Grasping Our Reason To Live

MODERN EMPIRICISM AND OUR REASON TO LIVE

Although some of us seemingly give up immediately while others do not, every one of us searches for a reason to live on after something tragic, difficult, or painful happens. Why is that? Through intuition of the spirit, humans can perceive a truth, subtle or otherwise, as to why we are here on this Earth. That truth, when examined closely, points to far more than mere pleasure-seeking. When we pretend we don’t require an answer to our questions about purpose, or when the answer we receive is not the one want—we may deny our instincts and live a life unlike the one we imagined to be more satisfying or exciting. The truth is that we are here for a reason, and if we can’t seem discover the answer to “what reason?” through our spirit, we may try to figure it out with the use of logic and reasoning—depending on and trusting in science and the theories of modern empiricism to give us an answer we consider easier to digest. However, is “more digestible” also more true?

The problem with this approach will be explored in the first portion of this article. Later, I will explore the more sensitive topic of Christianity and how faith plays a role in the lives of many who fall away from their faith in the belief that God isn’t truly real or that Jesus isn’t truly God. How does a person get to this place? How can we avoid it and help others not to? We will explore this together as well.

THE PROBLEM BETWEEN PURPOSE AND LOGIC

When we rely solely on logic and reason to make sense of life, two titans of existentialism—purpose and meaning—lose their essence. If purpose undermines logic, insofar as understanding purpose does not demand the human mind to find value in something as precious as the comfort of breathing without pain (i.e. Equating a difficult breathing pattern to “life is terrible”)—then purpose knows its identity without needing approval from the body. Put differently, purpose finds value in the most infinitesimal living matter; such as the “awe” in the awe-inspiring beauty of the sky, the pensive appreciation of a butterfly’s spotted wings, or the humbling treasure of hearing a child’s playful laugh—because it is not measuring by size; rather, purpose measures by quality and significance.

In other words, purpose breathes whether or not we do. While logic is enraptured by numbers and equations, ratiocination and patterns—purpose is birthed by sentiment, meaningfulness, emotion, generosity, selflessness, and truth. Logic and reason may be indirect conduits by which purpose can be viewed or considered, but logic cannot explicate the complex mechanism that is life without ignoring the intrinsic aspects of the soul. Our soul cannot fit into a pattern any more than God can be fit into a box. Therefore, when our search for life’s meaning and purpose is searched for using any one criterial facet of logic, the journey automatically culminates in disappointment because the very nature of logic fails to understand the depth of purpose and its intrinsic measurement of quality.

PURPOSE DEMANDS FAITH

The failure to understand the human soul is evidenced by the inability of the intellect to counteract the proposition that our lives are meaningless. Because the sentiment we associate with the meaning of life is so sensitive, our intellect is incapable of understanding or grasping the weight of such significance. Intellect may try to explain it but it cannot discern or sense its power. Needless to say, intellect disappoints immediately, whereas purpose demands a higher calling for life’s meaning than any intellectual explanation can offer. Purpose demands substance from the unseen, the untouched; the transcendent. What substance? we ask. The substance of faith, to be clear. Purpose demands faith. Let me explain.

Faith instills within our existence a meaningful dimension nothing else can make known. When we solely rely on anything outside of faith, the lack of meaningful interaction between faith and intellect ends up forcing us to face the emptiness of our reason to keep going. This is what I faced during the stint leading up to my discovery of faith; I came to a breaking point where I decided if I could not find an authentic reason to keep living, I would end my life. If you have not already, you may read my testimony here

When we associate the purpose of our lives with this world, the tangible, or empirical (all of our experiences within grasp of our five immediate biological senses)—becomes our idol, and the only significance we can conjure from this tangible world is our depraved desperation for pleasure that is never quenched regardless of the habit, addiction, or lifestyle we adhere to.

BORN AGAIN

What is all of this leading to? Purpose and a meaningful life are particularly fond terms in Christianity—mainly because being “born again” refers to the process of surrendering our self-devised purpose for a higher purpose given to us after rebirth, by God. The difference is that our self-devised purpose is built on the tragedy of narcissism and the vacuity of stubbornness. God’s purpose for us is birthed from His sovereignty and selfless love.

