Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2

A CHURCH FOUNDED ON JESUS’S LOVE

When my Christian friend from college met me at a Starbucks the week after we had attended a church in Orlando together, he asked me if I wanted a relationship with Jesus. I was hesitant because I didn’t completely understand what faith in Jesus meant. But, what I had gathered from visiting the church together was how different Christianity was from the Catholicism I had been raised around. The difference was significant enough to make me feel immediately welcomed; this church was a place I didn’t feel resistant to. The church we visited played invigorating Christian music and a pastor who was more passionate about speaking of the love of Jesus and His power to transform lives, and nothing about shame or guilt. This immediately grabbed my attention, considering what I had experienced the previous 10 years.

THE REAL JESUS

Growing up, my family had not prayed for anything other than our food before dinner, sometimes not even then. Our prayers, however, were not directed at Christ, but God—and I never really knew who the God was I was praying to. He was the one we prayed to, sure, but there was nothing personal about Him. That was the main difference between the anonymous God that I grew up not taking seriously and this Jesus Christ of the Bible… I had never understood Him, nor had I cared to. Now that Jesus’s true nature was being revealed to me through this new church and my Christian friend, I was beginning to see not a religion with rules and rituals, but a man with morals, humility, feelings, intentions, thoughts, experiences, integrity—and Lordship. But it wasn’t so much the Lordship of Christ that drew me in at the beginning as much as His humanity.

“Yes,” I told my friend. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but I wasn’t signing any contracts or giving away my social security number. I was going to discover more of who Jesus was, and go from there.

WITNESSING JESUS’S IMPACT

Nothing happened right away. Faith came in gradual steps and moments; conversations, Bible studies, questions and answers, prayer, and time spent getting to know the stories of the Bible with more context. I had never even known there were “translations” of the Bible and that certain translations made the Bible easier to follow without changing the meaning or significance of a single story inside. That intrigued me. When my Christian friend (and my roommate at the time) helped me find a Bible translation which was easier for me to read (It was the NIV at the time), he also helped explain what I was reading based on Bible studies he’d had with spiritual mentors of his own. His stories were insightful and sometimes playful and funny. I could see my friend had developed a healthy relationship with Jesus, and so his genuine mix of humility and confidence were striking. My thoughts became, “Is this what it’s like to know Jesus?” The anger of my previous 10 years was beginning to subside, and a deeper-rooted understanding was taking its place. I was beginning to realize that the message about the Bible that I thought I knew as an atheist was either based on distortions I had gathered along the way, or they were assumptions I’d made based on the limited scope of an understanding of the stories I had read with people focused more on guilt, shame, and repentance than on love, mercy, forgiveness, and healing.

MORALITY AND LUST

Like I mentioned in Part 1, I turned to lust when all else failed to soothe my pain. When I learned about Jesus and His integrity, as well as His teachings, I came to realize that the way I was desiring women was very misplaced. Not so much that I viewed them as sexual objects, but I viewed women as though they were the solution to my problems; my emotional problems. With Jesus, I learned faith is the solution to a dead life. When I applied what this meant to my life, many things changed. One of the changes was that I recognized the way God loved women through Jesus, and that there was a call to love women the way Jesus loved the church (community of believers). This image of love was inviting, and clearly more healthy than my approach had been. It was a beautiful picture of what love should look like, and it was a reality I wanted to embrace as my own. That meant changing my thinking, my motives, and my perspective of pain and solutions.

This helped me, tremendously, to appreciate and admire women more than need them. While God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) He did not add that man is incomplete without a woman. To me, that meant that God wanted us to have companionship, but He wasn’t suggesting that man needed a woman in order to be complete. Again, all of this changed my view of women—whereas before they were the solution to my pain, now they were people who I respected, admired, and wanted to see more with the eyes of God.

HEALING FATHER WOUNDS

When I first brought up my new faith to my dad, he too had found Christianity from another church in Michigan. I was shocked and pleased, because for the first time in my entire life, we related to something meaningful and intrinsic. Also, for the longest time, my dad and I didn’t really speak for more than once every few months. But that changed to once every couple of weeks during my slow transition into becoming Christian. I wanted to know that my dad had Jesus, and I wanted to develop an emotionally deep relationship with him in ways we had missed out on during my adolescence. Over the course of almost 8 years, we have come a long way, and we are much closer now than we ever were before I left Michigan to go to college.

