to future of loneliness, bitterness, and resentment; a life of spiritual denial leads to a life of feeling let down, unfulfilled, and ultimately pointless—as if viewing ourselves as a spec in a universe we aren’t sure why we were invited to experience in the first place. But we weren’t created to feel like disappointments or failures or specs; we were created to feel close to one another and most importantly to God. Because of this, we don’t have to associate the hopelessness of pain and misunderstanding to our memories. Instead, we can associate hope, curiosity, understanding, mercy, forgiveness, and maturity to each memory. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to settle for despair or deprecation, we can live into the hope of a better tomorrow, a better relationship, and a promising eternity. This is the most important association to make with every memory we make: LIFE IS A BLESSING—can we see it?

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. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. God bless you all!

Better

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The Space Between Agnosticism, Doubt, & Faith

THE BOOK OF MAJESTY AND MYSTERY

Inevitably gaped between the skepticism of disbelief and the hope of Christian rebirth, there is spiritual buoyancy, namely agnosticism. As a growing Christian, I’ve learned there is so much to understand about my walk with Jesus. The preconceived notion that performance is the underlying evidence of a born-again Christian is one of many common fallacies, one even I continually catch myself being mislead by temporarily. Reading the Bible more thoroughly has taught me how much substance, life, majesty, and zeal are actually waiting to be sought out from its pages. To receive the words of the Bible as merely sentence upon sentence is to mistake the Bible’s mystery and divinity for grammatical symmetry and redundant formalities which ultimately cost the Bible its very soul.

INESCAPABLE CURIOSITY

Recalling my testimony, I have come to be very familiar with the way God has worked in my soul since I was 22. Admittedly, God has been at work all along, but He only revealed His Truth to me beginning at age 22, where He planted the seed of desire to pursue Him. From mere desire has propelled a deeper longing, a pensive curiosity desperately calling my attention—a curiosity I would instantaneously refer to as inescapable and insatiable to the degree that I am always satisfied and simultaneously never finished. The ultimatum of breathing in this day-by-day faith is how the water Jesus gives leaves us overflowing with eternal life (John 4:14) and honestly, I can say I do not thirst for purpose any longer. I belong to Him, and my mission is to help others who have eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus is Lord.

However, what is unfinished is my desire to know Him more deeply and intimately. The depths of the intricacies of our Lord in Jesus are never satisfied any more than He is infinite and eternal. Because of this, I am always satiated with His promises. Nevertheless, coinciding with this hope is the honest and humble acknowledgment that I can never know everything—which brings me the thrill of the never-ending pursuit of His heart.

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A FALLEN WORLD

Despite the immeasurable darkness in this world; death, poverty, sex-trafficking, terrorism, homelessness, mental illness, and oppression (to name a few)—there is a greater, stronger, more obdurate light now than there has ever been. Look at the church, the body of Christ. Though there are no perfections, there are also no limits. God is moving through us and to each other. His plan to renew us is as never-ending as it is scandalous. Our God is love, and through Jesus, He is relatable, real, and historical; not merely mystical, metaphorical, metaphysical, or incongruous with any form of reality we experience.

Rationality cannot cloak faith with conjecture, science cannot prove its absence with empiricism, and skepticism cannot fade it out with resistance or denial. Just as naivety is the absence of experience—disbelief and closed-mindedness are the absence of the fullness of life; in that the fullness of life is found only in our God-given purpose, not a created purpose concocted by the transient, empty-handed motivations of this heart-broken, ephemeral world. 

COMPELLED BEYOND IMPERMANENCE

At some point, every person comes face-to-face with the question of their purpose in this life. Our innate desire to seek out and embrace our vocation becomes so strong that the thought of not having a vocation makes life feel intolerably small and pointless. We inevitably find ourselves asking, “What am I here for?” In response, absent-minded secularism would answer, “What do you desire most?” Faith, alternatively, would narrow this overly spacious path to what we feel most called by God to do. What’s the essential difference? The first is driven by selfish motivation, while the second is motivated from our connection to the infinite hope beyond this life. Put differently, the latter is driven by the belief and understanding that this life is not all there is, and what follows is if this is not all there is, then what we will feel called to do will reflect the impermanence with which we associate this lifetime.

