The Space Between Agnosticism, Doubt, & Faith

THE BOOK OF MAJESTY AND MYSTERY

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

INESCAPABLE CURIOSITY

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

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

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A FALLEN WORLD

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

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

COMPELLED BEYOND IMPERMANENCE

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

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

FUNDAMENTAL PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS

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

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

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

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE AND SPIRITUALITY

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

CONNECT WITH ME

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

Pursue

Darling Downs Diaries

Thank You!

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

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

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

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

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

Movie Review: Manchester By the Sea

This is only the third film I’ve personally seen Casey Affleck in outside of the Oceans Eleven trilogy (although I do not remember his role in those films), and I can easily say this Casey had me a little concerned he was actually experiencing some kind of depression during this film—but I say this as a compliment to his portrayal of Lee in “Manchester By the Sea,” a film about loss, family, and the brittle reality of watching life trickle down the spectacles of self-deprecation. 

Make no mistake, this movie runs at the rhythm of watching paint dry. But we’re talking about complementary high-grade paint. What I appreciated about the snail-race pace is that it helped embody the sensation of everything slowing down, just as the reality might actually play out for characters such as these in such a sensitive situation.

When Lee learns of the death in his family, his already nonchalant character sheds one more layer of its purpose away in the desultory extremes of subtle grief and inner agony. His backstory (which is implied was only back some years) eventually reveals where his self-deflation began, and why he walks around with such glumness in his eyes. This sets up a layer of empathy for the viewer, and also creates the appropriate palette for the dry humor to come later. The remaining portions of the film are used with sensitive consideration to explaining “what happens next” with both Lee and his younger brother, Aaron (played by Patrick Hedges), as well as the remainder of a family left like delicate debris in the wake of a tornado. 

About half-way through into 2/3 of the film, the humor really picked up for me and I found myself laughing at some of the darkest but most empathetic humor related to such a broken-heart stricken family. Most of the humor is admittedly derived from the cringe-worthy social ineptitudes of Lee. There are also many scenes where the dryness of reality is expressed so unapologetically as to be risible. One such moment happens when Lee is giving Aaron a chance to decide whether or not he wants to get out of the car, to which Aaron replies “Let’s just go.” The ambiguity of this moment propels Lee to begin driving away while Aaron opens the door, and the amalgam of Lee’s panic with Aaron’s surprise opens the space for humor which can only be appreciated when understanding each character’s motivation and perspective. Truly, this brief authentic moment was implemented so naturally that it became the first laugh out loud moment of the film for me.

The heart of this story is not-so-ironically found in Lee’s depressive state of mind, drawn out but seasoned with carefully chosen dryness and good intentions. The message of this film, which is not as obvious as it is subjective to the viewer watching, claims itself during the in-betweens of the story, finding itself not encouraging or motivating, but simply speaking and waiting. “Manchester” speaks, it listens, and waits—and if you laugh, it smiles. When you wait pensively for the next moment to take over, it blinks and keeps going. The heart of “Manchester” is simply that it has heart, defined by its authenticity and commitment to telling itself without asking whether or not you mind.

What I enjoyed about this film were the nuanced relationships. There are so many familial relationships that, whether throwing curveballs or drawing a tears—so much can be appreciated about the rawness of emotion drawn from each conversation; the sentiment of desire for healing and restoration when the floodgates of pain and self-deprecation push back with the brute force of self-denial. Lee’s portrayal character in particular is breathtakingly painful to watch, and in this nerve-pinching portrayal is a beauty not demanding emotion but nevertheless forcing it from you simultaneously. 

Parental Advisory:

“Manchester” contains a pervasive amount of F-words throughout—so much so that most of the R-rating simply applies to the vulgarity. There are two brief bar fights that, while in some ways provoke laughter, are violent due to the thematic understanding of their context; insofar that the story behind each scene develops in-between, which would need explanation to a young child. The theme of sexuality is also played with in multiple scenes involving teenagers and is heavily insinuated. Two such scenes reveal teenagers bared down to their underwear; therefore, this is ample reason to warn parents from making the mistake of renting “Manchester” on Redbox, Netflix, Raku, or otherwise—and running into these scenes having to explain to young ones why you may or may not believe this is appropriate for them to watch. While “Manchester” is simplified by its plot and relationships, its themes are mature, and for this reason I strongly urge parents to watch before deciding to allow younger kids to view, depending on how important you feel it is to shield your kids from exposure to promiscuous sexual behavior and vulgar language. 

