Reminiscence: The Power Of Testimony

As we entered 2017, I rediscovered a song by one of my favorite rock artists, Red, called “Take Me Over”, from their album Of Beauty and Rage. As I listened, I found memories flooding through me—reminders of where I’ve come in my journey as a believer in Christ, and how, at first, I didn’t take my faith very seriously. Not all that different from dipping your toes in the pool to test the temperature, and then questioning the jump. Through reminiscence, I want to share myself with you in the hopes that, through reflection and testimony, I can meet you where you are, where you may have been, or where you may want to go.

My faith, starting off about six and a half years ago, commenced with uncertainty and skepticism, dubious about what I was getting into and ascertaining the Christian faith made sense before completely committing myself to applying what faith meant: Fully embracing a relationship with Jesus as Lord. At first, honestly, I was curious but simultaneously critical. As an atheist, I was about to leave disbelief behind and accept an invitation to a world most of society lambasted as fallacious and cynical; a religion, so it seemed, that I had been raised around but had never accepted into my heart. Many people looked down on (or were puzzled by) believers for embracing Christ as Lord, openly with faith, rather than only admitting to Christ as a man. I was one of the puzzled bystanders, at one time.

On top of skepticism and doubt was my ever-reductionist perspectives of Jesus and God: He was still fairly one-dimensional to someone like me, someone who, encountering faith as an onlooker while hesitantly inching closer to hear more of the story—took some time to unveil the clandestine Jesus not accurately or effectively described in religion, but described by those walking with Him in intimate relationship; delineating Christ with substance, color, warmth, and reality—truly helping me understand Him relationally and not just knowledgeably.

According to me and my atheism, anyone who believed in a higher power was giving up their ability to live life without concerns (I now understand that belief to be morally indignant). What I would later learn through humility and consequent understanding of the person of Christ through Scripture, Christian friends, and prayer, was that my resistance to surrendering my life to live for Christ clashed with His command to love others who seem to hate us back, and the claim that He was a just, loving God at a time when everything in my life was falling apart; which obviously didn’t seem to align with that claim.

An atheist isn’t ostracized by secularized society because their thinking coincides in believing everything metaphysical or spiritual in life just happens the way it does because it does (despite their disbelief in spirituality altogether). Secularized society also relates to the atheist more than the Christ-follower in their definition of and justification for morality, explaining that they know right from wrong by “what feels right”. The fallibility of this argument, as I would come to understand during my time of learning about Christianity, is that there is no basis for such a belief; morality cannot be singularized to the individual because the individual has nothing firm on which to instill their self-defined moral compass. In other words, unbelievers claiming to feel they know what is right versus wrong categorize morality in terms of emotion (see Timothy Keller’s Reason For God). However, since morality isn’t founded on emotion, but rather on the soul, this argument falls weightless. Believers accept the Ten Commandments, as well as the complementary (and conglomerative) Golden Rule, therefore the believer’s basis of belief is planted in acknowledging God’s sovereign, divine will above their own. In this belief, morality is set above humanity; transcendent, if you will, and therefore it cannot “just be known” (innate morality) without acknowledging the source of our moral compass—God—and getting to know Him in order to understand better how the Bible calls us to live and act in a morally righteous way.

As for the secularized worldview of unbelievers not interested in explaining nor fully understanding the mysteries of spirituality in the world, and thus choosing to deny spirituality altogether—I didn’t search for an explanation for the way the world worked until after my parents divorced. For me, the world was perfect as is up until then. Their divorce turned everything upside down, including my naivety in seeing the world as some perfect place to feel safe in.

With regard to my drastic spiritual perspective shift after my parents divorce, I think an excerpt by C.S. Lewis’s from Mere Christianity says it best:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of “just” and “unjust”? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fantasies… Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”

Like Lewis, my parents’ divorce, and every event which ensued—my only brother moving out, my mom moving out, each family member dealing with pain and suffering uniquely and differently; entering middle school from elementary school, feeling the condemnation of my family and students at school for not believing in God—seemed extremely “cruel and unjust” to a young mindset like my own. I couldn’t find the idea of God as legitimate in any of my misery. Denying God’s love and very existence was a commensurate response to a childhood not founded on faith, followed by events too threatening to a heart like mine, and at a time when nothing appeared to be pointing me towards Him, but towards the need for closure I ended up discovering through lust. I wouldn’t receive C.S. Lewis’s wisdom for myself until years later.