A SON’S LOVE FOR HIS MOTHER

While growing up, I had looked up to my mom like a god because she was authoritarian, strict, and always seemingly knowledgeable. When I found Christ, I realized how powerless my mom had always been. Her emotional outbursts also became crystal clear to me; she hadn’t been upset because of me, but because of separate issues from far before I ever came along. When I grasped this truth, a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and instead of continuing to feel sorry for myself, I prayed that God would lift the weight off of her shoulders as well. My faith has also enabled me to see my mom in a healthier way, loving her where she is in every aspect of her life, rather than feeling tormented by our differences.

I’ve prayed, so many times, for Him to show Himself to her in a way that would soften her heart and help her to see, feel, and intimately experience His love for her in a way she couldn’t miss. Up to this day, I continue to pray. She has a stubborn heart, and I love her, truly and deeply for it. I continue imagining how much glory to God she would give if she aimed that stubbornness in the direction of passionately evangelizing about the love of Christ in her life.

THE BLESSING OF INNER-TRANSFORMATION

After learning that Jesus was a wise, personal, loving, intelligent, spiritual, knowledgeable man with incredible insight and presence, I had to know more. What I can tell you is the more I’ve discovered, the more I can’t help but want more.

Ultimately, the pain I experienced that led me to my bathtub so many years ago has been replaced with a hope I can finally explain. I know Jesus is real because I’ve spoken with Him, experienced Him, and I continue to pursue my faith in Him because I understand now that He was working in me all along. I truly believe His love was pouring into my heart when I tried to kill myself and that that was what drew me from the water; that His hand scooping me out was His response to my screams for a reason not to die. I believe He didn’t want to lose me then, and that He doesn’t want to lose me now. I truly believe the divorce was His way of asking me to take faith seriously and to find Him in a way that would ensure I wasn’t “following the crowd,” but rather, choosing Him on my own accord.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking Him, “Couldn’t you have done that a little less drastically?” But, really, who are we to question God’s motives? If He can align all that is needed to maintain the universe from imploding or exploding, does He not also have the strength and foresight to know what we need and how we need it in order to mold us into our best selves? Would we really claim that we know any better?

THE NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY

Being a Christian doesn’t mean a person is perfect, and it doesn’t mean that a person knows everything. To me, being a Christian means 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.

THE POWER OF MERCY

This may be new for some of you, so please feel free to leave your thoughts in comments below if you have a different perspective which you would like to share. The way I view this is, we are all sinners—that is, we would all fall short of our purpose in Christ if we did not have Jesus’s mercy, and therefore no one would deserve anything but the consequence for their actions. However, because of Jesus’ mercy on us, His mercy says, “You’ve sinned, and it requires a debt (a consequence). But because I love you, I’ve taken your punishment upon myself and paid, with my life, the debt which you originally owed me. Now, you don’t have to worry about paying me back. Go and love others, living in the joy of knowing that you are debt-free.” That, to me, is mercy.

We can extend mercy to others on behalf of the mercy we receive from God through Jesus, but mercy requires forgiveness, grace, and love—and we do not have this power without God first extending it to us. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between Christianity and any other faith. This is another massive part of the reason Christianity drew me in and continues to do so today.

A NEW JOY AND HOPE

I still fall and make mistakes constantly. But I believe what is important, both for me and any person willing to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, is that we can seek refuge in Him (Psalm 119:114) who has already experienced our consequence for us. We need to ask for His strength to move us to action, and to continually replenish our souls with hope and joy. To me, this is no longer cliché, because I’ve experienced what having faith in Jesus feels like in my mind, soul, and body. 

If you have not experienced this, I hope and pray that by reading my testimony, you will feel encouraged to open yourself to Jesus and experiencing the fullness that comes with living in relationship with Him. Truly, faith in Jesus changes everything from the inside out: Our perspective of pain, our view of purpose in life, the meaning of everything large and small, and not needing to have all the answers.

MADE NEW IN CHRIST

After all that I’ve been through, Jesus words, “I am making all things new,” makes so much sense to me now. He made me new, starting at a soul level by giving me a purpose (writing). He made my relationship with my father new by connecting us through our faith; he made my relationship with my mom new by clarifying that only He is God—and by placing the desire in my heart for her to know His love the way I have come to know it. He even renewed my desire for love by providing the healthiest way to view women through His own eyes. I cannot imagine my life now without Jesus having intervened when He did. I was ready to die, but now I’m ready to live. So, without a doubt:

Trust Him, listen to him, love him, choose Him, and continually pray (speak) to Him. He will never forsake you.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with what you read in this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined before. In Jesus name!