I would rate “Manchester By the Sea” 4/5 stars, given there isn’t really a strong message, but in place of a message there are a number of strong performances and an extremely relatable, poignant story. 

If you enjoyed reading this and you would like to read more, please follow this blog. 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 share this with anyone and feel free to write in the comments below if you have something you’d like to add or share. I would be glad to read from you! Have a blessed day!

Rhythmic

Mystery Blogger Award

A very large shout out of thanks to A Bit of Wisdom & A Bit of Play for the nomination! I’m humbled to be considered for any award.

mystery-blogger-award.png

RULES:

  • Display Award Logo On Blog
  • List The Rules
  • Mention Creator Of Award & Provide A Link
  • Thank The Blogger(s) Who Nominated You & Provide A Link
  • Say 3 Things About Yourself
  • Nominate From 10 To 20 Bloggers
  • Notify Nominated Bloggers By Leaving A Comment On Their Blog
  • Answer 5 Questions From Nominee
  • Write 5 Questions For Your Nominees
  • Share Your Best Post

3 Things about myself:

  1. I have a Bachelor of Science in Film.
  2. I began writing when I was 14 years old, and the reason I began writing was because of heartbreak.
  3. I had heart surgery when I was a 1-year-old; without the surgery, I would not be alive right now.

5 Questions From A Bit of Wisdom & A Bit of Play:

  1. What is one question you hate to answer? I love being asked questions. I genuinely enjoy others’ curiosity and welcome the thoughts of others.
  2. Are you usually late or right on time?  I do my best to always be on time or early.
  3. What are the top 3 apps you use on your phone? Dictionary, Notepad, and Facebook (I like to keep notified about my Facebook blog page 😉  )
  4. If you could be any age for a week, what age would it be and whyI will forever love the years growing up before my doubt digits, but I have to say that the life of faith is even more worth it, and the time I’m in right now, I am truly grateful for. God is so good!!
  5. What’s the worst punishment you had as a child? I was spanked, and I’ll never forget it because I did everything I could do never to be spanked again. And it worked (haha!).

 

Five Questions For the Nominees: 

  1. What inspires you to write your next article?
  2. How do you start your day? 
  3. What is your favorite weather pattern and why?
  4. What do you think the world need more of and less of?
  5. If there was one thing you could know everything about, what would it be?

The Nominees:

Tamara

Nezel

Mara

The Clipped Butterfly

PennyForYourThots

The Pink Canvas

simple ula

Mathias Sager

RamisaR

My best post? I believe that should be for you to decide. I will say that “Growing Familiar With God” has seemed to reach readers positively. My hope and prayer is that every post will reach you with something inspiring, challenging, and relevant to you. May God bless all of you!

Niceness and Vices: What Lies Underneath

When genuine Christ-followers (those who live authentically different lives after declaring Christ as Lord) meet me, they recognize my faith and smile at my joy. When unbelievers meet me (atheists/agnostics, and those only attaching a religious title to their unchanged lives and hearts), they’re taken aback by my joy, curious about what lies underneath. I’ve been told that I seem nice, and I can sense others want to dig deeper to know why I am the way I am. One man even asked me, “So do you have any vices?” After years of meeting a large diversity of people of various religious beliefs and faith-based backgrounds, I’ve come to understand these people looking for vices are either trying to 1.) Prove that I have a weakness underneath all the smiling, and 2.) Compare levels of shame, proving how much better or worse they are compared to me. Since I used to be an unbeliever, I empathize with their position. But since I am now a believer in Jesus Christ, I can’t leave this unaddressed. There is a deep misunderstanding about this concept of “niceness and vices”. I want strip away the misconceptions and divulge the main reality.

When everything is said and done, it all comes down to shame.

Shame lives as subtly as it does explicitly. You can find it in addicts just as you can find it in the countenance of a single mother or father whose spouse has possibly given themselves over to drugs, or other selfish pursuits (whether it be alcohol, gambling, or even an affair). Some single parents carry the shock of defeat in their eyes, ashamed for having found themselves in such a precarious position and perplexed that such a storm has seemingly destroyed the same life that seemed so idyllic. This shame is relatable, but it is but one of many manipulations of reality dropped on us like bombs from the enemy.

