Unveiled By Grace: The Blessing Of A Beating Heart

THE BLESSING OF A BEATING HEART

Earlier last week as I laid on my bed, the position I was in enabled me to feel the rhythm of my heart. As I became relaxed and still, I paid special attention to the movements, visualizing the organ as it circulated blood flow through its valves. Feeling these pulsations in my chest brought me to peace as I fell in awe and wonder of God: Do we slow down enough to appreciate that which we have no control over, but which have such significant roles in our lives? Feeling my heartbeat reminded me I am not in control of anything other than my choices. And by the grace of God, even those are influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus, that I can see what I would otherwise remain blind to without. What is it we cannot see without the grace of the Holy Spirit?

BLIND TO GRACE

The truth is that the answer to this question would be fruitless to those having not first received God’s grace. But receiving God’s grace undoubtedly answers the question on its own. In other words, to have received God’s grace is to be humbled enough keep it; to not have God’s grace is to be blind to the treasure of knowing we need it.

I would like to spend this article appreciating God’s grace and looking more deeply into the experience of recognizing the beauty of what isn’t ours to give ourselves.

RECEIVING GRACE

Honestly, grace was, more or less, a weightless spiritual term for me before recently. While it held its place in the spiritual conversation, the character of grace did not live up to its name. Little did I understand until recently that it was because I had not received grace more fully (deep in the spirit); rather, I had only taken notice of grace on the surface. To know of grace as a religious term is to have knowledge of a word without its context or purpose; to receive grace is to feel the Holy Spirit influence and reshape our heart by the humility of knowing the control (of thought, choice, and action) we have is painfully flawed and in need of divine correction. If we have not received grace, we will not desire correction; we may view ourselves as a work in progress at best, giving ourselves the credit of believing we know how to fix what is broken. The problem is we believe we can correct ourselves in our current state of understanding of what it means to correct, when in fact it is our skewed understanding of “correctness” that brought us to our flawed state to begin with. 

DIRECTIONS TO A MEANINGLESS DESTINATION

Grace instigates a change on the inside. God reframes our understanding of what it means to receive what He gives us as an outpouring of His love, rather than knowing of His gift like directions to a place we’ll never travel to. What kind of difference would it make to know how to get somewhere we’re not interested in going? It wouldn’t. What difference would grace make then if we could not see our current state? Grace pulls away the veil and reveals with the light of Christ the dark space inside that is our blindness. We cannot remove a veil we cannot even see is obscuring our view

OUR TRUE NATURE REVEALED

Grace remaps our perspective. Say a friend tells you that you have something in your nose. This may draw different reactions, namely relief and surprise; surprise because you might not have expected such a comment, and relief to discover there was something to remove. Grace is similar, but obviously to a much greater and more fundamental degree—it is the revelation of Christ’s character. When our sinful way of living is revealed, we are likely to be surprised by just how off-putting our lifestyle really is, but we are relieved to know there is a much better way. First, we must understand what a healthy lifestyle looks like by comparing it to what is unhealthy, and ultimately desiring what is more healthy. Grace is the unveiling hand, revealing where we’ve chosen for the worse. 

INTERNAL EXCAVATION AND REBIRTH

Grace can be believed, but still not received. There is a difference. A received grace can be found in the fruit of a person’s actions, after the true nature of grace has been divulged to them. When we receive grace, there is a deep, internal shift—not merely permutation; there is no reordering or rearrangement of our spirits—there is an entire excavation of our original mentality to make space for a new spirituality; our old, dead spirit for our new, reborn spirit. Grace complements the process and reality of rebirth, where we surrender our old, “sinful self” for our new spirit in Christ. What is amazing is that with grace, we desire this excavation; the renovating of our very interior walls into our reborn spirit, where our new eyes can now “see” ourselves before and after Christ. We then begin to understand the end of Christ’s means through His death and resurrection, and we are witnesses to our own transformation.

CHRISTIAN “BRAIN-WASHING”

Some people fear or suspect this “excavation process” (my personal choice of words) to be what some might call the brain-washing effects of Christianity. Let me be clear—this is not brain-washing because there is no manipulation or deception: The Truth of the Spirit of Christ speaks for itself. We cannot stop grace from interacting with our spirits anymore than we can stop water from being wet—because this is merely the natural, organic communication between grace and our spirit inside. Grace does not need manipulation to have a sincere impact; grace’s intrinsic form evinces our most inner self by wiping the manipulation and deception of sin from our eyes; no facades, no defenses, no excuses, no masks—only the truth.