Heal

The Rationality Of God’s Existence

I grew up all too closely to the terms “gullible” and “naive,” when my people at school would speak disparagingly in my direction. Even my siblings seemed to tower over me at times with what seemed to be such an experience beyond that of my own. In hindsight, I understand now that I hadn’t lived my own life in such a challenging environment where my character and soul could find its greatest match. As an adult, however, I have come to see what matters in life by living far beyond that of my comfort zones and familiarity; not just on the subjective scale of what matters most to me, but from watching the news from others’ (if political) perspective of importance, from witnessing the political and spiritual altercations of social media (users denigrating others for their beliefs rather than trying to understand the source of another’s perspective), gleaning from research-based books regarding the psychology of the mind and spirit from a global standpoint; reading the Word of God, living in several places over the last eight years, and experiencing friendship after friendship—gaining an understanding of humanity through the way people live and think over the course of many years, discovering the soul behind their decisions, actions, and belief systems. One of the many things I have learned through these experiences has taught me what procures gullibility, what reinstates naivety, and what has the power to motivate us beyond them both.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

What I want to do is take the concepts of gullibility and naivety and help clarify to others what it means to be gullible and naive with regards to faith in Jesus. The reason why I want to write this is because I believe there is an association made in error towards those of faith; that faith itself is a naive approach to life, and that gullibility is the approach of a person who might consider something like faith. My hope is that when we are finished, we will have a new, or hopefully refreshed perspective on what we believe makes a person naive or gullible with regards to the value which they place in faith.

THE DETRIMENTS OF PRESUMPTION

Being easily persuaded to believe something is synonymous with the unwillingness to slow down enough to understand the belief behind the persuasion. That is gullibility. Gullibility is not synonymous with stupidity, but with the laziness in choosing not to understand the source merit of a promise, accepting instead a false promise on the basis of its own uncredited merit. 

Gullibility is the consummation of an unmerited promise with the unknown. When we are gullible, we take our presumptions to a level where we expect our beliefs to explain the complexities by which the entire world operates. For instance, we may expect certain people to be nice, others to be trustworthy, and yet others to be dangerous and hostile. While there are many ways we construct these lists in our minds, the core problem is centered on the way we are presuming our beliefs based on limited information and expecting the digestion and retention of that limited information to form a complete picture. Gullibility is like preparing a gourmet meal made of cheese, bread, and crackers, and surprised when it refuses to satisfy our craving for flavor.

GOD’S EXISTENCE: TWO VIEWS THAT EXPLAIN ITS RATIONALITY

The secular argument against Christianity hits a scabrous dry wall when it claims believers cannot prove the Biblical God’s existence as a rational belief. I have two points I would like to propose in this article which contend with the secular view that God’s existence is irrational. My first point can be made in Timothy Keller’s book, Making Sense Of God, where he writes six compelling reasons why, rationally speaking, it makes more sense to believe God exists than to believe He doesn’t.

#1 – THE UNOBVIOUS

The six ways which he lists (although he admits there are more) are cosmic wonder (something cannot come from nothing, so where did everything come from that has come to exist?), perceived design (“In terms of probability, the chances that all of the dials ((speed of light, gravitational constant, and strength of the strong and weak nuclear forces)) would be turned to sustain life-permitting settings all at once are about 10 to the 100th power”), moral realism (most everyone can agree that there are certain deeds that are simply “wrong,” no matter how ones feels about it. But without God, this sense of moral obligation has no basis), consciousness (the fact that we are “conscious, idea-making” individuals points more rationally to a conscious, idea-making God—rather than the empty notion that our consciousness is “no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”), beauty and reason (our aesthetic senses tell us there is a difference between the hormonal response to a woman’s voluptuous shape, and our awe in capturing a beautiful landscape; although they both derive from our admiration of beauty, only one can be traced back as an evolutionary advantage used in ancient times for survival ((man’s attraction to the female body as a sign of the woman’s fertility, and reproduction was a means for survival)), the other cannot—making it a more viable explanation that beauty is a God-given gift unassociated with anything survival-related. Our sense of reason cannot break this down because there is no scientific breakthrough or explanation for it, but belief in a personal God of reason certainly can).

#2 –  TESTIMONY

My second point regards the power of personal testimony. My testimony, as well as everyone who has been born again—has a story. Each story has a tragedy and a rebirth. The tragedy appears to be death itself to the person while they are still living the life of disbelief, viewing pain as a curse from the universe and tragedy as a reason to declare as obsolete the idea of a loving God. Trauma coerces the unbelieving heart, causing it to be subjected to the detriments of presumption; imagining if there is a God, the only God that must exist is evil because He allows evil to happen to “good people.” But who defines what is good or bad?