If shame has the power to roll us into our grave, why do we smear it all over our hearts? Sometimes we live masochistically, thinking the feeling of shame is the appropriate punishment for a wrong we’ve committed. Too often we live in a reality where either everything is our fault, or one major thing is—which, in turn, makes everything else seem to point back to us (at some point or another), proving us punish-worthy. Shame in this example seems justifiable—BUT—justifiable according to who? Us? Do we ever slow down enough to catch ourselves trying to play God? More importantly, what kind of God do we believe we’re playing?

I’ll return to this. But first: “Do you have any vices?”

Yes, of course I have vices. We all do. I’ve been writing about my past in placing women ahead of God, lusting after them following the trauma of my parents’ divorce when I was 11. I’m not proud of this, but this ugly truth doesn’t define my life. That isn’t me dismissing my sin; that is surrendering my past to the birth of a new lifestyle in Christ. If anything, this blemish in my history is more evidence of God’s love— insofar that He has been helping me to turn my life around by changing my perspectives, views, and thoughts towards women in ways that I hadn’t even tried to when I was an unbeliever. When others try to compare their shame, I feel sympathy for them: “Wouldn’t you rather believe in a God of love than of a God of impending doom?” are my thoughts. Others who want to find the weak spot, where I give in and admit that I have a weakness—honestly, you don’t have to dig far; I became Christian because I was so flawed that I was desperate for a Lord who could save me from myself. Even though I may be considered nice, that doesn’t mean I’m hiding; it means I don’t have a reason to hang my head in self-deprecation. Jesus was waiting for me when I opened the door of my reclusive house of shame and secrets. When I invited Him in, everything changed.

Along with God’s direct intervention are His gifts to me: Christian friends who support me, who care about me and who lift me up in prayer, listening to me and not judging me. That is the body of Christ I’m talking about—the church itself.

Until I finally accepted Christ, the shame I felt was dark, heavy, and without a remedy–the shame itself acted like a teeter-totter: I would feel the shame without having the capacity to justify it anymore than the capacity to fully condemn it. I had no Biblical framework. Basically, it was my view versus the view of the world. When you argue with the world, you get several billion voices, and the numbing effect of such a castigating cacophony would eventually run anyone numb and stale inside. For me, turning to lust was opening the bottle of liquor for the alcoholic.

Shame, in this case at the time, didn’t make as much sense because, along with society’s castigations to consider, I was judging myself with a worldly morality (I’ll touch more on this later in this post). Soon after accepting Jesus as Lord, the shame finally began making more sense from the perspective of moral obligation, wherein the shame flooded through me from a deeper spiritual place (my belief in hurting my relationship with God), tearing me apart. I came to understand, from God’s point of view, the unbearable disconnect of lust (God, who made woman in His image too, shared with me His love for women, helping me see how detrimental lust really is), and the reason why lust is a sin and not just a frowned upon blemish (or dismissed as a commonplace excuse for dirty jokes) in the eyes of society.

As a believer of Christ, I do not believe shame is the intended punishment for my life or anyone’s life—that is a lie of the enemy. The difference between that lie and the truth of God is found in the argument of the source of morality. The unbelieving world tries to define morality for itself, defining good and bad as it sees fit, each person judging another for having a different point view, completely ignoring the source of morality–God–therefore misunderstanding its His authority which draws the line between good and bad, right and wrong—for us. To see morality from this angle, shame is a lie man takes from the enemy’s hands and feeds himself—this isn’t of God. A contrite heart, ready to apologize and surrender the specific area of selfishness which we are struggling with (to God)—that is of God. That is what we feel when we humble ourselves enough to admit that we’ve disconnected ourselves from God. A contrite heart and shame are not compatible; one is of the world, the other is our way back to God.

What kind of God is this?

Above, I brought up the question of what kind of God we try to play when we repudiate ourselves with shame. To answer our question about God, let’s consider something. What did God do when He found us choosing the world over Him? He came in the flesh through Christ and died for us—a death that was our punishment for sin—so that we wouldn’t have to be punished; if we surrender our lives to Christ and receive the love of His sacrifice in our hearts. Does that sound like a God who wants us to feel shame, or a God who wants us to feel loved?