How does a man think he knows Christ but in fact only knows an idea of Christ? Why have some people who professed to be Christian ended up killing themselves? We ask ourselves at what point God was for them. We wonder what purpose they had in “finding Jesus” just to die in the end. This is a sensitive subject. I’d like to touch on this, even briefly, as delicately as I can.

THE BIRTH OF HELL

A believer is called to follow Christ through every adversity he is given, turning to Jesus and surrendering his fear, worry, panic, anger, bitterness, and doubt—straight into the hands of his loving Savior. When a believer refuses this humbling aspect of the Christian walk, they deny themselves the blessing and fruit of a budding relationship with Jesus—and this, when planted consistently, is the seed to the malady of disobedience, disbelief, and ultimately Hell. Hell is more than an eternal place of damnation; it begins in the void of the soul, where our mind—ill-equipped with disbelief—succumbs to disobedience as unbelief and doubt take over the spirit in a body which dies never having known Christ (Matthew 7:21-23). Hell finishes in eternity for the soul who never fully surrendered his or her life to the vocation of humbling themselves before God in desperation for His grace, gratefulness for His love, awestruck by His compassion; relieved by His forgiveness, and ultimately transformed by His resurrection.

I will return to this in the last paragraph of this article.

FAITHFUL OR FAITHLESS?

How often do we consider where we stand when we contemplate the meaning of life and our purpose here on Earth? Why even ask the question? We worry about money, sex, relationships, food, and making it to our appointments on time, but what about considering the impression we leave behind with those who only have the chance to watch us scurry off in a hurry? Our heart beats, but not forever. Where do we place the trust of our decisions each day? The choice of a Christian to be faithful in Jesus by surrendering our fleshly desires when we feel swayed towards disobedience is our only way to make a difference capable of sending a ripple of hope into eternity. Oppositely, living solely from the character of egocentrism would send a ripples echoing the void of narcissism, comprised of a life stuck at work; always in a hurry, never present, barely grateful, absent of humility and unforgiving of others’ imperfections. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), a faithless life lacking in obedience and surrender to a power beyond selfish ambition is a grotesque caricature of the human experience. We weren’t born to live for ourselves, and yet so many of us do, even many of us who claim to know Christ.

How do we know if we know Him?

GOD FINISHES WHAT HE STARTS

First off, God finishes the work He starts in us (Philippians 1:6). This is a promise. If He has started work in your soul, He will finish that work. A person who considers the faith and thinks about the faith but never walks the walk is somewhere between an agnostic and a pagan—but not a Christian. It is entirely unbiblical to say that Jesus claimed us but that the invitation wasn’t strong enough to keep us walking through the narrow gate. Jesus compels the soul (2 Corinthians 5:14), and there is no “realizing later on” that Jesus is fake unless we never understood He was real.

THE NASCENCE OF CHRISTIANITY

To not understand He is real and to disbelieve in His glory are one and the same. Furthermore, to never believe He was real or even to claim He might have been is not belief. Pushing further still, to claim to believe He is real, to go to church and praise Him, to be kind to others on behalf of Him, to pray with others in His name—but to never have known Him personally–is still unbelief. But how can we know someone we never physically met? we ask. Jesus Christ gave us the Holy Spirit when He ascended. This is His sure promise to be with us during every moment of every day. When we do not receive the gift of His spirit, we have not received Him in full. We will know when we know Him by how much of ourselves we surrender in the faith and pursuit of receiving His spirit, seeking transformation in His name. In the transformation of our spirit from its sinful form to the sinless form of Christ’s resurrected spirit, rebirth occurs; the nascence of our Christian walk and the beginning of our personal relationship with Jesus. 

THE SOUL OF REBIRTH

To receive Jesus is to receive new life (spiritually and mentally). This is how we know we have fully come to believe: When we feel His life in ours, speak His words for ours, feel His desires for ours, and live His life as ours. To claim Jesus exists is easy even for demons (James 2:19); this is not rebirth, for the demons believe and still perish because their works do not proclaim Him, but rather, try to destroy Him (which is impossible). Therefore, proclamation is not the seed to rebirth. Actions validate what our words cannot prove. To worship and pray and celebrate but not believe will not lead to surrender or humility, and it will not seek His grace to spiritually penetrate our souls. 