Our recognition of impermanence separating desperation for pleasure from godly wisdom is how we perceive each breath as either a gift or a waste, and this separation is the difference between the pretentious secularist mentality and soul-compelling faith in Christ. When we are able to see life on Earth as a gift while simultaneously acknowledging its transience, we can appreciate every breath without clinging to it. Oppositely, if we cling to every breath in the belief that this is all we have, pleasure becomes our purpose. Driven by narcissism, our existential identity becomes as void as our transparent hope in a distant tomorrow.

FUNDAMENTAL PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS

Truly, our perception of this life plays a significant role, not only in what career we choose, but in the way we define our role identity, the role the people we connect with have in our lives, the meaning and weight of the love we believe others (as well as ourselves) do or don’t deserve, the reason why—and how to apply these developed viewpoints with our personal beliefs in what life in total really is.

Considering how fundamentally these perspective bifurcations affect our lives, we either become aware of how important it is to contemplate and understand our points of view more fully (which begins in the same space where we are either driven by curiosity for and towards the unknown ((faith)), or thrown into a haze by the overwhelming mystery of this universe and life—seemingly too daunting to pursue), or we do not pursue this contemplation any further—a choice which leaves us in the vulnerable position of living an unanswered life full of agnosticism and dubiousness. Living this way, as I have come to learn, is not worth the “liberation from labels.” Truly, it is better to know what we believe and to stake our eternity on it than to profess there is nothing to believe and live a vacuous life of ignorance and unfulfilled desires.

If we are not captivated by God’s magnanimous existence, we are dejected by the skeptical conclusion that belief in nothingness is merely easier—even if less rational, less fulfilling, and less innate than desiring an intimacy only a relationship to God can make sense of.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE AND SPIRITUALITY

One of the most problematic facets of spiritual apathy and nonchalance is the decision not to be challenged. During my teens, I was in denial about faith in Christ—but then I also didn’t want to talk about faith at all. I had no defense beyond that of my anger and misconstrued notions of who God was—my only argument was emotionally driven. For many people today, this is the case for agnosticism and even atheism; they want to argue and complain, but they don’t want to understand what they argue about. An emotionally charged response against God’s existence does not change anything anymore than a child stampeding off to their room challenges their parents’ rules about bedtime. We may argue and cross our arms, but the argument for God stands far above and beyond emotions. Once again, skepticism is as powerless as responding emotionally to an argument we don’t like. While skepticism and doubt are welcomed in the presence of faith, the face of skepticism is merely a mask of makeup compared to the authenticity, freedom, selfless motivation, and transcendent hopefulness of abiding in Christ.

CONNECT WITH ME

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. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. God bless you all!

Pursue

Darling Downs Diaries

Discerning the Guise Of Failure

LIMITATION AND SURREALISM

There is a short-sighted platitude: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” The idea professes that with enough focus, energy, passion, and time, we can put our mind to work and accomplish wonders. In the farthest stretches of the mind, however, is a guise: Limitation. For some people, limitation is catastrophic and final—this perspective claims there is no way around to the other side. For other people however, limitation is an invitation to try harder, to use more muscle, creativity, and brute tenacity to supplement their action.

There comes a place where the boundary of limitation, dividing what is humanly realistic from that which is idyllically surreal, will cross; the latter of course being the umbrella hospitalizing several aspects of pride, separate from the body of our spirit. When we cross the line and believe in what is surreal, our belief in the surreal becomes the ultimatum between what is possible and what is preferred. When we stay behind the line, sometimes we get trapped in the opposite belief that the line itself exists as a means to truncate our potential by professing our worthlessness. This “staying behind the line in fear of worthlessness” is the defining air of failure.