Right after the divorce, I felt dead inside in a way I didn’t know was even possible up to my 12th year of life. See, as a child with married parents (who appeared to be alright), I had been so filled with bliss that I was a giddy. I was the first kid running outside right after dinner finished to play ball, and I was the one excited to watch a movie with the family later on every weekend. I was hyper, cheerful, and satisfied; but naive, shielded, and not made aware of the importance of faith in Jesus. When their divorce hit, the shock imploded on me like an earthquake, minimizing my worth and my passion for life as a child. Ultimately, the stronghold of agnosticism transmuted into atheism, confiscating the home of my reason, logic, and mental health; dilapidating all the cheeriness, hyperactivity, and giddiness—which then became quiet pensiveness, darkness of thought, and eventually suicidal tendencies. During my darker years, I picked up the habit of lifting weights at school to land my rage in something tangible. I listened to Korn because I was constantly feeling hurt or angry, and I needed the validation. Those dark, raging emotions never left. Disbelief became my identity, and I didn’t try to understand the misconstrued idea of a loving God, or Jesus. They were lost characters in a book too old to worry about until I was 22.

Listening Red’s “Take Me Over” reminded me of where I come from, how at one point I begged for death and thought of nothing else but death, but now I feel inspired to remember that I’m far from where I was back then; disbelieving in God, hating myself, everything in my life and this world. The song encouraged me to continue to desire Christ because He is my Rock, my stability, my Lord, my best friend, and my God. His love endured through my most painful years and met me at college in Florida where He helped me see that my story wouldn’t end in disbelief. Through friends, church, prayer, support, and encouragement, faith became my life, and I never let go.

Faith, not religion, is my answer to pain now. I will never forget where I come from, and I think that’s healthy because my testimony is that much stronger now: I started off without Jesus, officially denied Him when my life revealed its depravity of suffering and pain… then Jesus opened my eyes to see His reality, and His reality is glorious, perfect, beautiful, and worthy of surrender and hope. My hope is in Him, because where it was—life as only “happy” when seeking relationship to ease my pain, putting pressure on girls to fill God’s role in my life—that wasn’t my purpose, and that isn’t humanity’s purpose. My old mentality and lifestyle didn’t prove to be a life at all because it didn’t offer any form of hope. No more can money buy happiness than can hedonism and narcissism feed a person the reason and passion to truly live. I learned this after years of pursuing idols (music, lust, movies, and social acceptance from people ultimately not worthy of that effort), and seeing the reality of Jesus through the actions of others; through prayers answered right in front of me, through feeling my own transformation from the inside, and amazingly—witnessing my story of conversion inspire and encourage others.

I’ve written this before, but this is why I have a blog—in hopes that maybe you’ll relate to my past, my history, maybe even just one aspect of it—or perhaps, of the traumas I’ve experienced, you have suffered one or more in your own way. I believe what matters is not what we go through, but how we respond to our circumstances. More importantly, what matters is who we believe is behind the scenes of our pain, and whether or not they have the power and the love to help us learn, heal, and grow from those experiences. The divorce nearly killed me—but it didn’t. I didn’t believe in God, but I do now, and I believe in Jesus as Lord. I would never have thought I would say that in my teens. But this is my life now, and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.

How do you see your traumas in life? Have they become your identity, or have you been looking for something bigger than yourself or your adversities to find your identity in? Perhaps you’ve tried putting all of your hope in yourself; but you won’t last on your own. We all need something stronger than ourselves to get through the chaos of life, and numbing ourselves through stoicism isn’t strength, but muted agony. We need strength through hope and love, which derives not of ourselves, but through the eternity promised us in Christ’s resurrection.

I thought I would include some of the song’s which inspired me to start this post, maybe you’ll find something relevant in the words for you as well:

RED‘s “Take Me Over” (Album: Of Beauty and Rage)

Find my life ahead–
Oh I don’t know, I don’t know where…
But, I’m starting on my way—
Will you meet me, will you meet me there?
Echoes in the night…
Like a melody is haunting me…
But then I meet your eyes—
With the fire of a rising sun—
I am standing on the edge:
Take me over, take me over!