LOGIC CANNOT MAKE SENSE OF REBIRTH

Putting everything together, the disappointing reality of logic—when faced with spirituality—is clearly evidence that when we live solely from our intellect, the disappointment is grave enough to undermine our intrinsic sense of purpose; evidence of the cogent veracity of faith. By living in the faith of Jesus, we can know with certainty the reality of our personal relationship with Jesus by the way we actively seek and pursue transformation from within our spirit; His love overcoming our selfishness; His humility undermining our pride by exposing it to His divine presence; His omnipresence refocusing our loneliness on His unceasing attention to our deepest needs, and His invitation for us to be known and to belong within a community of people who live, serve, and love each other by His grace.

A SUBTLE FORM OF PRIDE

Logic cannot make sense of this reality or its process, nor can it emanate the hope faith naturally exhales into our souls. To live from reason and logic is to live within limited means of our full potential. What’s more detrimentally true is how living within these limited means keeps us believing we can love each other selflessly based on a goodness we already have; one of our more subtle forms of pride. There is no form of selfless love we are capable of perceiving or extending without the grace God. To claim any credit is to turn away from the goodness of God and to claim ourselves worthy without first receiving salvation; an irreversible dichotomy we cannot win. This is why Christianity is a life-long lesson in delayed gratification as much as it is a walk of humility: One cannot live with faith in Christ without first being humbled into the subservience of the God who sacrificed Him. Concordantly, one cannot patiently wait in anticipation of the undeserved reward of Heaven without first receiving the blessing of humility to desire it without boastfulness in the first place. 

SHARING JESUS WITH THE WORLD

We ask ourselves the painful questions surrounding the reality of professed believers who end their own lives. In response, what we can take away is the importance of sharing the truth of Jesus with the world. Not everyone’s eyes will open, not all ears will hear, but that cannot stop us from sharing the Word of God with the whole world. Christians will know they are believers when they seek Jesus above all else. One cannot mistake His voice; the sheep know their shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). When we hear Jesus calling, we open the door and let Jesus in to eat with us, and us with Him (Revelations 3:20). If we never hear the call, we never knew Him. Let this be a reminder to all who believe, just how pivotal it is that we are not only a living example of Jesus with our actions, but that we also take seriously the importance of inviting Jesus into our public conversations. Jesus Christ is still relevant because the Word of Truth is alive, and also because of word of mouth. We share Him, and people will receive Him while still others don’t. But this isn’t our decision whether or not someone will hear Jesus’s call. We are called to be obedient unto Christ, and that is the command we are to follow. Let others see the Truth and witness His power in our words and actions, and may He who gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) soften theirs towards Him as well, in Jesus name. 

LET’S CONNECT

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

Shared at the following: Grace and Truth

Lifestyle

Discerning the Guise Of Failure

LIMITATION AND SURREALISM

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

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

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

FAILURE IS A GUISE

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

LIVING IN THE MIRAGE OF HOPELESSNESS

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

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

ASSOCIATING OUR IDENTITY WITH THE WORLD

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

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

IDENTIFYING WITH FAITH

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

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

“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING JESUS CALLS YOU TO DO”

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

DISCERNMENT AND SURRENDER

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

TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR EXISTENCE

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

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

WE CANNOT FAIL

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

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

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

CONNECT WITH ME

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

Soaring with Him Ministries

Movie Review: The Case For Christ

Based on the book written by Lee Strobel, “The Case For Christ” pensively digs into Lee’s elaborate journey and bold attempt to disprove the legitimacy of the gospel claims that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Along the way, he faces the reality of witnessing his wife seemingly transformed by her newfound faith—and, ultimately, he discovers a truth beyond his wildest expectations. 

“The Case for Christ” is long overdue, and was incredibly refreshing to see on the big screen.