See, for me, the punishment for my lustful past isn’t shame—it’s what Jesus did on the cross. For others’ vices, whether it be anger, gluttony, drugs, etc.–the punishment is the same thing. How does this make you feel, knowing someone else took your place, taking your punishment away from you so you could live a better life? Personally, this feeds me hope. My future looks and feels hopeful in Jesus because I have been forgiven, and because I’m not standing in the middle of my sin, waiting to do it again. I’m fighting my battles with the support of community as encouraged in the Bible, and I’ve formed healthier habits to replace old habitual patterns; such as reading more frequently, talking with friends about Jesus and the things which make me passionate, sharing Jesus’s love with them by giving them encouragement and praying for them; listening to worship music, not watching sexualized TV shows; practicing the art of talking from a place of love to each person I interact with, and being productive with healthy chores around my apartment when I’m alone—all things that lead me to a healthy relationship between myself and Christ, and also a newfound respect for women which I didn’t have earlier in my life. Do I battle shame still? Of course! But it doesn’t define me, and it isn’t the basis for what drives me in life. God inspires me, Jesus gives me hope and love, and these gifts have been changing my life in a visible, noticeable way to others around me.

I’m “nice” because not only do I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated, but I believe even more so in Jesus’s command to love others as God first loves us. I choose to be nice because I want others to know Jesus through their interactions with me. I am nice because I want others to know there’s someone (one of many) in this world taking their faith seriously—intending to be a light leading to Christ in a world that can be so corrupted and cruel.

Now, why have I been open and vulnerable about stating my vices and the battles I fight alongside trusted Christian friends? I know my blog articles can be seen by the world, so why would I be so personal? I’ve explained why before, and I’ll explain it again: Truly, my life isn’t my own. My life is God’s, and I want others to read my articles because my only intention in writing is to bring others to Jesus through the truth of my story. I want you to know, no matter what past you have, Jesus’s love for you is infinitely greater than your darkest sin. I believe this for my sins as well. My joy and hope come from believing in this truth, which feeds me peace and freedom from not only shame, but also from living in banality and monotony. Sharing my story is but a means of hopefully opening a way for you to see that you are not alone, and that God is good.

From another point of view of mine, every moment of my life leads me to the reason I exist (and the reason why everyone exists, if we would accept it as truth): Life with Jesus in Heaven. Beyond sharing my story and seeing others recognize how they, too, are loved by God through Jesus Christ through my words and actions, nothing else matters as much to me. I extend myself to others in hopes that they will feel the warm love of God through the inspiration of Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf. This isn’t about being nice, this is about sharing my hope with others; the very hope which inspires me to live my life and share my story with people I’ve never even met, all in the hopes of encouraging them to live their life differently—and in so doing—allow God to transform them from the inside, consequently effecting others’ lives in the process. What could be better than helping others learning to see what I see and feel what I feel in order to live a more fulfilling life in Christ?

On yet another note, I’m single. This is only relevant in regards to the truth that whether or not I get married before I die doesn’t matter to me as much as impassioning others with the zeal to know Jesus. It would be nice, marriage, but what is more important is bringing people to Jesus? I have life goals—yes, of course—but in the center of my personal goals is being close to God through Jesus. If that isn’t there, nothing else falls into place, nor does anything make any sense. There’s no explanation for our lives, our challenges, our successes or failures beyond the love of Christ. Jesus works through our best moments just as he does our worst defeats. I write this paragraph for those of you who want marriage as deeply as the way I have. Marriage has been my most significant dream, but I’ve been willing to surrender that—especially since it became something of an idol for me—to the love of God, in faith that if His will is for me to marry, He will provide the right woman, and if His will is for me to remain single, I accept the glorious life of praising His name. That choice is a win-win. I want to extend this humility to you, readers, who dream of marriage, to let go of clinging to this world and remember Jesus created marriage to remind us of Him; not to replace Him.

I cannot impact people’s lives by being nice “just because”. That is an empty, uninspiring basis for acting in any way. Is it nice to have someone do something just because—okay, sure. But how much more powerful is it for someone to actually believe in Jesus so strongly that when they ask, pleasantly surprised to a selfless gesture of yours, “Why did you do that?”, you can answer, “Because Jesus loves you, and He wanted you to know.” Personally, that would catch me off guard, but ultimately the encounter would humble me because that’s exactly my perspective. I don’t do what I do “just because” anymore—that no longer holds any weight for me. It’s not enough. If Jesus is not at the center of the reasons why I do anything I do, then it would make just as much sense if next time I didn’t do anything nice, helpful, thoughtful, or selfless. “Just because” simply doesn’t explain niceness because someone could just as ruthlessly kill “just because”. We cannot immediately associate ‘just because’ with some neutral sense of good if with the same words we can associate unspeakable evil and cruelty.