See how fast this life can change!
Take me further, lead me further–
Do you believe a life can change?
Take me over, Take me over!…

I heard these lyrics and they reminded me of my desires to know Jesus, and why I want that. I don’t know what His plan is, but I know I am passionate to know Him and to follow Him. When I meet Him in my heart, I am already standing on the edge of life, and my desire is for Him to take me beyond my hopes and fears and into His desires for me. My life changed because of Jesus, and now I just want Him to live through me. I want Him to take me over, encompass my mind and heart, and bless others through His works in me. I am only a vessel (2 Timothy 2:21); my life isn’t mine, my story belongs to Him.

I hope you will find encouragement and inspiration in my words; a reason to consider faith in the ambush of chaos in life. God loves you, and He will show you His love and His healing power if you will ask and have faith in what He can do. I had to put forward faith before I was really able to see the way Jesus worked in my life, but once I did, I find that my eyes cannot look away. My prayer is that you will try to put hope where you haven’t before in faith that Jesus will be there waiting to reveal Himself to a humble, curious heart. And once you see what I’ve come to see, may your eyes never depart from experiencing His grace and love opening the path before you, showing you towards the hope of Heaven.

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Year

The Purpose Of Faith: Jesus, Or Narcissism?

COMMON OFFENSE

Everyone gets offended. Whether by a friend or stranger, co-worker or family member, it matters not. As I’ve grown older, I rarely get offended anymore. The difference is in the way I receive what people say. In the past, I cared too much about others’ words, but now I care in a different, empathetic way; I care more about the position of a person’s heart than of the offense they’re trying to cause me.

Interestingly, I felt somewhat offended recently; indirectly, more or less. Not so much me, personally, but my beliefs. What stood out to me was why I felt frustrated because the people speaking were speaking from a place of misunderstanding. Let me explain.

SCIENCE, GOD, & THE BIBLE

Many people cling to this world with all their might and power because they choose to believe there is nothing to look forward to when they die. For them, the last breath of this life is the last moment of their existence anywhere. Not only is that an incredibly unfulfilling perspective to have, it is enormously miscalculated. An innumerable amount of atheists believe science to be the contemporary God, and they are willing to go to any lengths to use scientific discovery as empirical evidence that the Biblical God doesn’t exist. However, science itself aids in the providence of faith. As Leslie Wickman writes in her book, “God of the Big Bang: How Modern Science Affirms the Creator,” God can be found in science; not so much in that science precedes God, but we are finally discovering phenomenal truths about the universe, aiding in the explanation that God and science are not dichotomously at war in the modern argument of God and the Bible, but how they actually conflate through the evidence of each other—God used science to bring about existence, and we have used science to discover that the unexplainable aspects of creation were not formed by evolution, but by the miraculous power of God.

FEAR OF HELL

What saddens is me how many unbelievers claim not to believe in God, but choose not even to explore faith in Him. This tells me they might be afraid to be wrong. I was once afraid to be wrong. As an atheist for most of my life, there were several times in my teens when I wanted to commit suicide, and one of the only reasons I couldn’t go through with it was because I was afraid Hell really did exist and I would burn for eternity. Perhaps some of the unbelievers of today carry this same fear. And, obviously, I empathize. However, to stop there is ridiculous. How can we be afraid of what we don’t know, and then not try to figure it out?

That’s what happened to me: I tried to figure it out. And what I figured out was that no other explanation besides Jesus as Lord makes any sense.

MISUNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE AND HUMOR

For the spiritual antagonists out there, Jesus doesn’t make any sense, He merely instigates useful material for cruel religious jokes. Let me tell you, I don’t laugh at any of them—not because I don’t have a sense of humor, but because the jokes are unfounded, and therefore undermined by reality. To help make my point a bit clearer, the reason non-spiritual jokes we hear in comedies and raunchy TV shows make sense is because they’re founded in empiricism, relatability, and realism. The jokes about Jesus, on the other hand, are founded on assumptions; those assumptions are made by people who misunderstand the Bible, misconstrue its message, get frustrated by their misunderstanding, and then—instead of seeking a knowledgeable, willing believer to explain the message of the Bible in a clearer way—they transfer their misunderstandings into dark humor. Again, that isn’t realistic or empirical, it’s just presumptuous and immature. I don’t make fun of unbelievers’ lack of faith; why do they make fun of a believer’s choice to have faith?

