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

Recognizing the God Of Love

Truly, what is the purpose of belief in God if the God whose existence that belief acknowledges knows nothing of love, or, more intrinsically, is not itself love incarnate? 

OUR NATURAL STATE OF NEED FOR LOVE

One of the deepest longings we share as humanity is to feel loved unconditionally without criticism or limitation. Many people get caught up in the belief that the source of love derives from within us, as if unconditional love is innate to human beings. But how can this be so if our first desire upon entrance into this life is to have our own needs satisfied? As babies, we are 100% dependent upon parental guidance, provision, and what else—love. Without love and affection, babies don’t survive. Perhaps stated more accurately is how our most innate need is to be loved, but not that love is so innate to us that we naturally breathe it out like God did into Adam’s nostrils, giving the first human being his first breath of sentient existence. What does this matter, why point this out? One of the major arguments of God’s existence today is that He is not a God of love, and if that is so, He must not exist. Where did this distortion come from?

As a sentient race, we are birthed with the malleability to be influenced and shaped by peers, family, culture, and time. When we’re old enough to recognize it within ourselves, we eventually start a search on a road that no one else can pave for us but God. Little do we know, however, that God is the one who paves it, and less likely are we aware when first starting that ultimately it is our need for God to be real which draws our attention to our need for this search.

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN A CORRUPTED WORLD

When considering the atrocities in this world—ranging from poverty to human trafficking and terrorism—evil looks towering and imperious compared to love, forgiveness, peace, or hope. How can the image of an unconditionally loving God fit into the mold of a corrupted world without seemingly denuding the strength of His power like a moth to the flame of the terrors of the world? Or, put differently, how can we claim to see a loving God in full control despite the chaotic state of the world? Very simply, God will not control a human being, but He can soften a heart to listen, and let a person’s heart decide whether they want to join in relationship or resist and stubbornly oppose the invitation into a changed course of action. Basically, a terrorist has the same choice as anyone to deny evil its privileges and to accept God’s command to love and serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. Terrorists, of course, are threatened for their very lives in the face of such a name. The choice then becomes whether or not faith in a man who claimed to be God is worth death in the face of terror, hatred, power, corruption, and the promise of redemption through martyrdom.

GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE

Now, understanding this may help draw empathy for men and women in the face of terrorism perhaps, but it does not justify the results of those who ultimately choose terrorism over faith in a life of love and service in Jesus’s name. How then can we accept the claim of God’s control over the world? Who is control is defined by who is able to dispel evil by delivering justice; not by doing evil, but by acting righteously. The book of Revelations, though intimidating only when it is read without context, is a book filled with pictures of God’s coming wrath, which many wise people understand is the reaction of the love of God—that just as parents would do anything to protect their young ones from harm out of love for them, His promises are to for once and for all eradicate sin and evil from existence. This truth speaks not only of the love of God, but of his omnipotence.

WISDOM AND HONESTY FROM ABOVE

We are desperate to know how such a powerful God feels about evil and wrongdoing:

(Roman 1:18 MSG) But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth.

What is the truth that is “shrouded”? The truth of God’s goodness through Christ, the Good News of redemption through Christ’s resurrection, and the hope of the coming age when Heaven will be the new Earth. A heeding word of advice to the world from God through Paul:

(Ephesians 5:6 MSG) Don’t let yourself get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with Him. Don’t even hang around people like that.

Words of wisdom:

(Romans 1:9-11 MSG) If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what other say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

This speaks to terrorists just as it does any citizen of anywhere. And how does God command us to treat our enemies until the day He returns?

(Romans 12:17-21 MSG) Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 
Our scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

OUR CALL TO LOVE

We are not to carry out vengeance on anyone, instead, we are called to love in the name of Jesus. The command is very simple, though the words land with difficulty when faced in times of temptation or struggle, and excruciatingly trying if we have not found it in ourselves to forgive our wrongdoers the way Christ forgives us. From this we can take away that God is a God who promises vengeance on troublemakers and our enemies, and that we need not encroach upon His promise to do so. The reason why is that we are already to be judged for our own crimes; only God is the righteous judge. In a world full of terror and corruption, poverty, and evil, can we let God have the vengeance while following His command to love others the way He calls us to?