THE DEPTH OF SKEPTICISM

One of my personally favorite aspects of “The Case For Christ” was the relevant and very real skepticism. As a previous atheist myself, this entire film was extremely relatable as it pervasively and heavily questioned the roots and foundation of Christianity: Did Jesus raise from the dead? How can we know? Did Jesus even actually die

What tops off the heaviness in the film like icing on the cake is that it answers every last question with such refreshing perspectives and scientifically founded research by the world’s most renowned scientists, skeptics, and writers (obviously portrayed by actors here). No stone is left unturned—even in the sense that the pinnacle of all questions for the skeptic, “How much evidence is enough?” is given the time and space to breathe.

NOT TAKING SIDES

I appreciated this film’s ability to take belief in Christ as seriously as it took atheism, giving both points of view equal weight without trying to take sides. This approach allows the viewer to watch, observe, contemplate, and ultimately face the very difficult question: “What do you believe?”

While the film’s finale does have an answer for the main character (since this film is based on a true story and the events have already unfolded), it still leaves room for the viewer to decide for themselves what makes more sense, and which direction they would rather take the questions and answers. What is admirable about such a Christian film like this, and what is truly powerful in the end, is how this film’s message is not “Believe! Faith the right answer!” Rather, it is, “These are the facts, the evidence, and the answers to these questions. Now, what do you make of it?” In other words, by no means does this film try to claim that one way is right and the other wrong. There is simply, “If you don’t agree, how do you explain it, then?” For me, as an audience member, that gave the film stats for being confident enough not to need to be trying to prove itself.

A CHRISTIAN FILM THAT DOESN’T FEEL FORCED

Every conversation in this movie has a strong, welcoming sense of realism to it. There are the atheists and the believers, but Jon Gunn places careful weight into each scene of dialogue, balancing a story based on true events and grounding the conversations inspired by a man’s journey through controversy and doubt, surrounded by facts pointing in an unexpected direction and the egocentric tenacity to be right before being open-minded.

There have been several films that have tried to include the message of Jesus but awkwardly end up portraying evangelism as forced and overplayed. Sometimes the “evangelism scenes” have been so obvious as to be cringeworthy as the viewer sinks in his or her seat trying to escape the awkwardness of a camera centered on an actor’s face clearly reading dialogue that didn’t come from their mouthes first. In “The Case For Christ,” these issues are refreshingly replaced with genuine emotion and authentic angst. Here, believers do not produce cringeworthy moments. These scenes, back-to-back, are so natural as to be inviting. Each scene seems to point to the next without trying to hold your hand or convince you of anything. The script speaks for itself, and it does so flawlessly.

Once more I will add how atheism in this film is given the space to speak skepticism and scrutiny into the most scandalized and controversial story in human history—and, important to note, this is not done by making the unbeliever to be the “bad guy,” but simply as another curious character in the story.

Lee faces challenges of his own as his friends oppose his rigidity while he journeys to discover answers to the most difficult and straining Christian questions. What is so riveting about witnessing these questions unfold into deeper, more challenging questions and equally satisfying discoveries throughout the movie is how we are invited to intimately take part in these difficult conversations—drawn in by their relatability and firm grounding. Reason being, we would be asking the same questions if we had never honestly or intentionally pursued the answers of such a heavily influenced faith before, and we would be just as skeptical if we started off without any answers. Mike Vogel portrays this doubt and skepticism so naturally that it is a heart-wrenching, mind-bending experience to follow him through his story, realizing there’s no way around the facts; this helps the viewer both empathize with his frustration, while simultaneously and incorrigibly feeling inspired by the results. 

THE BEST LOVE STORY

The love story here is unlike any other we’ve seen before. An atheistic couple becomes traumatized when their daughter almost chokes to death before their eyes, and when a random Samaritan comes to their aid, their lives change forever. Lee’s wife (portrayed beautifully by Erika Christensen) is the first to feel the effects of the miracle and cannot let go of what has embraced her heart through the unthinkable. Her spirit is moved and transformed, and soon enough she is seeing everything differently through the eyes of a faith she never thought she would have given a second thought to. 