MISUSING JESUS’S NAME

I understand the perspective unbelievers have about Jesus, and the flippancy in which they use His name in vain; I used to use His name in vain, too: before I cared about who Jesus really was (and is), I didn’t care about His name. But as I learned more about Him— why He came, what He offered, how He lived, died, rose, and what His offer means for us even today—His name took on an entirely newfound reason. I don’t use Jesus’ name in vain anymore because I believe His name holds power; frankly, I care about Him in a way that you would care about family. His name to me now is meaningful, sentimental, personal, familial, and deified. I empathize with those who don’t see Jesus this way– because I once saw God and Jesus the way they do. So, why then, if we don’t believe in Him, would we use His name at all? Why, in fact, would we hold such strong negative feelings against Him, if we don’t believe in Him?

PERSPECTIVES OF AN UNBELIEVER

The way I understand it, both from my past experiences as an atheist as well as how I’ve heard it spoken from those who mock Jesus/religion/faith is this: An unbeliever sees a believer and thinks they’re weak to have faith in something they, as unbelievers, consider intangible and fallacious; however, whereas unbelievers see a believers’ faith as weak, naive, or crazy, believers see an unbeliever’s lack of faith as revealing of their emptiness: Desperation for worldly indulgences to fill a void left unfilled by their unfaith. Furthermore, when an unbeliever refuses to believe in God but proceeds to complain that there’s nothing to believe in, their obstinacy comes across short-sighted, stubborn, and uneducated–or, perhaps more accurately–misinformed.

One of the thoughts that runs through my head during the back-and-forth spiritual bantering of an unbeliever is, “Do you not want these stories to be true?” Sometimes I ponder the detriments of disbelief, and one of the most rueful reactions I feel in response to others who don’t see Jesus the way I do now is, despite what they may hear, they don’t want to believe it. But, do they just not want to believe the parts that sounds incredulous—like the miraculous wonders Jesus performed—or do they choose not to believe in His story because of what it might mean for them as individuals; namely, that they have sin?

MISCONCEIVED NOTIONS OF FAITH

I remember as an atheist, I was afraid of being wrong. Meanwhile, I also carried the distortion that I would have to please God–if there was one–in order to receive anything from Him. But, see—that’s all Biblically incorrect! No one has to please God; no one has to believe in His Truth in order to make it true. It just requires faith… and that’s where I get confused when I ask unbelievers about their disbelief. “Do you want Jesus to be the Son of God? Do you want to be loved by an unconditional Father who just wants to spoil you crazy with His blessings? Don’t you want to follow a lifestyle of altruism based on something real and historically empirical as the love of Christ, instead of trying get what you can while you can, thinking this is it?”

What kind of life can we really live in the moment and think, “I’m going to die one day and none of this will even matter.” That sounds like such a waste of life. And while some would say “Then why live?”, I will argue back: “Why not Jesus?” What did Jesus not do for us that makes us think He doesn’t care? What did God do to make us think He doesn’t exist? Would we rather believe there is no God, no Jesus, no Bible, and no Heaven?

JESUS AND RELIGION

Religion is not what Jesus taught, readers—Jesus doesn’t talk about religion; He talks about God the Father, about relationship, about love, giving, and about being blessed by God. He doesn’t ever talk about religious anything. People made that up and that’s why religious babble gets people so exasperated and perplexed. Jesus only cares about relationship—not rules or rituals. He never commanded us to follow rituals. He only showed us ways to be more loving: He washed His disciples feet; He blessed children, He healed lepers; He answered questions with wisdom and love, rather than cynicism and judgment. He did not teach religion, readers. That’s just plain incorrect. If that’s what’s set you off, then please reconsider what you think of as “Jesus, the religion,” and try to think of it as “Jesus, my best friend and Lord.” No rituals, no rules—just the call to love.