PUNISHMENT FOR SIN

If we cannot believe in a God who loves us enough to die for us Himself in Jesus Christ, then hopefully it will help some of us to remember God promises vengeance on every enemy. Terrorism will not go unavenged. Sex-slavery will not go unavenged. God sees everything and everyone and He hears the calls of those in need. He has not gone remiss, He still loves us with an everlasting love. He loves us enough to let us suffer when He knows He can help us grow as individuals through of the pain, and He loves us enough to be silent at times, allowing us to be aware of our need for Him so we will remember He is a good God when we come running into His open arms.

THE TRUE NATURE OF FAITH

For those of us solely seeking empirical evidence of God in order to prove His existence, we forget faith does not require sight, and we contradictorily demand God prove Himself while we justify our own actions with a morality undefined by anyone but ourselves and a culture as subjective as all the rest. If we do not choose to see the world and look at people through the eyes of God, as we are intended to through faith in Christ—then we will continue to define our lives and ourselves from a limited plane of justification; telling ourselves our justification is legitimate without admitting we are no different from the rest of society telling itself it knows best because “it just does.” Without properly contending the source of morality, who can truly define good or bad? And if we cannot distinguish between good or bad, how can we argue over the existence of a loving God based on whether or not He is good in relation to His ability to love? Truly, if we cannot cross this line without stuttering and stammering, can we really point our fingers at the idea of God and reject Him when we can’t even understand our own argument?

THOUGHTS?

From this article, I would like you to consider the questions posed and carefully examine your current position. The end result could help you understand why your stance on faith in Jesus does or does not make sense, and why. My hope is that with some introspection, prayer, and open-mindedness, you will allow yourself to see these perspectives from a new light, and in so doing, become aware of why you believe what you believe with a stronger sense of peace and confidence. If you have any questions or thoughts you’d feel comfortable sharing, please write in the comments below and I will respond as promptly as I can. I would love to hear from you!

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.. May God bless you all!

Blur

Epic Mommy Adventures

Fighting For the Name Of Jesus

Language is a very powerful tool. As a writer, I’m passionate about learning new words, which is one of the reasons why I intentionally look for challenging books; not only to challenge my brain, but to expand my vocabulary. One of the reasons I’m passionate about learning new words is because I am passionate about being an effective communicator. Effective communication is a helpful tool to use in just about every facet of life, and so I take it seriously to develop my skills in this way.

As a tool, language is loaded with abilities. Language can be a barrier, or it can be a bridge. Words can hurt, and they can inspire. As a Christian, the most upsetting use of language is the vulgarity in hearing Jesus Christ used in a derogatory sense. I also find it ironic that those who claim to be on the fence about Jesus, or directly claim to be an atheist, use Jesus’ name in such a way. If they don’t believe in the man’s story, why use His name?

Hearing this makes me very upset. Jesus has become a very close friend to me through my faith. When I hear His name used disparagingly, I want to address the person with compassion but also with assertiveness, because the name is not to used for anything besides respect or veneration. If a man named Bob heard his name being spoken with a disparaging inflection, I think he would be insulted or hurt as well. Why is Jesus any different? Why use the name if it has no meaning to you? Why not use John Digadee, or Abbott and Castello? I don’t understand why people must use Jesus Christ in vain. There are so many names to use when you’re angry—why choose His name above all the rest?

This bothers me both because I have a personal relationship with Jesus, and because it simply doesn’t make any sense to me. Using the name of someone you claim not to believe in makes you sound moronic and absent-minded, and that’s after claiming whether or not you believe in the God whose story Jesus belongs to—and your disbelief in the God whom Jesus Incarnated as just doesn’t make much sense when you use His name like that. Do you follow?

Do you use the language because of the friends you have, or perhaps the employees you work with? Both? Can they rationalize of the use the name of Jesus in a derogatory sense beyond carelessness? There is literally no reason for it whatsoever. It’s flat out hurtful to the person of Jesus, and it’s offensive to believers of Jesus like me. When I get angry, sometimes, I admit—I will catch myself using a vulgar word—I’m trying to stop—but never Jesus, and never God. For those who claim Jesus either never existed or wasn’t God Incarnate, I respectfully disagree, and I openly ask that you please stop using His name until you have a better reason to. Particularly if you believe in Him as your Lord and Savior, but even if you don’t—it makes even less sense! I hope this point is being hammered into the cement.