What’s beautiful is the way this transformation plays into her marriage with Lee, and their daughter. Throughout the movie, this marriage relationship is the framework for the story. As Lee chases the answers to the controversy of a resurrected Messiah to prove once and for all how hokey it is—his marriage is directly impacted by both his tenacity to be right, and his wife’s oppositional desire to draw him into the love that she has discovered by faith in the transcendent God of the Bible she reads. Experiencing their scenes together as their story unfolds is extremely moving, inspiring, heart-breaking, full of substance, and absent of any wasted time. Their marriage is portrayed with the realistically problematic characteristics of a couple experiencing the stress of disagreement and change, and simultaneously the desire to not lose one another no matter the cost. Truly, as a born-again Christian myself, watching this relationship on-screen brought tears to my eyes more than once as I carefully considered the reality behind every line spoken, every motive and every hope of each character, delicately and passionately moved for both of them to grow closer and not farther apart. 

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS MOVIE

Whether or not you are a Christ-follower matters not with regards to whether you should see this movie or not. By the time this movie ended and the credits rolled, I felt very grateful for the experience because I didn’t feel as though I was favored by the movie for being a Christian, and I didn’t get the impression that atheists were targeted or shoved into the corner and given some kind of speech or pep talk. This film speaks candidly, informatively, open-mindedly, and factually with evidence that has been retrieved regarding the resurrection, and the best part of this movie is the delivery: There is no preaching here. Yes, there are multiple scenes which take place in a church building, but these scenes are used in context. Rather than being “those scenes with the preacher,” these scenes are used for the purpose of motivation; we come to understand the lead characters on deeper level by seeing them interact with different environments as they try to discover more about this “Jesus” they have been introduced to through others.

I love how human this movie is, so down to Earth. There is nothing about this film that tries to be more than it is organically. This film is open-minded and simultaneously well-informed—so much so that the only debate is between the viewer and him/herself. 

PARENTAL ADVISORY

This film is rated PG, and just about all of the rating lends itself to the subject matter and thematic material associated with it. The rating is not so much referring to any viscerally inappropriate content. There are some hand-drawn images of the crucifixion and examples of various aspects of the flogging, and while they are not gratuitous, they do imply, unambiguously, what happened to Jesus in the last 12 hours of his life. Be discerning of whether or not your child can or should handle viewing images of crucifixion-related events–even if they are not portrayed with actors and gruesome effects/makeup. These images are, of course, brief enough that you could cover your child’s eyes and not have them miss several minutes worth of the film. There is also a scene of domestic drama late in the film which, for its own right, is certainly something to be mindful of for children who are sensitive to altercation. But, to be clear, there is no graphic violence, nor any obscene language. Lastly, there is a hospital visit scene in which a prisoner’s face is shown after a beating, and it may be slightly unsettling for young children. Again, please use your own discernment with regards to your child’s sensitivity. Other than these details, the film does not contain anything so inappropriate that a child would need to be shielded.

Overall, I give “The Case For Christ” a 5/5. There is story, character development, great writing, and fantastic delivery on all fronts. This film will challenge, inspire, and inquire that you question further anything you don’t understand. The film motivates us not to leave anything unfinished. Lee Strobel went to the end of his rope trying to prove the resurrection was a hoax, and ultimately, he was shocked to discover a different set of answers. That doesn’t mean you will as well, but it does mean that when we search for the answers, and if the answers themselves don’t seem strong enough, we can ask ourselves, “How much evidence is enough?” Even an atheist must take a leap of faith to believe there is nothing to believe. 

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. 

Did anyone else enjoy watching this film? Feel free to leave those thoughts below as well. God bless you!!

Unravel

How God Uses the Damaged To Change the World

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

HINDSIGHT AND ITS TREASURES

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

THE REMNANTS OF A DEAD WORLD AFTER CONVERSION

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

THE SUNNY-FACED CHRISTIAN FALLACY

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

THE FEELINGS-BASED FAITH MYTH

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

FAITH DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS

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

Jesus even warned us of this:

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

TWO DIFFERENCES THAT DEFINE HOW WE LIVE

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

SHORT-LIVED HAPPINESS AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING JOY

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

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

THE REASON WHY WE DO “THE RIGHT THING”

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

LIVE IN JESUS’S NAME

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

THOUGHTS?

