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

Emotions & Memories: Healing Our Broken Past

A HIGHER DEGREE OF AWARENESS

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

THE FORMATION OF SENTIMENT

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

A SERIOUS DISPOSITION & RENEWED PERSPECTIVE

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

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

SAFE MEMORIES

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

THE PIVOTAL DIFFERENCE OF SENTIMENTALITY

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

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

SETTLING FOR LESS THAN GOD

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

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

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

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

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

LET’S CONNECT

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

Better

The Space Between Agnosticism, Doubt, & Faith

THE BOOK OF MAJESTY AND MYSTERY

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

INESCAPABLE CURIOSITY

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

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

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A FALLEN WORLD

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

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

COMPELLED BEYOND IMPERMANENCE

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

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

FUNDAMENTAL PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS

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

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

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

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE AND SPIRITUALITY

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

CONNECT WITH ME

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

Pursue

Darling Downs Diaries

Discerning the Guise Of Failure

LIMITATION AND SURREALISM

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

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

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

FAILURE IS A GUISE

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

LIVING IN THE MIRAGE OF HOPELESSNESS

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

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

ASSOCIATING OUR IDENTITY WITH THE WORLD

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

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

IDENTIFYING WITH FAITH

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

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

“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING JESUS CALLS YOU TO DO”

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

DISCERNMENT AND SURRENDER

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

TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR EXISTENCE

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

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

WE CANNOT FAIL

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

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

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

CONNECT WITH ME

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

Soaring with Him Ministries

A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORAL DOMINANCE & FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

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

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

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN METAPHORS 

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

THE DILEMMA OF IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY

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

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

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

CHRISTIAN FACADES AND PLURALISM

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

CALLED FORWARD IN CHRIST

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

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

TAKEN OVER BY FAITH

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

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this article with the people around you. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God remind us all that the picture of Christianity looks like Jesus. Be blessed, readers!!

Opaque

Darling Downs Diaries

Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 1

THE WHOLE STORY

I would like to fully explain why I converted from atheism to Christianity. I have shared bits and pieces of my conversion story in previous articles, but I want to tie it all together in this two-part series. Here, I hope to clarify for people who may relate to my testimony just how powerful God truly is. Needless to say, Part 1 will be darker/heavier because of context that this took place before I understood what to make of my past, emotionally and spiritually. Part 2 will complete the story and bring us to the present where I can now see God working in my faith, and I will share more on that with you as well. 

By writing this, I hope to bring clarity, hope, and direction to others who are in the position of searching for life’s answers without knowing which way to turn.

THE BETRAYAL OF TRUST THROUGH TRAUMA

My parents’ divorce left me reeling, drowning in questions and denial. Growing up, I’d grown extremely fond of the security of familiarity, of placing all of my trust in my family’s presence, the memories we made, and the traditions that made being a part of family so special. For example, we were told to wait upstairs on Christmas morning until our dad turned on the foyer Christmas tree lights in order to come downstairs and see the mountain of presents in the living room. They would dim the lights, and we would never think anything of my parents’ droopy eyes as they had been up an hour earlier preparing the eye-popping display.

In another example, my family was active—we would go outside and play ball after dinner as the sun went down. We did this frequently, and it fed me the passion for exercise, activity, adventure, and fun.

When my parents divorced, the very cheerful, optimistic, positive part of me became very serious, quiet, reserved, and exclusive. My thoughts burrowed inward, trying to grasp with profundity the depth of my own pain.

My dad would urge me to keep going to church, since we were raised Catholic—but I refused to attend over the course of two church invitations. The notion of any kind of God was not only unappealing, it was detestable. How could a God allow this suffering to take place? I was sure there was no God because no God would allow me or anyone to experience this excruciating emotional pain and familial division. But that was only the beginning of the pain.

SUICIDE AND PURPOSELESSNESS

When my questions following the divorce became unbearable and everything I’d believed seemed to be wrong, I felt myself imploding intolerably. This new reality where my mom slept in another house and everything was drastically different was utterly nightmarish and terrifying to me, emotionally. The rules had changed and life had become more about survival. Nothing I had believed about life seemed real anymore. I couldn’t find myself embracing this new reality with my family torn apart and unfamiliarity at every corner, and I also couldn’t wrest the old reality back from its grave. This realization birthed the deepest, darkest feeling I ever thought was possible: I wanted to kill myself.

For 11 years, this wasn’t even a thought. Suicide was not even a vocabulary word that I was capable of conjuring. But suddenly, out of absolute nothingness, death became a possibility; a desire. I’ll never forget, because wanting death was the most degrading feeling. I’ve learned there is nothing darker than wanting death, and that death’s invitation is consuming.

MENTAL BREAKDOWN

I was in my teens, 13-15, lying on the floor of my room with the door closed, crying until I could barely breathe through my nose. All I could think of was how nothing was the same anymore; there were no remnants left of my past reality, everything was over and there was no going back.