The response to this comes in the form of Timothy Keller’s point on moral reasoning (a phenomenal chapter in Making Sense Of God), which states that if people believe there are certain moral absolutes–certain deeds which are strictly “good” or “bad” regardless of people’s feelings about the aforementioned deeds—that we are bereft of an argument claiming there is no God from which our moral sense derives from to claim a person is either good or bad. If we cannot route our sense of morality back to ancient times for the purpose of survival, nor associate the origin of morality to the theory of evolution (neither of which could adequately explain the way humans view morality, let alone moral absolutes today), then we are without a reason to claim that our sense of morality isn’t in itself a compelling reason to believe in the existence of a personal, moral God by which to define whether a person is good or bad.

HOW THE RATIONALITY OF GOD’S EXISTENCE EXPLAINS OUR PURPOSE

Many times, unbelievers (like myself, many years ago) fall prey to the detriment of presumption without understanding their reason for blaming or denying certain ideologies and their foundations. Without first explicating theology or the origins of such dichotomous concepts such as morality, our presumptions that our disbelief is rooted in anything firm or auspicious cannot lead to a life where what we do, how we think, or what we believe has any transformational impact on the way we live our lives. And why would we need anything to act as a transformational impact? Because each and every person desires purpose for their lives, whether they can acknowledge it, recognize it, perceive it or not—and the only way we can explain our intrinsic need for purpose is to understand where we come from so that we can understand more clearly where we’re going—which in itself is the substance of the journey we are on called life, where we constantly ask ourselves why we are still here.

So you can see, the main difference between a believer and an unbeliever when altercating over God’s existence is that the unbeliever demands empirical proof, while the believer understands that the only way for an unbeliever to find the rational explanation he is searching for is to surrender their unknowns to faith, acknowledging that the questions without answers are actually answerable with the belief in a personal, loving, moral, omnipresent God who created us to be in relationship with Him above all else.

TESTIMONY PAINTS A PICTURE RATIONALITY WANTS TO BELIEVE

Through testimony, the transformation that occurs within a person is unmatched with any other experience because the transformation triggers so deep within a person that their entire character is made new; the way they speak is inspired with new words of hope and faith, their thoughts are reformed with optimism and joy; their actions are made new with the decision to love others in noticeable, impactful ways because they are first loved by a personal God named Jesus who died in their place and rose again. This kind of testimony is unmatched, and rationality cannot explain it; but it wants to believe that this transformation is possible because to be able to understand it is to transform how rationality itself functions altogether. If rationality could understand the way transformation on a soul-level works, it would not contradict faith because it would understand that the basis for faith does not require ratiocination, but simply an open mind, a receptive heart, and a willing soul.

NAIVETY CANNOT EXPLAIN MARTYRDOM

To claim a Christian is naive for believing in Jesus as Lord is in itself irrational because to claim that the transformation of an atheist into a Christian is naive is to say that their transformation is an illusion, or that they’re really just faking it. Can we really claim someone would be so naive as to die for their faith? When we consider how many Christians are killed for their faith in Christ, we must argue that these people are not naive, but rather that they are committed, loyal, and faithful to a belief something beyond that of rationality and logic. They are not committed to numbers, formulas, rituals, or religion, and they aren’t committed to the idea that everything exists “just because,” no, they claim that their loving God died for them in the flesh and that His resurrection is their saving grace from a life spent believing that their every deed done in His name goes unnoticed and without any meaning.

Naivety declares that a person lacks wisdom, experience, or judgment, and yet, as we have seen from both Timothy Keller’s argument in his rational thesis for God’s existence—as well as personal testimony of any and all Christians—naivety cannot explain someone whose life has been transformed so deeply within that their entire experience is made new in both perspective (mindset) and in lifestyle (action).

THE REFLECTION OF GULLIBILITY

To claim believers are gullible is a weak argument targeted for those who never read the Word, never attend a Bible study, who do not enter a church building and spend time worshipping with community, and who preach the gospel but who live hypocritical lives full of adultery, substance abuse, vulgarity, laziness, narcissism, and ostentatious pride. People who claim they know Jesus but are quick to judge others have yet to see the log in their own eye, as much as they have yet to fully receive and accept the love and forgiveness from Christ in their hearts.