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

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

Controversy

The Significance Of Pain

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

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

THE ROOT OF HEARTBREAK

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

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

FAMILIAL EMANCIPATION AND THE MEANING OF “HOME-LESSNESS”

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

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

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

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

ELONGATED SUFFERING

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

THE UNSTOPPABLE URGE TO DISCOVER MEANING

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

WHEN MY SOUL DISCOVERED ITSELF

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

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

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

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

WHAT IT MEANS TO DESERVE PAIN

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

THE VALUE OF PAIN

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

LEARNING FROM TRAUMA

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

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

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

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

THERE IS HOPE

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

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

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

Recognizing the God Of Love

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

OUR NATURAL STATE OF NEED FOR LOVE

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

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

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN A CORRUPTED WORLD

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

GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE

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

WISDOM AND HONESTY FROM ABOVE

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

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

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

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

Words of wisdom:

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

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

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

OUR CALL TO LOVE

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

PUNISHMENT FOR SIN

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

THE TRUE NATURE OF FAITH

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

THOUGHTS?

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

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. May God bless you all!

Blur

Epic Mommy Adventures

Pantheism: Understanding An Impersonal Doctrine

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. (Hebrews 3:4)

Truly, I do not believe these words can be ambiguously translated to mean the “universe” is the builder of everything. The universe is defined as “all existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos.” If I may, I would like to shed light on the ideas behind Pantheism–the doctrine that identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God—in order to shed light on the bigger picture who God is, and who He wants to be for us and to us.

Growing up in my household as a young boy, Jesus’s name was barely mentioned, if at all, despite the fact that we attended a Catholic church religiously each Sunday morning or Saturday night. When my parents divorced, the theme of God’s existence grew bitter to my ears because I first blamed the trauma of their divorce (among several other adversities which fell on top of that; one of which was the death of my grandparents the month of my 11th Christmas) on the concept of a God before I swiftly denied His existence altogether from the purpose of the argument. So, if there is no God, what is there? That question I let dangle like a thread for seven years, but I paid more attention to my peripherals, ignoring that thread as if it were a scratch on the lens of my eye-glasses.

Looking back, what I recognize is that in the midst of such an aversive situation, Jesus’s name, nor the importance of any close relationship with Him, was ever used to mitigate the pain I was in. The words “God does exist” were muttered several times by my parents during my teens, but those words fell flat because they were emotionless and impersonal. For me, one of the most startling truths of my spiritual oscillations between misunderstanding faith, questioning faith, and ultimately leaving faith—was that Jesus was never used with the power the Bible declares about Him. Let me tell you, the only thing worse than not believing in what others are encouraging us to believe is when others do not display the power of the faith they claim to believe in—leaving us to misinterpret the power of Jesus as weak, mild, and therefore powerless in the face of trouble. As a result, hearing about God and the universe became a more familiar and digestible approach; although that undermined the idea of faith (since there is no foundation for that, as we will see), once again pushing me away from faith. It took me moving to Florida, far away from where I was born in state of Michigan, to college where I met my friend who knew Christ in the ways my family had not.

I would like to take a close look at this. When we take Jesus away from the Trinity, we are left with God and the Holy Spirit—but what is the point of the Holy Spirit without Jesus? After all, God sent us the Holy Spirit on Jesus’s behalf when He ascended into Heaven post-resurrection:

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:25-17)

The Holy Spirit takes place because of Jesus, not despite Him. When we confuse the roles of Jesus and the Holy Spirit—and therefore God—we confuse the purpose of God in relation to faith. Per the example of Pantheism, when people equate God with the universe, they believe God is the universe, rather than recognizing how the universe is a creation of God’s.