With love, readers, I mean to correct you with love. Jesus loves us all, and using His name like that is absolutely unnecessary. Even using other vulgar words is unnecessary, but they are at least more understandable because they have no spiritual foundation. Some vulgar words even have a history which do not have any blasphemous origins; history itself made certain words “vulgar” by their use and context. But Jesus Christ is not one of the names on that list. His name is precious, whether or not that’s what it is to you. For others, like myself, His name is gold, and you pour acid on the gold when you say His name with such arrogant malice. Please, as a believer of Christ, PLEASE—stop using His name until you are praying to Him, or talking about Him with an open mind to someone. His name is too meaningful to use any other way.

If you want to use a name, use John Digadee. I guarantee you that using it will help improve your mood—if not from laughing at using it when you’re angry, then from not using Jesus’ name instead. Either way, using a different name will be much better for not only you, but everyone around you. There are plenty of vocabulary words to use when you’re angry. Just keep His, and God’s—out. Please.

That said, I hope you will take my words into heavy consideration. I care for your heart, and even if you don’t believe Jesus is real today, the power of His name is more powerful than your disbelief. I pray that His love would overcome your lack of desire to know Him and that you might give Him a chance to enter into your heart and ask Him to help you understand Him better. Change your usage of His name from blasphemy to respect and admiration. If nothing else, think of His name as a man who lived a loving, selfless life; there is no reason to use His name when you’re upset. Hopefully, over time, the banality of John Digadee will cause less of a laugh, and you’ll start wondering who Jesus really is. And when that happens, I hope you’ll remember reading this post and look up the book He’s written in: the Bible. There is plenty to read, and more than enough to fall in love with. Please give Him a chance, and please stop using His name blasphemously.

John Digadee, if you exist, I’m sorry for all of this. But I hope you understand my point and will take this hit for Jesus. He took everything else for you.

Filthy

Explication Of Christian Love: What It Means To Receive Jesus

Doubt in the purpose and deity of Christ is a prevalent theme in today’s world. Many times condescended by a castigating skepticism, Christianity can become the contemporary joke for modern folklore, reprimanded for its largely misunderstood and underestimated call to love others, as well as to receive unconditional, eternal love from God.

There seem to be several common denominators for this love relationship between humankind and God. Among them, I believe unmitigated disgust with the ambiguity of human purpose is ranked very highly. I believe, at least in part, there is confusion about the message of God’s love, and that the confusion was brought about by the religiously pious—even in the days Jesus walked the Earth. The very attitude which defined Jesus’ manhood and simultaneously set Him as God Incarnate—His gentle, confident, knowledgeable, infinitely loving nature—is what the religiously pious completely lose sight of. In missing this, those who are quick to judge and slow to love, while claiming to be highly religious, have shunned people– generation to generation—from being fully receptive to Jesus’ unabated love. With knowledge comes pride; people learn about God and sometimes grow proud of their understanding. Rather than apply the knowledge, they abuse it, losing sight of the wisdom derived from humility. They forget to extend Godly love to the needy because they forget they are among the needy, themselves.

Unmerited judgment from these theologically confused, pious believers can feel an awful lot like a contradiction of the love Jesus calls us into, and an intrusion of hypocrisy. Furthermore, when someone who claims to be close to God acts in this way, their distorted expression of love defines religion in the eyes of the weary and the lost, and when an unbeliever experiences the haughty of religion behaving like know-it-alls—rather than experiencing unconditional love from someone living in the hope of Christ’s love, the prospect of faith appears to surrender to fallacy; blood-soaked in religious discrimination, which Jesus never taught.