What I’d like to do in this article is take a closer look at how our relationship with Jesus can eliminate the mirage of failure as a culmination of our mistakes, and instead come to understand failure is merely the choice of inaction. In this way, I hope that by reading this, we can move forward confident of success, surrendering anything in our lives that doesn’t lead us to the purpose we are intrinsically called into through Christ.

FAILURE IS A GUISE

If failure is the choice of inaction, then inaction is the malady of laziness and insanity, repeating the same inaction in the hopes that a positive change will occur. In the world we live in today, one of the most grave maladies is the absent-mindedness in believing life is merely an amalgam of perception-based sensory input (i.e., Empiricism), rather than a meaningful imbrication of experiences leading us to the One who gave us the blessing of such a journey. When we believe life is only a formulaic equation expressed in chemicals, hormones, molecules, and matter, we have already failed ourselves not only with disappointment, but self-defeat. We undermine the notion of purpose by denying ourselves our chance to desire fulfillment. When this happens, we feel the seed of hopelessness growing inside, swelling up into the questioning of our very existence. 

LIVING IN THE MIRAGE OF HOPELESSNESS

One of the most common facial expressions I recognize in the city of Los Angeles is nonchalance—the desultory attitude of someone who has “been there, done that, and given up all hope.” This attitude is extremely uninspiring. I realize some people just need a small nudge back into the light of hope and they’re good to go, but there are so many others who are cantankerously stubborn and convinced that their lives are permanently doomed. Failure, however, does not find us; failure merely illuminates where we are so we can recognize the wall blocking our path. The hard part—ironically—is not recognizing that there is in fact a wall—the hard part is recognizing that the wall is not a dead end, but a detour.

We can be so busy trying to figure out (or complain about) why what is holding us in place is even there that we don’t search for a way around or through. When people live in this “trapped” space that professes “life is over” for long stretches of time, gradually that wall becomes their room, their microcosm, their mentality—rather than the mere recognition that there is something to be overcome.

ASSOCIATING OUR IDENTITY WITH THE WORLD

For many people, failure is the absence of achieving a life aspiration. For example, some people want a house, a wife/husband, a child/children, a nice job and an affordable living. To lack of one or two of these is disappointing, but to not even achieve any at all may translate as catastrophic. For these instances, our identity is centered on our life aspirations. The problem with this is how our aspirations fluctuate and change according to our lives, and therefore are undependable. Basically, if the very thing our identity is based on is vacillates and wavers, then our identity is subject to the threat of fallibility, mistaking what we thought would be an auspicious future for fragile dreams.

This truth should be a strong indicator that we cannot depend on our life goals or aspirations to fill the role of our identity or purpose. If we live to be married, for instance, we raise our expectation of marriage to an unrealistically high degree (surrealism), placing its significance in a flamboyantly harmful position and starving its refreshingly natural state with vacuity. If we live for a dream home, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the inevitable dilapidation to occur—no matter how well it is renovated. Centering our existence on children would bear its own weight as well because, without question, regardless of proper child-rearing, raising a child has its disappointments and fallouts as well. In other words, absolutely nothing in this world succeeds to be permanently perfect. What then can we place the weight of our hopes in? What can satisfy our inevitable, intrinsic, meaningful urge for purpose while not falling short in the long run?

IDENTIFYING WITH FAITH

At first, when I found Jesus, being a Christian meant “get it right”—hit or miss; succeed or fail. I was trying to understand what living a Christian life looked like. For a couple of years, it was all about performance. It took me years to realize that I had received the Good News, but was still trying to do with my choices what Jesus had already done on the cross: Purge my own sinfulness rather than hand it over to God (surrender).

Years later (about 3 years ago now), I finally starting understanding, through the loving wisdom of friends, the Bible, and spiritual leaders in my church—that performance isn’t the point. When we identify with Jesus, I learned, we actually desire for Him to permeate who we are. That means our relationship with Jesus becomes such a high priority, such a first instinct, that our desires begin naturally molding around what He is calling us into. For me, that has been expressed through serving others, writing about Him on this blog, testifying to His goodness, and learning to be as Christ-like as possible through my words and actions. While performance isn’t key and is not the point, how we live our lives is a direct reflection of what’s in our hearts, and I want everyone to know that Jesus is good no matter what.