God has never stopped loving us, which can be our biggest inspiration to love others. Do you want this to be the Truth of your life, or would you rather join in on the jokes, mockery, and criticism based on misconstrued notions of the Bible? Would you rather judge the Bible, or come to understand what confuses you?

 

LOVED BY CHRIST

I want to leave you with this, readers: Jesus loves you. If you won’t accept these words, my prayer is that your hearts will soon be softened by the Lord, opened to Him who died and rose again, for those would believe in Him. He gained nothing from doing that except knowing He would be giving us the greatest gift our entire existence would ever receive. Generosity and love are His nature. The most important question right now is, if you don’t understand the story of Jesus, do you want to?

My prayer for you is that you will find the genuine curiosity to come to know Jesus, to respect His name, to love the man, to glorify the God He is and was, and to allow Him to renew your spirit. There’s no better life than to have Jesus at the center. Ever since I found myself letting Him into mine, I keep begging Him to come closer. I can’t be without Jesus. My heart just can’t take this life without Him.

Can yours?

CONNECT WITH ME

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Chaotic

Understanding the Finitude of Disbelief

As an atheist-turned-Christian, I have seen and experienced (and participated in) a lot of spiritual/religious contention. In fact, reminiscing on my atheistic years, I remember being the skeptic doubter to raise the questions and complaints about a world under the supreme rule of God to my friends and family. While they tried to mitigate my anger, hurt, and confusion with what came across as glib religious Bible talk, I tried to undermine their desire to help me understand the very religion they seemed hardly able to explain to themselves. Religion was cliche, faith was irrational, and unconditional love was connotative to sex.

Today, there is either an explicit, apparent, and salient disconcertion towards the idea of God; and a phlegmatic, subdued, and even numbed attitude towards the concept of morality and theology. Secularism has nearly exhausted the human heart of its attempt to grasp the fundamental importance of embracing a belief system by attempting to denude faith of its soul. That said, I don’t believe theology or morality have lost their place in the conversation; such a thick subject simply requires delicacy and endurance.

THE MIRAGE OF THE RELIGIOUSLY PIOUS

There seems to be a sanctuary being built for the spiritually nomadic to distance themselves from the community of believers obstinate in their faith in Christ. In actuality, unbelievers are distancing themselves from the mirage of the religiously pious. Understandably, there are many believers who are carried away with spiritual pride rather than humility driven by the love of Christ; however, many times what appears to be the pious from a distance just so happens to be a group of open-minded individuals genuinely trying to lead by a good example. Underneath faith, ultimately, is a soul can recognize that stepping back into the darkness is choosing to be lost once more, and by trying to be a good example, a believer reminds him or herself who it is that they answer to, and why. To the unbeliever, this appears to be brainwashing, when in fact it is the believer’s armor against believing the lie that all of life is meaningless albeit the narcissism and ephemeral bliss of naivety; that living for oneself ultimately leads to feeling unfulfilled. The human heart wants to believe there is more to life than narcissism, and when we receive Jesus’s love, we no longer feel the need to be so selfish. In fact, not only does faith make us feel fulfilled, but it reminds us how ugly living for ourselves feels, and that it contradicts the purpose of the heart: To commune; to love and be loved.

The secularist feels the need to grab something they can feel with their senses; ignoring and resisting the sense of God’s presence from within. Where God can’t intervene physically without harming us on this plane of sin, He uses humans to step in and help; and where humans cannot reach—the spirit and the soul—God plants Himself, directly.

THE REALITY OF SUFFERING

Suffering makes the argument for disbelief in God more understandable—resisting the truth of the Bible, however, does not disprove its authenticity. Further, aiming vitriol at those who respond to its invitation sincerely does nothing but legitimize Jesus’s very warning to early Christ-followers that we would experience opposition in His name.