A FAITH THAT ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS OF RATIONALITY AND RESCINDS NAIVETY

Gullibility is a believer who agrees with the words being spoken but doesn’t understand their purpose; who consequently isn’t transformed, and therefore cannot put on display how Jesus has impacted him on an intrinsic level. Gullibility is a man (or woman) who hears the Word of God but who only hears its words, rather than receiving the promise it declares. The Word of God is meant to inspire us, to teach us, to challenge us, and to transform us—and when it doesn’t, what’s happened is that the reader has rejected the free gift of life promised through Jesus, given us by God Himself. The Bible is the story of the redemption of humanity through Jesus, and when a believer is called naive for believing that, the only viable argument is that the person initiating the claim has not received the promise that is the purpose of the Bible. Without receiving the promise as a life-changing transformation, rationality remains to be its own explanation of faith, condemning “belief in the unknown” to be proactive gullibility; when in truth, faith in God fills in the blanks which rationality leaves behind by not dismissing the unknowns with excuses rooted in detrimental presumptions, and answering the questions of rationality with the empirical truth of testimony.

CONNECT WITH ME

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

Prudent

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

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

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

INNER STRENGTH & SURRENDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRINGING TRANSFORMATION BACK IN THE ROOM

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

ENCOMPASSED BY FAITH

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

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

BRINGING THE PARTS TOGETHER

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

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

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

THE EXAMPLE WE ARE FOR THE WORLD

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

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

THOUGHTS?

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

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

Center

Platitudes, Wisdom, & God: Part 2… Transformation & Inspiration

After I finished Part 1, I realized there was more material I would need to cover before reaching the latter thoughts and questions which ended Part 1. What I’d like to do in this article is challenge and explicate the difference between what it means to be inspired, and what it means to be transformed, by explaining how they are different and why the difference is important to understand moving forward to Part 3.

To begin, think about this: When we are inspired, we consider and appreciate alternatives to what we already think and know; when we are transformed, our way of thinking changes the way we live

THE FACETS OF TRANSFORMATION

Coming to understand what transformation is, also considers understanding what transformation is not. Basically, transformation (with regards to Christianity) is the recognition of our faults (selfishness, pride, etc.), and the recognizable changes made by surrendering these to God. Transformation is not losing our identity, but finding it through a more fulfilling source. How do we surrender? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we can’t surrender to air; we need a relationship. We can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn’t exist. Likewise, we need to invite Jesus into our heart so we can speak to Him directly and hear from Him intimately. Letting go of selfishness also requires us to seek the opposite of selfishness—so, selflessness—and in so doing, we make room in our hearts where there was previously the clutter of selfish choices that put ourselves ahead of the rest of the world, and God. When Jesus comes into our hearts, and we share a discussion with Him, the feeling is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. And why is that? Jesus doesn’t judge, criticize, blame, or belittle—He loves. That’s it.

Now, loving doesn’t exclude being honest and authentic, and Jesus certainly inhabits these traits as well. Honesty many times means bringing the truth to the surface, and the truth sometimes hurts because we don’t want to look at it. In this way, Jesus is more real than a human being because He brings what is most important about us to the surface of our heart, and asks us to take a good look at it so that we recognize the problem without any confusion. He doesn’t do this to shove it in our face, but to be unmistaken; He wants to be absolutely sure we don’t stay the same after our encounter with Him. How can we be our best self if we stay the same? How can we be our best self if we hold back what shames us the most and never deal with it, process it, or move away from it? Jesus knows this far better than we do, and when He brings it to the surface and asks us to look at it head-on, He’s holding our hand, patiently waiting for us to ask, “What do I need to do?” He’s already got the answer, but He loves us enough to allow us to want to change on our own accord. In other words, He loves us enough to let us choose what He already knows we need. Our God truly is a loving God.

HOW INSPIRATION COMPARES

We are inspired by people who do things we cannot do, or things we will not do, but which impress us nonetheless. Now, what inspires us may or may not influence us to do anything different, and this is the key difference between inspiration and transformation. Inspiration says “Isn’t this great? Don’t you want to try it?” Transformation on the other hand will say, “If you want this, you’re going to have to do this.” In other words, inspiration allows room for us to sit still with our mouthes hanging open in awe. It motivates us to want to do more than sit still, to move beyond ourselves and into something more; but transformation on the other hand, occurs behind that motivation. That is, transformation occurs below the surface of inspiration, as the substance that invigorates us with the passion to be motivated. For example, I feel inspired to cook when I see my friend cooking in his kitchen like it’s no big deal, despite how I hate cooking and have never enjoyed doing so. Now, that inspiration occurs each time I watch someone cook who enjoys cooking; I’m inspired by their passion to cook, but I am not transformed by watching them cook. In other words, I do not feel called to cook, no matter how inspired I am. I do try to be a little more healthy for my own sake afterwards—especially after watching my friend bake a succulent chicken breast with lemon juice. But I rarely cook, even after watching him at work with his madly impressive culinary skills. 