“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING JESUS CALLS YOU TO DO”

What strikes me is how Jesus constantly reminds me that I’m not alone, and that it’s not about what I do or don’t do, but about what He already did. To associate with Jesus means, in other words, I could never “fail.” This truth points to how important my need is to lean on His love and strength (The Bible, community, prayer, supplication, surrender, obedience, and placing His relationship to me above all else) rather than my own. In doing this, I don’t even have to think about performance, I just think about Him. It’s not “You can do anything you set your mind to,” it’s “You can do anything Jesus calls you to do.”

DISCERNMENT AND SURRENDER

Listening to what Jesus says is not the same as listening to people speak from themselves. His voice lovingly and uniquely speaks through circumstances, music, nature, yes–other people, and even directly into our heart through sensations (of the Holy Spirit) or images. I have experienced each of these, and all are quite empowering—particularly the latter three (people, sensations, and images). I have many Christian friends who have also discerned these spiritual inputs from Jesus in their spiritual walk. In order to pass from the worldly view of failure into the Heavenly view of success, we must practice spiritual discernment, which requires the surrendering of what we have received from the world and releasing it to God. What does that look like? Humility, trust, and obedience. Let me explain.

TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR EXISTENCE

Clinging to the world is the mental action of claiming the doctrines of this world to be more trustworthy than the Creator of this cosmos. Further, to put the notion of trusting God into perspective, consider the creation of the cosmos and all of its refinements. If the degree of the cosmological constituents (i.e. Mass Density of the Universe, Ratio of Electromagnetic Force, etc.) holding the universe together was off by 10 to the 120th power, our life would cease to exist. Also, the cosmos is continually expanding, which inevitably means “something” is pushing on the matter of the universe. That said, if the universe is continually expanding AND being contained to 10 to the 120th degree so that life does not implode or explode, the Creator of our universe must be trustworthy, or we would literally die.

Understanding this, if we trust the secular doctrines of the world (i.e., Empiricism, science over faith, etc.) over the promising Biblical love of the Creator who holds our existence safely in His hands, I think we’ve touched upon a new problem than that of our fear of failure. Ultimately, we don’t need this world, we need God. Humility teaches this, trust commits to it, and finally obedience acknowledges and implements the commitment. In claiming this, we surrender our desires to embrace those of the One who gives us life, love, mercy, and breath—every second of every day.

WE CANNOT FAIL

Hear me readers, we cannot fail in Christ. We “fail” only when we inevitably fall short of our own desires, or when our desires inevitably fall short of our expectations. But this happens because when we try to override our natural desire for meaningful purpose with attempts at gaining transient pleasure, our motives do not complement our intrinsic desires (which complement our movement towards purpose), and as a result, we feel the pain or loss (of purpose/meaning) spiritually, whether or not we believe in Jesus as Lord.

While it is true not all unbelievers are materialists, it is also true how disbelief forces a person to seek meaning/purpose in places where the discovered meaning/purpose is short-lived; rooted in that which is not eternal or fulfilling. Beyond God and the eternality of the soul, wherever we search for meaning, connection, and purpose—we won’t ever find it. When we find our purpose rooted in the soul itself, our intention remains selfish because the motive sources back to us. For the believer, rooted in Christ, the motivation never ceases because His love is continually ongoing, and our means of attaining our goals are unlimited because we are rooted in a purpose created through the very Word which spawned the birth of eternity (John 1:1-5), far beyond the science and short-sighted maladies of this world.

Simply put, if we cannot fail because of Christ, we can only succeed through Him. Our gratitude and humility for this truth are forever His. 

CONNECT WITH ME

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. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. God bless you all!

Shared at: Grace and Truth

Soaring with Him Ministries

A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity

How can we explain the contention between the believer who fails to exemplify his faith through word and action, and the unbeliever who looks down on faith as a fallacy of the age—judging the believer based on the very moral and spiritual grounds they claim to reject in the first place? I would like to take a closer look at this issue here.