All that matters to me is that others know the way I speak and act is grounded in my faith. I don’t have another reason to be who I am beyond Jesus; there’s just no reason to be this way without Him. Basically, I have just as much reason to be a thoughtless punk as I do a thoughtful Samaritan if I don’t declare Christ as Lord in my heart. There is honestly no viable argument for secular morality because morality cannot be based on an emotional whim and retain a firm foundation. Innate morality (a secularist view of our worldly, situational, and emotional sense of what is good or bad, right or wrong), as it is many times referred, is ungrounded on anything infallible. Moral obligation however, is bound by God, and indelibly written in the Bible. That is also why being nice “just because” is a dangerous game of contradiction. For the rest of the world, it’s “I guess I just got lucky, catching you at a good time,” whereas the Christ-follower has something deeper and more promising than the fluctuating emotions on a good day. Even the sacrificial “I’ll do this because I know it’s the right thing to do” undermines itself on the same level as ‘just because’ since there isn’t a baseline reason beyond sentiment for such an act; selfless or not.

In the Christian mind, we have everything to look forward to; everything we do, think, speak, and act upon takes us one step closer to being in the presence of our Lord for eternity. There is no greater hope than this to inspire us to transcend mere niceness and extend mercy, compassion, forgiveness, love, and selflessness. This is the basis for unconditional love; that forgiveness and love wouldn’t be searched for by us, but given to others from us as an overflow from Christ. We are loved and forgiven by Christ’s through the shedding of His blood on the cross. In accepting this life-changing sacrifice from Jesus, we love others, knowing this promises us eternal life beyond Earth. Everything on Earth pales in comparison; including Earthly pain, heartache, suffering, confusion, trauma, sickness, and yes–even death. When we see the depraved colors of death diluted by the bright light of Jesus’s love for humanity, and we find ourselves in a state of peace unlike anything we can imagine— that’s because what we’re experiencing is a glimpse of something literally out of this world: We’re experiencing a glimpse of Heaven, the location for which our soul is intended. We were created for Heaven, despite how so many of us live our lives as if we believe our lives only end here—and when we can see how our life here is just a bridge to get there, it truly changes the perspective of life while we live it.

Coming full circle, that is the basis for my niceness, which isn’t merely niceness as it is joy in the Lord for giving me hope, even in death. I fear nothing, not even telling the world my ugliest secret so they understand God can remove anything to help us make more room for loving Him through everything in our lives. He can remove addictions of any kind, habits of any depravity, mistakes and sins of all depths and levels–if we would surrender ourselves to Him, pick up our cross (release our shame and our Earthly desires into His mighty hands) and follow Him in all our ways. One of those ways, for me, is releasing myself through my blog, that you might know God’s love through my testimony; that you may know men like me are not merely nice, but that we are joyful in our faith—impacted and encouraged that we don’t have to cling to our sins of the past—that we can cling to the love of Christ as Lord of our lives, loving everyone through Him until we draw our last breath, inhaling our first in the glorious Kingdom of Heaven.

Be encouraged, readers! You are loved by the God of all creation, and He doesn’t want you living in shame, He wants you living in the freedom of His love; freedom to love others whole-heartedly through the confidence and faith in His love for you. He died for you because He loves you that much. He rose again to prove that He wasn’t only man, but God Incarnate. What will you do with this Truth? What will you do with this testimony? How does this change your life, and your very reality? How will you move forward knowing someone—God Himself—wants to know you and lead you through this life, and all you have to do is ask Him to? Have faith, readers, and be steady, knowing He is God. There is nothing to fear; not gossip, not bad news, not a lost job or relationship breakup. There is nothing more important than knowing how loved you are by Jesus. This world will let you down time and time again. No matter where you travel to, the world’s corruption follows; but not without the love and God following to remind you that there’s hope. Which one you heed more will determine the way you live your life, and how you explain your kindness, your niceness, and how much or how little shame you will feel based on the world’s censuring eyes or God’s loving embrace. I encourage you to pray over this and wait for God’s reply. It may come faster than you think, or in a way you don’t expect. I hope you will do this for your own sake, that you may know the Lord, His love, and His promises for you. There is no one like our God!

Unseen

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