Forgiveness of sins is definitely a hard topic to uncover, but the heart of the issue is that we are commanded to forgive others in order that God will forgive us. Now, instead of jumping to the conclusion, “I thought it was said that Jesus forgives us no matter what?” This command to forgive others is for the benefit of us seeing how detrimental our bitterness is in the context of our relationship to God; in the context of understanding our sin compared to His perfection. God has forgiven us through Christ–IF we receive, in our hearts, that promise through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His forgiveness is a promise if we receive Jesus’ love sincerely. However, the reception of His promise of forgiveness requires our humility, repentance, and the desire to move forward in His love; away from our desire to satisfy ourselves with indulgence and greed.

Receiving His love does not mean we forget we ever desired to satisfy our sin with greed and indulgences; in fact, we’ll likely fall many, many more times before we see Him again. The difference is that we do not treat our sin with nonchalance and a numbness of spirit anymore. Receiving Jesus’ love means we understand the weight of His holiest promise: eternal life in the presence of God. In understanding its weight, we are transformed by the love that saves us from an eternal life separated from God, and the peace and joy which comes from that promise is what brings our souls to life in a way nothing else ever could. That is the reason why Christianity is humbling: no matter how much we feel the pride of Jesus’ love covering our entire lives, that is NEVER a reason to be condescending, careless, or nonchalant about our words and actions. We can always refer back to Christ, who lived a perfect life, and ask for strength. There is no excuse for us to justify sin when we accept Jesus; only the humility to confess the sin in openness and transparency with Him, and try our hardest to do better moving forward. Pride is justification; humility is striving to do better without so much as an explanation other than “I didn’t mean to cause you harm. Forgive me, I’ll try harder from now on.” The voice of humility is a complement of receiving Jesus in our hearts.

Jesus’ love also translates into the acceptance of who we are as individuals. He always sees every facet of our being; flaws, strengths, the number of hairs on our head, the number of tears we’ve cried, and the number of times we have sinned or will ever sin. And He doesn’t see us with a sigh of disappointment or a loud moan of frustration; He sees us with everlasting love and mercy. Why? What did we do to deserve such fantastic love from the God of the Bible? Nothing. We have never done–nor could we ever do anything. We are loved because He created us to be loved by Him. He chose to love us, and that is why He created us. Think of it this way–parents don’t make babies intentionally just to dispose of them or scoff at them; they procreate so they can spoil the child with love! God wants to spoil us with His love, because we are His children. We don’t always see it that way because we’re busy focusing on everything but His blessings.

These are some of the truths of His blessings:

  1. If you’re breathing without suffocating, it’s a gift from God.
  2. If you can swallow without choking, it’s a gift from God.
  3. if you can move with excruciating pain, it’s a gift from God.
  4. If you can smell, taste, touch, hear, or see the world around you–these are all gifts of God.
  5. If you’re alive–your life is a gift from God!

Think about this the next time you’re sure you aren’t being blessed. And if you are experiencing all of the items in the list above as unchecked, are you being supported by friends or family who want to see you through to your recovery? Are you alone in your journey to healing? If so, your support system is a gift from God.

Please hear me, I do not mean to belittle anyone who is experiencing any kind of pain, or to dismiss anyone’s pain as worthless. My point, and what I would hope you might take from my words–is that God has bestowed us with SO many blessings, we would honesty have to make excuses in order to not give Him credit where it is due. We all experience pain. But we all experience the love of God, as well. He does not leave us empty-handed, even when it may seem like it sometimes.

Experiencing the love of Christ means loving others the way we know Jesus would. Even though you can’t heal people, you can pray for them, you can show them kindness, thoughtfulness, mercy, patience, understanding, grace—and above all, you can tell them about the one inspiring you to be that way. Christianity is a not a faith of the ego, but an ego-check. Christianity is not about egocentrism; what’s in our hearts must be shared because it’s too invigorating, too important, and too purposeful to keep to ourselves. The love of Christ is the key to the lock of our soul—a key we didn’t even know existed before we realized our hearts were locked shut with doubt, shame, regret, and the excuse of transient pleasures masking the wounds of our empty hearts. We need Jesus more than we realize.