My mind tried to get creative about how to end my life, and I took myself to my bathtub. On more than one occasion, when the water pressure began choking me, my mind was screaming to find a reason to live to avoid the pain of air emptying from my lungs. My chest was growing tighter and I had to decide if I was going to die this way. I started seeing stars and I could hear my own heartbeat; time was drawing close and I didn’t want to let in—I wanted to die. Alone, my family outside somewhere, clueless to my intentions, I was merely moments away from breathing my last, when I came out of the water. I breathed, looked at the walls of the tub, and begged myself for justification as to why I had chosen against death. I didn’t have a good reason: I was afraid of the pain of losing air—my lungs screaming for me to save myself was horrifying. Living in a house full of people who didn’t know me or my pain was also horrifying. There was no escape. The misery drew anguish and bitterness.

No, there is no God. A God wouldn’t allow this suffering. God would be evil to allow this. These were my thoughts and I got out of the tub to continue living, although without certainty; wondering how else I could end my life.

PARALYZED RELATIONSHIPS

My relationship to my mom was strained after the divorce. As soon as she left home to move to another house, I had to begin learning to pack bags for sleepovers. Every week I would pack necessities to take back and forth. There was more than one problem with this. The first was that right after the divorce, the presence of my mom was very different than from before the divorce; her new presence was something I did not like, nor did I want to be around. Because of her attitude and behavior, I did not want to see her often, and I felt guilty for not wanting to see her. After all, she was my mom. Not only did this seem contradictory, but it was causing me mountains of stress, guilt, anxiety, and racing thoughts. I would constantly analyze everything that was said and how it was said to pick up on anything I could in order to placate the disagreements we had. Mom had picked up on my lack of desire to spend more time with her and became angry and hurt. Her anger made me withdraw even further, and I quickly learned that our new relationship dynamic was terrifyingly different from the way it was growing up. This change haunted me—what was to become of my mom and me?

More confusing was the way my dad seemed so uninvolved with me. Our relationship seemed to have retreated, which lasted about a decade. Throughout all of my adolescence, I didn’t talk to my dad very much. In every sense of the word, my relationships with both of my parents were paralyzed. We weren’t moving forward, no one seemed to want to move back, and we were not on the same page. The horrors of the divorce crippled us and made everything that once was so beautiful into something unrecognizable, dilapidated, obsolete, disappointing. My heart was throbbing with fear, but there was no closure.

KORN/CLOSURE/VALIDATION

When I was 16, I found my first Korn album, “The Untouchables.” Upon playing the first song, “Here To Stay,” I was hooked. Never again would I find a band as interesting and addictive as Korn; their lyrical expression of rage, pain, depression, and self-mutilation were spot on with that of my own thoughts. I quickly learned that I not only related to Korn, but that they spoke into my experiences. Korn became my musical “Gospel,” in that I would listen to them for hours on end, embracing their anger, resistance, and ability to fight pain with rage and hate as my own. I soon believed that anger and hatred were ways to find strength in my darkness of despair and trauma. My desire for death was still present, but Korn was like a strong dose of morphine; they would speak into my darkest place and tell me my feelings were valid.

LAST RESORT

Along the way of finding myself tortured by the questions challenging my sanity, I found myself drawing closer to girls. Their attention gave me energy and I desired to impress them and earn their loyalty; their relationship. I ended up bringing my search for purpose to my girlfriend my senior year of high school; someone who I would learn later on could never have fulfilled that part of me. No girl ever could have, but I didn’t know where else to search for closure from all the pain. I didn’t know where else to search for purpose. I was living for me, and hating every second of it.

FINAL ULTIMATUM

After all those years of heavily contemplating my life and its brokenness, topped off by resorting to lust and infatuation—I decided to pursue film studies in Florida when I was 21 to make something of my life while I continued my search for something beyond the pain. By moving to Florida to study film, I was intending to also leave behind all of my memories in Michigan. Like a placebo pill however, my mind wanted to make believe leaving Michigan would numb the pain (my past). But, after many years of being away, I’d learned that the kind of pain I experienced wasn’t solved by geography, but by the spirit. My spirit had been plagued by anger, bitterness, selfishness, and resistance to any sort of aid—and in turn, my mentality, maturity, and belief system were closed-minded and shallow. More on this will be elaborated upon in Part 2.

JUST THE BEGINNING

What is important to note here and now is that this isn’t the end of my story. This is just the first step in the path. All of this, as it were, marked by darkness, bitterness, and despair–this is not the end of anyone’s story. This is the reason for Part 1 and 2; I need you, as the reader, to fully grasp this picture as its own image, because when you understand the rest of the story, you will come to see where the transformation is, where God’s hand was, and how it’s a matter of taking a leap of faith to see what even our physical eyes cannot. In Part 2, I will explain all of this so that you can see for yourself that our pain and our questions have answers and solutions, even if it doesn’t seem like it yet. I can tell you right now that despite my pain, God is still good!!

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 at 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’ll do my best to respond as promptly as possible. May God bless you today!

Jolt

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. 

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