IF NO ONE IS PERFECT, THEN WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

One of the most tragic arguments baffling the mind of the unbeliever is the idea that once a believer, a person is automatically perfect. The reason this is a fallacy is because no one belief makes a person perfect. Digging deeper still reveals the imperative argument demanding a definition for human “perfection.” Some might expect perfection to come in the form of character or moral pursuit—and if this is so, what does a perfect character with scrupulous moral pursuits look like?  

In my previous article, “Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2,” I explain what I believe Christianity is. To reiterate, here is how I define Christianity: 

putting my relationship with Jesus first and seeking Him when I forget to do that. Being a Christian means humbly pursuing Him and coming back to Him when I lose track of that pursuit. Christians are not perfect people who have decided to stop pursuing a life of denial, nor do we think we’re perfect because of our decision to accept Jesus; Christians are sinners who recognize their sin and acknowledge their need for a Messiah capable of and willing to extend mercy, grace, and love through sacrificing Himself in order to prevent us from experiencing the eternal judgment that we actually deserve.”

That said, I do not believe faith makes any person perfect; we’re all capable of and prone to flaws—before and after faith. A person’s faith, if anything, gives them more reason to predict their failure to ever become perfect by humbly admitting their need for a Messiah in Christ. Again, if anything, a Christian recognizes more so their need for a Messiah in Christ because of their imperfections. In other words, Christianity doesn’t perfect; it humbles. Where do people get this idea that Christ-followers believe they have everything figured out? From Christians who project their faith as the moral insignia of pride. Let me explain.

MORAL DOMINANCE & FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

When a Christ-follower gets caught in the trap of believing faith-based morality is grounds for ostracism or for criticizing the unbeliever, the humility of their faith as been compromised for the pride in their choices. The tragedy is divulged in how a Christian disparaging atheism’s lack of belief is no more effective or correct than an unbeliever condemning Christianity’s open-mindedness. What needs to be noted here is the dichotomy revealing how the misplaced disparaging of the atheist’s lack of belief allows no room for humility or compassion in the censorious believer. Capitalizing on the belief that one is more right than another does nothing short of mistakenly prove to the unbeliever that what is most important to the Christian is their pride in their beliefs and how it trumps doubt, when in fact the fight is taking place on a different battlefield altogether: The believer is convinced proving their belief to be correct is more important than being a living example of how faith in Jesus as Lord changes one’s life from the inside—which has nothing at all to do with winning arguments, but renewing hearts

The abusive treatment of the believer towards the atheist is ultimately the grounds for which the unbeliever blindly claims faith is a transparent fallacy. Understandably, from this perception—the source of the believer’s faith seems grounded in judgment, condemnation, prideful morality, and the careless freedom to live in the name of a faith which seemingly has no impact on behavior, words, thoughts, or interactions. In other words, a faith which has no bearing on renewing a person’s intrinsic humanity or lifestyle.

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN METAPHORS 

There are a lot of metaphors used in Christianity. Why? There is a larger reality within grasp which does not present itself to the naked human eye—that which is tangible through the senses of faith itself. What does this mean? This means that the purpose of metaphors in Christianity is to examine that which we can barely fathom with our intellect or imagination, let alone our senses. Not to be misperceived as impossible to the imagination, Heaven itself is used both as a metaphor for the fantastical (where the very nature of painlessness and deathlessness coexist with permanent bliss and happiness) which can be sourced within our very soul through faith in Christ; as well as a literal place and location. Metaphors are not used to divide the truth of the Bible from reality, but to express how such extremities can only be gathered by taking a leap of faith out of our expectations and comfort zones and placing ourselves into the space of hope. Hope for something beyond words, beyond this reality; transcendence.