Without faith, the whole world looks very different. When I was an atheist, I appreciated very little about my surroundings. I was heavily enamored with the desire for lust because human relationship filled the hole in my soul where I resisted my need for God presence. There was nothing as ecstatic as the idea of a romantic relationship, because human love is a bridge to–and representative of– our love with Christ–hence Jesus is the “groom” of the church, with the church (community of all Christ-followers) is the “bride”. That said, I was only seeing the first half of the equation. Lust was all that mattered to me; Christ was just a distant religious joke that made as much sense as pickles and mustard. Very different from what I understand now as a Christian.

My understanding of both sides of the fence is what inspires me to write this to you, so that you would understand someone like me, who once viewed Christianity with facetious mockery, now worships the deity of Christ because I understand the importance of Jesus’ love as more significant and purposeful than the void of an Godless life, where purpose is only moment-to-moment, defined by society and instant gratification; not life everlasting through Jesus calling me to action through love, grace, and forgiveness.

Where instant gratification gives me what I want now, it simultaneously strips me of retaining my sense of meaning and purpose once the satisfaction wears off. Instant gratification is like a drug/alcohol buzz: once the buzz is over, everything wrong with the world comes flooding back into my mind. That is empirical evidence in direct opposition of the ideology of selfish pleasures masquerading as the definition of purpose in life. Believing in selfish ambition as the replacement for “What else is there to live for?” is just as empty and vacuous as a picture without any hint of dexterity. Art can’t be art without the artist; likewise, life isn’t life without its Creator—and humanity didn’t create itself. Making up as many as thousands of excuses as to how humanity arrived on the scene of Earth is not as fulfilling as believing that a loving God created us to be fulfilled in the promise of His love; once accepting that following His love also commands us to to love others the same way—forgiving them and treating them with the same kindness and mercy God did when He came down in the flesh as Jesus. We could argue all day about where humanity comes from, but at the end of the day, the question may actually deviate from the point of a scientific origin story and culminate with a theology that invites us into a purpose both worthy of striving for, and exciting to embrace.

What I want to leave you with is that there is more to Christianity than the judgment you may have experienced. The love of Christ is so much more important than someone correcting your wrongs by condemning you. We need to check the log in our own eyes before we pick at the spec in others’ eyes. As much as we need not let someone do that to us, we also need to be encouraged not to close ourselves off from receiving love from those who understand Christ’s call to love us as brothers and sisters of God’s family. That is what we’re being called into, and that is what we embrace as Christians.

If you have any questions you would like answered–whether about this post or what you might like addressed for a Part 2, please leave those questions in the comments below. If you enjoy reading these posts and would like to read more, please feel free to follow my blog and share it with others you think would benefit from reading about the message of Christ. I am passionate to tell you about what Christ’s love has done for me, and what it’s still doing, as well as to clarify so many confusions about the Christian faith. In the end, what happens from clarity is there is a transformation of the heart from rock hard to soft and open, and that is when Jesus can enter. That is what I want for you, as a Christian writer; that you may experience the love of Christ in your heart when you’re most vulnerable and susceptible to feel it completely.

May you be blessed while reading this and I pray you walk away with some newfound understanding that you may not have had. In the very least, I hope you are reminded that Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done, and it’s up to you whether or not you receive that love and live into its promise to transform you from the inside. Jesus is the key; the answer. Will you let Him be that for you? If so, let this be a new day for you. If not, may He help you to understand and embrace that His love is everlasting, compassionate, confident; steadfast and eternal. He will never stop loving you, even if you can’t believe He already does.

Let that soak in. May He transform you, if that is your desire today. In Jesus name.

Transformation

Recognizing the Broken Soul In the Mystery Of Faith

 

Before I received Jesus into my life, I was an atheist; and before I was an atheist, I was raised Catholic in a very traditional church where repetition seemed more sacred than relationship, and repentance more emphasized than forgiveness or community. The concept of God always seemed a one-dimensional idea that didn’t breathe, feel, or matter, and therefore it never pulled at me during those years. I didn’t pray because I didn’t have any faith in receiving an answer, and also because I didn’t believe with my heart that there was even a God listening. 