A very questionable object to Pantheism that shakes the boat of faith is the misconception of prayer with regard to “Mother Nature”, “Mother Earth”, or “The Universe”. Many people consider conversations with nature to be prayer. My argument is that it isn’t prayer because nature (trees, plants, or the cosmos itself) doesn’t and can’t respond in any personal way. We can’t have a personal, intimate relationship with nature because we have no way to build a relationship over time with an inanimate object incapable of understanding trust and intimacy. We don’t depend on nature to love us or to die for us. We are not loyal to nature and we do not expect nature to be in our favor for any reason. We may admire nature, we may appreciate its beauty and sounds, but we do not have loyalty towards it as in a relationship. Those who are devoted to preserving nature, for example, have a passion for the longevity of trees and plant-life; but again, there is no relationship. When we claim nature has life to it, we may refer to the way trees produce oxygen, and we can and should admire its beauty as an article of God’s creation—but when we start calling the Earth “Mother”, or give it any title other than its planetary name, we’ve lost the point. How does this point lead back to prayer? you ask. Let me explain.

Prayer is a personal, intimate conversation. To reiterate, prayer is not a monologue, but a conversation between a person and God, or multiple people and God. What strikes me as an atheist-converted Christian is that I would not want to search for peace inside of nature if I knew there was a more personal alternative. In our world, with so much corruption and duplicity, I want there to be a God who is loving, pure, justifying, and personal. I want answers to my questions that nature just doesn’t provide. Deifying nature and exulting the universe takes away every personal aspect of a relationship and dismisses the point of intimacy, the backbone of the power of prayer.

Where we feel peaceful listening the waves crashing in the ocean, we can never experience loved by it because the ocean doesn’t love us; it does not put us first, it cannot make us laugh by making us feel loved or build trust in our heart by answering prayers and responding to our thoughts and desires, and it certainly cannot die for us or rise from the dead. When humans chose sin over God in the beginning, He came down in the flesh and died through Christ on the cross, the most personal an intimate gesture of love in any relationship. And in rising, He proved that our relationship wasn’t over, but rather that it was just getting started. When we glorify nature as equivalent to God, we denature the essential characteristics of a relationship by claiming the personal aspects—which separate intimacy from mere admiration—are unimportant and undesirable.

This is why sex between a man and his wife is meant to be so meaningful and personal: Sex in the marriage bed is symbolic of our relationship with Jesus in that we become one flesh (Mark 10:8) and glorify Jesus as the King in and of our souls. With meaningless promiscuous sex, we denature the value of the marriage bed as special between man and wife and claim the admirable aspects of sex (pleasure; instant gratification) as more essential and more important than the intimacy of the relationship formed between man and wife through trust, love, loyalty, and the vow of commitment. Likewise, when we glorify God’s creation and claim it to be as important as its Creator, the problem isn’t only the misallocation of glory, but the misguided and fallacious belief that we don’t actually need the very intimacy we are innately created to desire.

No one human being can claim that he or she does not crave intimacy. When intimacy has been wrested away through a painful breakup, through the agony of divorce, lies, or deceit—that is when, through constant emotional battering, the desire for intimacy seems numbed and dormant. Underneath the numbness, however, is a beating heart desperate and searching for restoration and fulfillment. Denying this reality is denying the very source of differentiation between humanity and all other creation: We were designed for intimacy; all other creation was created for us. Speaking from this point, why would we glorify the universe when God gave us the universe as a gift of His love? The universe only represents the unlimited means to God’s power, which means the only power the universe holds is the ability to point back to a God so genius and omnipotent as to create such magnificence to reflect why He is worth all the praise!

From this, I would like for you to take away and recognize that the belief that the universe and God are one is mistaken because we can have no personal relationship with the universe the way we can with God through Jesus. God created us in this way. Why would marriage be meaningful as a representation of our relationship to Jesus as the church (the bride of Christ) if intimacy wasn’t at its center? Why would married couples desire intimacy if they weren’t created for such closeness? We are created for intimacy, and we are meant to experience deep, emotional love; beginning first and foremost with the love of Christ. While the universe is magnificent, it is not omnipotent, and it is not relational; therefore, it cannot be God. What God wants us to know is that He seeks our hearts and He is jealous of our commitments when we place them in anything other than Him. That includes His creation of nature.

To read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below–I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Recognize