He already knew what was coming for the generations to follow—from public ridicule and censure to martyrdom itself. There was no doubt that Jesus knew the consequences of the reality He was calling us into as believers, but He did not lead us into a war blindly; Jesus warned us of what was coming and exemplified what it means to fight with love. After claiming to be God Himself, He was crucified. But when He rose again, the promises He made and the reality of life He called us into while leading us into battle became real, and that’s when we knew that what we were fighting for carried significant purpose. Now we need have no fear of death; Jesus overcame death itself by rising from the dead. Jesus does not call us to suffer in this life for the sake of His name for nothing—He was willing to suffer and ultimately sacrifice Himself—and in doing so, He defeated the sting of death and the fear of what’s to come by giving us the hope of a painless eternity with Him.

Believing in a personal God of love we cannot “see” is the foundation of faith, but Christ-followers do not follow this belief system blindly. In fact, if you asked a Christian how they “see” God working, they would give you tangible examples of how God speaks and acts through other people. In fact, one of the main differences between believers and unbelievers is that unbelievers expect if there is a God that He should be visible with hands and feet, ears and a head; whereas believers understand if God showed Himself in His natural form on Earth it would destroy us—we look for God inside of others, since the Bible promises us Jesus lives within us through the Holy Spirit. Demanding empirical evidence of God’s existence is more naive to a believer than rational because we believe God withholds Himself for our sakes. While Christ-followers do believe in miracles, more often than not the most personal miracle to occur is the testimony of a person’s heart being surrendered to Jesus and being born again.

I empathize with atheists first because I once was an atheist myself. What changed me from disbelief to belief was curiosity, first and foremost. I wasn’t looking for Christ, mind you—I was looking for answers. I searched for purpose, and I ultimately found God. I was willing and open to other faiths, but they sounded distorted.

DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES

For me, “blindness” really means to convince ourselves that the answer to suffering in life is to pretend we don’t really feel pain, with the intention of feeling convinced we don’t have any pain—and that is how I would define what Buddhism teaches. The detachment from desire is the Buddhist’s way of denuding pain from the human experience. But I believe there must be more purpose behind pain than for it to be detached and ignored. Would we not automatically jump to the conclusion that God is evil if we feel we must ignore our capacity for desire if some desires lead to pain, while other desires lead to blessings? Is our desire for food bad? I don’t believe so. But desire for unhealthy, fattening foods all day long, every day is. But that is a matter of self-control, readers, no? If our reason for calling God evil is because we dislike the idea that God gave us choice–to control ourselves or to be manipulated—how is that reason to call Him evil and not call ourselves unaccountable or irresponsible? Not that Buddhists call God evil, but some people who think in the vein of “God must be evil because He gives us desire” sometimes lead themselves to the Buddhist mentality to eradicate the “problem” of desire and the pain derived of desire (and the eventually loss of Earthly attainments). Since that notion has never sat well with me, I never followed Buddhism.

Hinduism seemed far too ambiguous to me with so many different gods, and no authentic, distinctive way to practice the faith. If reincarnation is the heart of Hinduism, and our lives are only “correcting our spiritual wrongs by trying again,” then logically-speaking, the motivation behind Hinduism seems more like the logic of a video game: You just retry until you make it. If that is true, then what does that say about hate, sin, and evil? That undermines free will and serves the impression that justice isn’t necessary. Basically, if all we ever have to do is try harder, then we claim accountability to grow into perfection is attainable. But if that is true, what is the purpose of justice? What would that say about our intrinsic desire to see justice for wrong-doing? Would we really say “Hitler will be given more chances to live again and learn from his mistakes,” rather than, “Justice will be served on behalf of that person’s choice to act on behalf of evil”? If we acknowledge the weight of evil, then we comprehend how important justice is. Can we really trivialize evil to the degree that justice is no longer required? I think not. Therefore, Hinduism also did not resonate with me.

PERFORMANCE ISN’T THE POINT

In other religions, we must act and perform well in order to reach God. That is exhaustive and emotionally heavy to live a life where, for everything we do “wrong”, we must perform better to make up for it. What kind of god towers over our shoulder to make sure we’re acting perfectly all the time? Is that commensurate to an unconditionally loving God—looming over our every move like a secret agent waiting to shoot an electric shock down our spine every time we act out of line?