THE DILEMMA OF IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY

Timothy Keller, in his book Making Sense Of God, writes:

Theologian Miroslav Volf summarizes four ways that we can set and bolster our self-worth by excluding others. We can literally kill or drive the Other out of our living space. A more subtle and common way is exclusion by assimilation. We can demand that they conform completely to our own patterns and standards, not allowing them to express any difference at all. “We will refrain from vomiting you out… if you let us swallow you up.” A third form of exclusion could be called “dominance.” We let you live among us and maintain your identity, but only if you assume an inferior race—not getting certain jobs, attaining particular levels of pay, or living in certain neighborhoods. The fourth kind of exclusion is abandonment. That is, we exclude the Other by disdaining and ignoring them, taking no thought for their needs. The reason we indulge in these attitudes and practices is that by denouncing and blaming the other it gives us “the illusion of sinlessness and strength.”

When a Christian denounces the unbeliever for their doubt instead of loving them in their unbelief, they make the mistake of identifying with the egocentrism of pride rather than the selfless character of Christ. When this happens, pride takes the position of one the four aforementioned reflections of self-worth. But when a believer’s self-worth is not rooted in Christ, it is automatically rooted in the neediness of the world. How then can we be reborn if we still cling to the world? We cannot. We either surrender ourselves by intrinsically and authentically picking up our cross and following Him (rebirth), or we end up abandoning our cross for someone else to bear and call them weak when they won’t even carry their own (claiming the “Christian” title without “walking the walk” of a relationship with Jesus). 

CHRISTIAN FACADES AND PLURALISM

The choice we make (how seriously we take our faith) defines the example we are for the world. When a person claims to be a “Christian” while still clutching the ways of the world, the unbeliever witnesses hypocrisy and assumes this contradiction to be the face of all Christ-followers. While we do not carry the responsibility of every believer in this world, we do bear the witness of every unbeliever in this world. When we do not take seriously our own faith, we leave room for the unbeliever to view the Christian faith as fallible and indistinguishable from secularism. Pluralism itself is made to look foolishly redundant in the face of Christian hypocrisy as the multifarious religious views suddenly blur together into one conglomeration; a mirage of people pretending rather than rebirthing, clutching for dear life their mental volition instead of surrendering their hearts; closing their eyes rather than opening their minds, and believing in the self—which ultimately deteriorates the soul and crushes our most intrinsic need for selfless, unconditional human connection. 

CALLED FORWARD IN CHRIST

We are called to be sons and daughters of the living Christ. We can complicate the picture of what that looks like, or we can come to grips with the reality that it requires a heart full of humility. We cannot grow in Christ if we are climbing a ladder of egocentrism. Even in faith, the boastful soul does not become vanquished until we have received a heart of humility in God the Father. We receive this when we’ve had enough of ourselves. I found myself dead inside during my adolescence and desperately craved a purpose by the time I was 22. I found that purpose in Christ, but only after I realized I needed to let go of my self-made purpose, which ultimately was disguised in self-deprecation and the turmoil of this world.

Moving forward in faith means letting go of the self to make room for Christ, and in so doing, His thoughts become more of our own. We lose nothing—we gain everything. We gain a new perspective, healthier relationships, more fulfilling desires, and a deeper sense of purpose than we could have imagined was possible. Moving forward in faith—to be taken over by such an abundance of surrender, we completely lose ourselves to the call of Christ to run beyond our self-preserved path of narcissistic hedonism, ahead into the light of recognizing our need—not for the world’s attention or validation, but God’s promises to make us new, to make us right, and to fulfill us completely

TAKEN OVER BY FAITH

If we truly have been changed, what does that look like? Compassion, grace, mercy, love, peace, empathy, boldness, faithfulness, gratefulness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, and selflessness. Altruism merely becomes the floorboards of the character we are called into through Jesus. In so shining our light back to Him, we do not mistake what our faith translates into, but we express to the world how belief in Christ needs to be: All-consuming, all-renewing, and fully satiating. When we understand the love of God, we don’t miss our old selves, we beg for more of His heart to flood our own—and this, truly, is the sweetest form of desperation in this life we will ever come face-to-face with.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this article with the people around you. 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 leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God remind us all that the picture of Christianity looks like Jesus. Be blessed, readers!!

Opaque

Darling Downs Diaries