On the other hand, I have been transformed from the inside out, and how I can tell the difference is that, for one instance, for 15 years I had been writing song lyrics and poetry dedicated to my anger, frustration, and bitterness about life. Writing had become an outlet for my negative emotions beginning a couple of years after my parents divorced. I wrote for me in order to express myself. Where, you ask, is the transformation in that if I’ve been writing all along? The transformation is in that ever since I started writing my blog almost 14 months ago, I rarely ever write songs anymore because I feel an absolutely irresistible urge to share the way Jesus has impacted my life, how that impact is worth living for, sharing, and evangelizing about. I’m not on here to preach, I am on here to share my testimony and how if Jesus works in my life so dramatically and transformationally, I want the whole world to experience this—this inner joy that never came from any other source throughout my almost 30 years of existence.

HOW TRANSFORMATION AFFECTS US POSITIVELY

My relationship with Jesus transformed my view of family as well. I used to believe family was only blood; now I fully believe sometimes family isn’t blood at all, that family is where the heart is, and my heart belongs to Jesus, first and foremost. My writing belongs to Him as well, not to me. And I rarely write my songs anymore, not because I feel obligated to write here instead, but because I have so little negative to write about. Every several months, I have something significant that knocks me off my axis point and writing about it helps me process my feelings. But I remember Jesus’s goodness and blessings in my life, and how my life has changed for the better since my faith began, and suddenly writing about my feelings leads me back to wanting to tell all of you how Jesus is real, and that His love is transformational!

I was inspired to hear how Jesus had worked in my friend’s life when I met him in college, and how others had been transformed as I went to church in Florida and then moved to live in California, and soon enough, I began realizing what I was learning about wasn’t about inspiration, but that it ran far deeper than that. I learned that in order to experience what my friends had experienced, a personal experience was needed, and that required a surrender on my part I had never given space or time to before. This was the seed to transformation for me. This is how I learned transformation begins in the heart, and inspiration originates in the brain. With inspiration, our minds recognize the way something we learn is better than our current knowledge base (like the example of my friend’s cooking), but nothing inside of us feels the need to do anything different. When I read about Jesus and listened to my friends describe how He not only inspired them but changed their hearts entirely and re-shifted their deepest desires in the direction of loving others in His name, that went beyond my mind—that went straight to my heart. God doesn’t just inspire through the selfless life of Christ in the Bible, He transforms with Jesus’s resurrection and allows us to ask how we can live differently when we understand the adventure He calls us into through receiving Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

See, inspiration can regard just about anything: Cooking healthier, exercising more, visiting church more often, wearing more stylish clothes, listening to cooler music, reading more sophisticated books, finding more interpersonal friends, studying more effectively, driving more safely, planning more efficiently, writing more eloquently, believing in ourselves more whole-heartedly, and on and on and on. Inspiration says, “Isn’t this amazing?!”, but it doesn’t require anything. Inspiration is like a prerequisite, the antecedent to what happens next. But when we fill ourselves up with antecedents, we never reach the goal, which is the change that the antecedent points towards. If we remain stagnant in receiving hints, we never reach the glory of discovering the treasure, and if we stay stagnant for too long, eventually our stagnancy takes residence by forgetting it was only a temporary visit. Consequently, selfishness continues to be the hot, stinging candle wax perpetually dripping on our skin. 

THOUGHTS?

How does this article speak to you? Does understanding transformation and inspiration from a different angle help you see how one affects you in ways the other doesn’t? If you have any questions, please feel free to leave questions in the comments below. If you have anything you’d like to add or mention, please mention that in the comments as well! This will lead into Part 3, where I will continue to talk about secular proverbs, and how our understanding of transformation and inspiration plays into the way we perceive what we read and intake from outside wisdom.

May God bless you as you come to understand how transformation works, and how important it is for us to comprehend the way transformation does not allow us to sit still and think about what we know forever, instead, it calls us to action. How do you respond to this? What does this mean for you? I’d 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.

Have a blessed day!