The reality of grace is that while it is a perspective change, the shift is triggered by the change of our view of the self (which is initiated by grace). In other words, when we see ourselves differently—spiritually-speaking—our new spiritual view changes how we see the world around us as well. This is as immutable as fire is hot: To see oneself differently is to perceive one’s world differently. A doctor cannot be a clown and a child cannot be geriatric; a doctor cannot accept his identity to be a clown lest he forfeit the nature of his responsibility anymore than a child could not accept him or herself to have diabetes or arthritis while youthful and galvanized. Likewise, once we understand what our true nature is by the power of God’s grace, there is no returning to our previous identity (life without God) because to return would be to merely pretend (like the doctor or the child) not to see what cannot be unseen, wearing a front in the name of self-denial. These useless, vacuous pretenses would far more likely be brainwashing our minds than the genuine, revealing nature of grace in our hearts. 

BIOLOGICAL REASONING AND DECEPTION

In this way, grace is not manipulation anymore than experiencing love firsthand renders us speechless. The experience of grace is not a trick or deception anymore than realizing what it feels like to love and be loved is “otherworldly.” We know we cannot amply explain love beyond chemicals and hormones (with strict regard to the biological argument), but we “know” our experiences are authentic, sentimental, and more precious than any other. This is our truth. Once we have experienced this love, or have come to understand it through the love of Jesus, we would not attempt to use logic to explain it away just because we cannot explicate the process further beyond our understanding of explicit biological reasoning. In other words, simply because we cannot explain love without using clichés when trying to break the argument away from science, this doesn’t stop humans from believing that their experiences are all the more real than much any other experience.

Likewise, we would not explain away grace as manipulation if we knew, from the spirit, the freedom of knowing (growing in awareness) our sinful identity is promoted by the deception of the enemy, and how having our eyes opened to the Truth of Jesus Christ is the most significant and essential reality to be encompassed by (reborn identity) and invited into. 

LIBERATED BY A LACK OF CONTROL

When I felt my heart beating while lying down, I acknowledged to myself that at any moment, my heart could simply stop. Not due to health problems or the position I was lying in, but because God allows each new breath to come, and He could stop allowing it at any time. This realization is grace itself in action, reminding me how beautiful it is not to be in control of everything, including the very breath enabling me to continue living and making decisions and realizations—all of which impact the people around me. We are given so much control, and yet to truly see our lives from the bigger picture (what I like to call the “bird’s eye view”), we realize that the control we have is so little—and yet, this truth is extremely liberating when we receive grace and realize how much more abusive of our control we would be without it.

FREEDOM BY OMISSION

When we can admit and acknowledge this abuse, we turn inwards with humility and gratitude that God gives us the grace to choose Him, again and again, and to not so stubbornly beg and plead for more control. Grace enables us to see the havoc and chaos which would destroy our identities without Him who extends the gift, and in seeing this Truth, we are not manipulated, but set free from the lie that so much control is actually better than surrendering to a personal, loving, unconditional, selfless, infinitely powerful and omniscient God—a God creating each new moment (allowing every heartbeat) for us to remember once again why we serve with humble eagerness. May our eyes be opened to this Truth, and may we all be filled with peace, hope, joy, and freedom in the omission of more chaotic control as we follow a God whose sole intention is to give us the best life we could possibly live. 

I pray this would be our new perspective, mentality, and source of relief. 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!

Relieved

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 when in fact he 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

Transformed From Within: How We Are Meant To Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oversight

The Uphill Battle Of Pride and Humility

Humility digs deeper than the rudiments of opening doors for the elderly, or the simplism of admitting our wrongs. Humbleness comes from the willingness of the spirit to be broken in order to grow, surrender in the form of release; not surrender to the loss of authenticity, but to the release of the egocentric mind and its narcissism. 

We discover humility upon, for instance, the consideration of respect we have for our grandparents in raising our parents, our parents in raising us (or the parental figures who raised you, be they aunts, cousins, or other familial parental roles), and whether our deference for either is obligatory, or embraced with gratitude.

When humbleness of spirit is squandered or exhausted, pride either replaces its quiet reassurance, or humility is defeated in the disappointment of depression. Either arrogance undermines our humility to the point that our pride overrides its steadfast assuredness, or we get drowned away with self-degradation by the extremes of shying away from overzealousness.

The importance of humility is pivotal in learning to better ourselves, but detrimental when we confuse the life lessons meant to challenge our pride for punitive evidence of our vacuity. In other words, yes, we don’t know everything, but that doesn’t pronounce us a black-hearted dunce. Learning something new is merely a sign that there’s room for growth, not nearly that we lack the spacial aptitude for character development.