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & IDENTITY

During the end of seventh grade, when I was going on 14—I began weight-lifting to get in shape for the football season the following fall. What I eventually grasped, after playing for one season and disliking it at the time—was that I only had a passion for muscle-building. I enjoyed my time in the weight room far more than my time on the field. Once I fully realized my interest for weight-lifting as a bodybuilding exercise and not as preparation for any specific sport, I began idolizing muscle-building, putting more emphasis on working out my body to receive attention from society than on challenging my mind and soul to stretch and understand the esoteric of the supernatural and the theological. If I couldn’t work out, it was a big deal because I had associated looking strong as a part of my identity; trying to act strong with my body without actually being strong of heart or pertinacious of will.

Years of this mentality drove me to take offense when anyone would label me as thin or weak, because I tried so hard to be the opposite. Truth is, I only weighed 155lbs, but my pride told me I was 200lbs of muscle. In fact, my pride convinced me that my identity had to be stronger than I really was, and it rejected the humility of accepting that I was holding myself back from my true potential. What my true potential was—or what I learned it was later on—obviously had nothing to do with my muscular physique. But I was stubbornly clinging to the artificiality of strength for power in a lifestyle void of spiritual purpose or meaning.

From where does our desire for power derive from? Everyone wants to feel powerful, but not always in the same way. Some people want power in the form of wealth, where others want power in the form of fear or intimidation. I wanted power in the form of strength, volition, and recognition/validation. And while none of these related to my true potential, they all drove me towards the desire for a purpose that made sense to a heart lacking belief in the supernatural; I didn’t believe in God, therefore power and validation were my reasons to breathe and to live for the next moment, the next hour—and even for tomorrow.

UNINSPIRED BY RELIGION

The impersonal aspects and disconnects of my childhood religion–preceding the trauma of my parents’ divorce, grandparents’ death, and being forced to cope with the repercussions of such drastic life changes–were still my reasons not to return to some one-dimensional religious system. However, looking back now, lacking faith in God changed everything for the worse.

There was a time in my life when I was only open to the topic of God if I was allowed to exit as soon as possible. I remember choosing to restrain my capacity to accept the topic of the possibility of God’s existence to enter the conversation long enough to make me think. Now, I consider myself a very deep thinker, and quite analytical, but at the time I was an atheist, I was “deep” in that I was studious about the psychology of the mind; not so much the influence and influx of spiritual matters and their pertinence to human purpose.

I obstinately rejected the consideration of a world in which supernatural forces could coincide with the existence of mankind; where the insidious actions of some God seemed to leave behind a trail of devastation, heartache, misery, and pain.

PAIN, EVIL, TRAUMA, & GOD

What I failed to understand as an atheist, and one of the ways I now relate to atheists today, or even agnostics who aren’t sure of what they believe—is that pain, suffering, heartache, and even devastation—these are all circumstances God allows so we will call out to Him for help, closure, and guidance; where His response will not be to eradicate the danger or to rescind the trauma, but to guide us through our hurt and pain.

Does this all sound too technical or cliche? To rephrase: God uses trauma to help us to draw near to Him.

Another common argument I hear brought up is that if there is a God, He is evil because He allows evil. If you are someone who believes God causes evil, however, then you have misplaced the Devil with God, confusing the two by making the mistake of allocating evil to one spiritual force, and ignoring the other. Basically, you are–whether intentionally or not—dismissing the fact that there is not one, but two separate spiritual forces at play simultaneously: God and the Devil (good and evil). Ultimately, you absolutely cannot have one without the other while on Earth. To argue that point, you would have to claim that love can exist without evil—and on the plane of Earth, free will is what convolutes the nature between choosing one over the other. This picture of free will is what creates the undeniable schism between love and hate; good and evil. Free will dictates the extraordinary dichotomy in which humans have ably produced the atrocities of generations past, as well as the blessings of goodness in human history (good samaritans, acts of selflessness without credit or reward, etc.). The choice to love can replace—or override—the choice to do evil, because in order to decide on one and not the other, one must be decided against. Primordially, choice is what gave birth to sin to begin with: Choice (pride over humility) was what transformed Lucifer into Satan.

Therefore, God and the Devil cannot both be evil, otherwise love could not exist. But since we know love does exist, both of the spiritual forces cannot be evil. One must contradict the other in order for us to raise the dichotomy of their differences in debate, transmuting the concept of morality into a reality we can see, touch, taste, and smell.