 

 

Transformed From Within: How We Are Meant To Live

Life is precious. Every breath is significant as any one of those breaths could be our last. That is an exhilarating truth; both an invitation to truly live, and a heeding not to do anything less.

Would you miss the sound of wind rustling through the trees if it stopped? What about the cool, slow ripples through the water of a pond? Feeling the tender, fragile petals of a beautiful flower on the pores of your skin? These preponderances of life are the delicate and ubiquitous complements to existence, and reminders that we are still alive; yet so few of us pause in appreciation of these details, as if they have little or no value.

These examples aren’t all there is of course, God also provided human relationships—the closest relational bond we can have to that of experiencing relationship with God Himself (because we are made in His image).

There are people in this world who are gifted (through time and practice, intention, and humility/surrender of the self to God) at making the best of every situation; pleasant or unpleasant; ideal or less preferred. Oppositely, there are others who dwell in the negative aspects of the same situations, adhering to hedonistic downtime as a means of an escape from the Hell that is life at times of adversity.

For the unbeliever, life on Earth is Heaven since this is as close to an idyllic life as one gets when they deny the existence of Heaven—the promised eternal home for believers of Christ who live changed lives; loving on those who hate them, forgiving those who hurt them, putting God before themselves, and living selflessly in the name of Jesus—denying the world its offer of transient hedonism in exchange for our eternal soul. Under the closed eyelids of the unbeliever, Jesus and the Bible are the most conflicting, confusing message of love, miracle, testimony, and intimacy in the history of humankind.

Furthermore, for many the unbeliever, to believe in Jesus as Lord and to follow Him as such is to relinquish the freedom to live autonomously, and, therefore, to lose the ability to enjoy life. The implementation following this deliberation of disbelief is distorted in two ways that I want to mention. The first, as Timothy Keller intuitively writes in his book, The Reason For God:

This oversimplifies, however. Freedom cannot be defined in strictly negative terms, as the absence of confinement and constraint. In fact, in many cases, confinement and constraint is actually a means to liberation.
If you have a musical aptitude, you may give yourself to practice, practice, practice the piano for years. This is a restriction, a limit on your freedom. There are many other things you won’t be able to do with the time you invest in practicing. If you have the talent, however, the discipline and imitation will unleash your ability that would otherwise go untapped. What have you done? You’ve deliberately lost your freedom to engage in some things in order to release yourself to a richer kind of freedom to accomplish other things
.”

We may choose to allocate our time practicing disbelief, but the freedom that we lose in that is the assurance of eternity; sacrificing the peace in knowing every moment is purposefully spent preparing for the promise of Heaven. Without deliberation aimed in the direction of an eternity permeated with unconditional love and infinite peace and joy, one’s life culminates in deprecation; disappointed that all our Earthly endeavors lead to the dilapidation of time, the ultimate degradation of egocentrism in a world indulging itself with fanatics commercializing humanity’s greatest weaknesses for the admission of our humility, and the downfall of pride in a world seeking purpose while castigating the desire for meaning in life beyond emotionless copulation, soulless entertainment, and the disparaging lies of media and politics.

Yes, believers choose to give up their freedom—in exchange for not living a life full of constant disappointments and without reassurances for any kind of turnaround or comeback. When we believe the comeback to this life is the promise of an eternal home where there is no pain, death, suffering, wickedness, sin, tears, or disappointments—there isn’t much to consider or think about—it’s pretty black and white: Why choose a life of disbelief when following Jesus not only changes our eternal home, but also encourages us to live more fully here and now? Belief in Jesus is entirely incomplete if one believes that faith in Jesus only means “You get eternity in Heaven” without rebirthing their soul in this very moment. Believing in an eternity in Heaven is spiritually lustful when we take the gold without thanking the Miner; living our lives fully believing we are going to Heaven should change more than just where we believe we’ll go when we die: It relieves us of the disappointment of believing everything that happens between now and then is purposelessness in that everything we experience while on Earth is only for here and now. The eternal promise of the Bible is the exact opposite: Everything we do here and now matters in that it leads us directly to where we go next. In other words, if every word we speak, every action we take and decision we make leads us towards Heaven, would we not want those words, actions, and choices to be the very best in the name of the King who provided their route? If not, can we authentically admit that we have faith in what’s to come, or just lust in the idea of receiving what we do not deserve? This question leads me to the second distortion of implementing disbelief: We sometimes think that believing we’ll go to Heaven is the end of the story of belief; but entering Heaven isn’t even the beginning. 