The Christian God does not need us to perform—instead, He invites us to be loved by Him. There is no ambiguity here: Jesus died for us on His own accord so that we could be with Him forever. He never asks us to be perfect, but He asks us to love each other as ourselves, and to love God with all of our strength, all of our soul, all of our hearts, and all of our minds. That doesn’t spell perfection, that spells choice. Will we choose to love others now that we know God loves us, or will we choose to be selfish and live only for ourselves? That is not a trap or a threat, that is an invitation.

INVITATION–NOT A “THREAT”

Atheists may see this invitation in the form of a threat, as if God’s ultimatum is “worship me or suffer,” but the resistance of the invitation to love is what causes us to suffer—not punishment by God. Does that make sense? Our suffering isn’t caused by God, but by our resisting His love for us. We are naturally created to receive love from our Father, similar to how we naturally receive and believe whole-heartedly in the love of our Earthly parents. We were made in the image of God, not the image of humanity. Therefore, we were created to be loved by God, and when we resist His love, we suffer. He is not causing us to suffer, but He does give us permission to choose to resist Him, and naturally, resisting what is good for us hurts. The same way choosing not to sleep makes us tired and choosing not to eat gives us a stomachache, choosing to rebel against God hurts our spirits for as long as we live in denial.

The way a car won’t work if you won’t put gas in the gas tank, we just don’t function well if we don’t have God in our heart. We weren’t made for anything else. And when we try to believe otherwise, the disbelief in what is real hurts us inside. So, can we understand the drastic pain of hating the idea of God and calling Him evil due to suffering, when we’re the ones resisting love from the God we’re complaining about? It’s sounds contradictory and even childish, no? The atheist sees Christianity as a joke, but the Christian sees atheism as closed-minded and empty. The believer also recognizes the bitterness of the unbeliever, wanting to share the Good News to offer them the hope of Jesus. It’s only sad when an unbeliever can’t see their own contradiction of belief: They would rather stay doubtful and unfulfilled than joyful an fulfilled.

The invitation presented to us all by God has nothing to do with earning or deserving anything. There is nothing we could do to earn God’s love. Not only because we are so imperfect and flawed by our sin, but because God has already chosen to love us, regardless. The problem is never whether or not God loves us, the problem is whether or not we receive His love. Secularists may complain that God must be evil and has favorites, but there is no proof of this stated anywhere in the Bible, so this claim has no grounding. God loves equally, and He sees us the way He sees Jesus if we believe in Jesus. That is a free gift of love. Receiving it is a choice we must make, and once we do, everything changes. And that “changeby the wayis what is described by the Christian as being “reborn.”

MOVING FORWARD

Where do you stand today in your faith? Do you dismiss the idea that love is in fact a free gift of God, and not something you must earn first before asking? What about Christianity makes you question the love of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus? What loopholes have you found, and what would you like explained or uncovered? If there is anything at all, please post that in the comments below, and I will happily address anything as best as I can.

Today is a day for us to walk away from confusion and to start clearing the fog: Christ loves us! If there is anything you need to know today, it is that. The truth of life is that Jesus loves you. Whether or not you receive that is a choice you must make, but the choice you make to receive His love or to resist it is a choice that will change your life for the better or worse. You will feel pain, yes–with or without God. But without God, you will experience pain as if alone—though you are never alone. People will try to comfort you, but our energy-spans are limited. God is infinite and omnipresent; He will never leave you to your pain by yourself. God doesn’t always erase the pain in this life, but He promises us eternity without any at all if we will follow Jesus first and foremost. Jesus is the answer because He did what no man could ever do: He defeated sin on the cross. Because of that, He is our best friend and “closer than a brother.” Resist this and yes, we will suffer the feeling of being alone because God won’t force Himself upon us. But receive His love, and we will come to know the feeling of never being alone again. Receiving His love into our hearts means believing in the Truth that His love is real, it exists, and it is FOR us. Once we have it, we can never lose it! It’s ours! Receive His love and be transformed by it, loving others with the love that becomes of that transformation inside you. Jesus will lead you on this journey. He has been knocking on your door since day one. It’s time to decide whether such a loving, persistent Friend is worth letting in; one that holds the keys to hope itself. He has proven Himself worthy. Will you release your doubt and accept His love? You don’t have to deserve it, because you never will.

It’s His gift to give, and He’s handing it to you right now.

What will you do? Be blessed!

Sated