For instance, the taste of flesh is connotative of cannibalism and, depending on which culture you reference—for the majority of people, cannibalism is considered “bad.” However, does it make a difference whether or not the person being cannibalized is an adult or newborn baby? Does your conscience not speak into this discussion and call for a timeout? If that is not an explicit indicator of the existence of morality, what is?

As an atheist, none of these thoughts were even given the light of day. Not until years into discovering Christ did I even give them any consideration to make sense of them at all. What’s important to me now is that I share where I am with people who are open to receiving it, and that I try to be as gentle as possible out of respect of understanding where they are now, considering where I was, many years ago.

GRACE AND MORALITY

For those who don’t believe in the love of Jesus–extending grace may at times becomes not a gift from one person to another in the name of something bigger than themselves, but rather the scoff of resentment for having to go out of the way to do good, and to be genuine about doing it. I remember as an atheist, I cared so much about what others thought of me that a lot of times, my actions were only influenced by my intention to get a reaction from the crowd. In hindsight, this indicated a lot of my actions were influenced by my desire to be accepted by others, and not by authenticity.

I witness so many secular-minded people dismissing morality as too complex to discuss, and theology as too unbelievable to process, and yet–magic seems a feasible topic because, when transfused subtly, it doesn’t require God or Jesus to be interjected in order to be validated. What also seems confusing and distorted to others–and what was distorted for me growing up in the Catholic church–is that God requires religion to initiate contact with. That is something I strongly disagree with. In fact, I detest religion, myself, as a Christian. I consider Christianity a walk of faith, not a religion, because to me–religion signifies rules, obligations, and false pretenses (“Talk the talk but not walk the walk.” Or, as another example, those who go to church and pretend to have it all together, just to leave the same way they walked in: unchanged and not trying to improve). I was raised to believe religion was the only way to God, but I’ve learned that Jesus wants intimacy; not false pretenses. I was convinced that God was a God of rules and expectations—not to mention a God who allows trauma because He is careless; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Now I understand religion is not the way Jesus ever taught us to follow Him—He taught us the way was through HIM; through loving God, others, and ourselves, the way He loves us.

JESUS DESIRES INTIMACY

What I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t want me to come to Him uncomfortably in some formal fashion, but rather, He wants me to come to Him to build an intimate relationship with Him as Savior of my life and best friend, recognizing and worshiping His deity while also admiring His precious sin-consuming humanity (Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself when He was crucified; therefore He consumed all of our sin and paid the price for all of us at the same time). I couldn’t love Him more for that. And, if you will accept that into your heart—that is your choice, after all—could you not love Him for that as well—for being worth deifying and also worth the admiration of a best friend? Jesus is not just some character in a book; He is as real as anyone you know. I didn’t understand this truth until I was in my mid-twenties! You may not be ready yet, but I want to encourage you to open your mind and try to seek further into this truth for yourself.

My prayer for you is that you’ll come to understand whatever area of your life this represents, and that you’ll try to seek out the Truth for yourself. Whatever that means for you, I pray you will pursue this for your own sake so that you have answers where now, you have none. May you be blessed in that search, and may you do it authentically, putting intentional effort into uncovering whatever mystery is blocking you from living into the building of your soul, and not the hopes that this world will ever get you what you want. What you want is to feel important, validated, cared for, and loved. Intimacy, right? Guess what? God planted those desires in your soul, He knows what they are and why they are there; even why they are unique to you. Why don’t you try talking to Him about that, and see how He responds? It would be a great conversation starter:

“God, I’m not even sure if you exist… but You know me better than I know myself. Please help me to see you in my life, and in my heart. Help me walk away from my distortions of you, and towards the Truth that you are my loving Father. You know what is best for me, and You want that for me. Please help me to move towards what that is in my life. I have never tried trusting you before, but I want to trust you now. I’m sorry for ignoring You and not putting more time into understanding Your intentions for me. I want to try to do that now. Please meet me where I am, and help me to feel Your presence in my life now. In Jesus name.”

BE BLESSED!!

Artificial