Make no mistake, Heaven is not anything we earned, nor anything we deserve, rather—it is what we are given freely through the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ sacrificing His life for ours on the cross. Heaven isn’t about what we do on Earth, it’s about what Jesus did on the cross. Let me repeat that for emphasis: Going to Heaven has literally nothing to do with anything we could ever do on Earth (as if to prove our worth to God), it has everything to do with Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. This isn’t about shaming us for His death—He chose to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to pay the eternal price for ourselves. That is the relief and hope of believing in Christ; not that we get a free life living in sin and then expect Heaven—NO—the hope of Christ is that as a byproduct of having faith in Jesus as Lord, we have hope in what’s to come because of what Jesus did in our place. This isn’t some kind of eternal freebie, it’s a life-changing grace and alteration of our soul substance. Before we have Christ, we are lost in our sin; selfishness, greed, lust, gluttony, pride, etc. When we accept Christ, we become aware of our sin (like Adam and Eve after they ate fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and became aware of their nakedness with shame (Genesis 3:7).), we realize that sin is wrong, we pause in reflection of how we can better ourselves by surrendering to the will of our loving God—who, by the way, literally clothed Adam and Eve Himself right after they had sinned (Genesis 3:21). What kind of God rebukes the sin but loves the sinner all the same? This one does; the God of the Bible.

Do we live our lives in thankfulness that a God like this loves us so much that He came and died for us in the flesh so that we wouldn’t have to pay for desiring lust, gluttony, idols, obsessions, blasphemy, stealing, and killing (among the others)? Not that we live perfect lives, no, but do we live transformed lives? Different than before? Refined by gratefulness, thanksgiving, submissiveness to God, surrender of our will and our desires? That is Christianity; that is rebirth.

When we awake one more time, are we aware of how much godly beauty is in this world, or do we take it for granted? Are we aware that every breath is given to us? When we aren’t suffocating for air, that is a blessing. That is a gift from God. Every time. Do we spend our lives thanking Him for these gifts, or do we spend time taking them for granted and splurging ourselves? This kind of lifestyle is like (in the most rudimentary, basic sense) a parent, after carefully and lovingly baking a batch of delicious, savory chocolate chip cookies, and watching their child stuff the cookies in their mouth and leave without so much as a smile or “thank you”. The parent still loves their child, and I imagine the parent would still want to make more cookies for their child just because they want to see their child take pleasure from what they know their child enjoys, but—where does that leave the state of the heart of the child? Will they go into life expecting everyone to treat them with such consideration and love without thanking them for their generosity and selflessness? If they don’t, and they die one day in that state of their soul, should they be judged as “normal” (“like everyone else”), or as selfish and hedonistic? Does that kind of soul know God? Are they transformed and living a life in thanks for the gifts they are given, in effect leading others towards the same God of love?

How would the parent feel, ultimately, every time they make cookies and the child just walks away after taking everything? Hurt, maybe? How do we expect God to feel when we ignore Him, reject Him, and live carelessly when we get what we want? And yet, a life of closed-minded disbelief does not lead us to a selfless life of purpose, but to a life of meaningless gain and purposeless suffering. Even those who give in the “name of love” do so without giving credit to anyone but themselves; even their “selflessness” is rooted in narcissism. Without giving credit to God, how do we thank the Giver of life?

I urge you to consider these thoughts and, if you’re truly living a selfless life in the name of Jesus, I commend you and urge you to continue shining your light towards Jesus so others will continue to notice that you’re different from anyone else they know for a specific reason. You aren’t the way you are “just because”. The love we give comes from Jesus, or it is meaninglessly selfish. Which kind of love do we want to share; selfish or selfless? How do you define what is selfish and what is selfless? Perhaps this will change your definition of what living in faith means when compared to “living in peace but without God”.

My hope and prayer is that this article opens your eyes to the way God loves us all, and how the way we live our lives impacts not only God’s reception of our thankfulness, but others’ witnessing of His love through our lifestyle and decision-making. The way we treat others matters for this exact reason, and the way we respond to this truth ultimately defines our view of faith, the authentic transformation that comes with that faith (or lack thereof), and finally, the way we lead ourselves to our eternal future— in hope or in fear/ignorance. Where are you today? I pray you find Jesus today, and that you come to accept His grace, mercy, love, and promise of hope in His resurrection from the dead. He did not stay dead—He came back to life, and that is why we all must live a life of worship, thanksgiving and praise; implementing a life of gratitude in the name above all names: JESUS.

Oversight