What strikes me about pride is how subtly it can percolate through us like innocence. The smallest denigrating comment, the slightest integer of intention apart from sincerity, and pride has the cunning to intoxicate its own choice to surrender. This is not to say that humility lacks ample self-reassurance and firm grounding; humility’s self-confidence exists independently of the pompous verbosity of pride. Truly, the characteristics of humility we admire so highly are divulged in the confidence of pride. It’s where pride’s imperious nature hinders its own ability to recognize room for growth that its overbearing distortion obscures its perception of humility. This narrows humility’s path in accepting its potential weaknesses, and in turn, reluctantly force-dipping it into the overflow of pride which appears as desperation careening on arrogance. At times, pride may be too afraid to acknowledge its need for the necessary demands of humility to slow down and practice discernment—steering itself away from the source problem and diving directly into the heart of the storm on the whim that its own strength is sufficient. Of course, pride’s weakness is the greatest strength of humility, insofar that humbleness is complemented by the surrender of pride in order that its weaknesses would be reformed and properly re-established, having been mitigated by steadfast assuredness—the very heart of humility.

Why is humility inspiring and pleasing to our perception of others? Why do we feel driven to emulate the characteristics of the humble, the calm, and the steady? Put simply, we admire, respect, and prefer someone with self-control. A balanced mind, willing to consider others’ opinions and pondering alternatives before making a decision, be it a belief, a behavior, or otherwise, is influenced and guided by moral obligation, and embraced with a ready heart. This is, subjectively-speaking, one perspective of the thought process of humility. Humility can begin with discernment, first understanding the situation of the mind and heart before translating it into something as palpable as empiricism. When what we see expressed displays the surrender to love, to feeling joy and hope, we witness the incarnation of humility in Jesus Christ. His love is welcoming, His humility contagious, His Truth invigorating; His reality all-encompassing. In this perspective, we find Jesus’s reality extrapolating through Christianity into modern times where Christ-followers understand the importance of Christ-like love as more important than anything. When this reality becomes palpable for the believer, humility becomes second nature to the following and pursuing of God, continuing to know Him through Jesus.

Humility without Jesus is surrender without letting go; when we see how Jesus presented humbleness is His passion to love others first, we, even without volition, let go of our narcissism. We release our selfish desires in the humility of, “If Christ did it for me, I will do it for Him.”

Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but that He had overcome the world (John 16:33). What does a Christ-follower have to fear then, by loving others through Him? What does a Christ-follower have to fear by loving others because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, and the miracle of His resurrection? Nothing. We have nothing to fear. Not even fear itself, which is the darkest and most facetious joke of the enemy in a feeble attempt to convince us God isn’t really in control. But God is, and because He is in control of everything but our choices, we can choose Him without fear. That sets us free from the malicious devastations of a hedonism—leading to loneliness, isolation, and the decay of the soul.

Perhaps we have some work to do on our interior. Perhaps we could resist more tenaciously against our pride by refining the way we consider humility, and in so doing, recognizing humility’s face in the person of Christ. Whoever we emulate, be they other than Jesus—we ask ourselves who they emulate.

What’s so very telling about a person is who they are inspired by. Some of the most interesting people are inspired by others whom we would never emulate, and the question which proceeds is: “Why, then, do we feel so drawn to these people?”

It’s easy to get drawn to the world. There are numerous traps set along the way to convince us we don’t need faith in God and that we don’t need a belief system to live a good life: the flood of dopamine through sex, validation by those who don’t actually care about us yet who we still allow to feed our ego; hedonistic pleasures like drugs which we justify in the name of “living the life,” all implemented by believing pleasure-filled lives is a purpose to embrace. The way I think about it is this: We are attracted to this world because the world doesn’t require us to have faith. Those who are drawn to Christ have had their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of this world’s treasures: Earthly treasures will be wiped away until even a stone is not overturned (Mark 13:2). If we truly believe that, why would we continue to use and practice a lifestyle that will ultimately die and fade away? We are attracted to the humility and love of Jesus when we understand, accept, and have faith that His love will never die. Believing in the hope of Jesus is the difference between abusing our lives in the world while we live in it now (i.e. “living the life” (idolizing sex, drugs, alcohol, etc), or living as if pleasure is “all there is”), and choosing to see life as an opportunity to grow close to the Creator on our way to spend eternity with Him. One must believe in God in order to choose to spend their lifetime growing closer to Him. Rejecting this invitation to eternity is to suffocate the selflessness of our surrendering to the desperately hopeless, constant search for pleasure and Earthly satisfaction.

Humility comes into play for the believer when we face the odds; when adversity strikes and tempts the mind to believe there is nothing better than this. But there is. For every moment of suffering is an eternity of infinite happiness, painlessness, deathlessness, and freedom. A believer believes for all the afflictions of this life, there is hope unlimited in the life to come. There is nothing to fear when there is nothing to lose; there is nothing to lose if all was never had. The only precious treasure never lost or forsaken has been the Truth of Christ, and the love of our Father in Heaven. That love relationship will never fade away, and it will make us for every second of suffering and pain. To have faith in this is to experience humility by seeing the world to come while still journeying our way there in this moment. We are not yet embracing the world to come because we still exist in this one, but our hope aims for that place like a compass; with our eyes focused on the destination that lies ahead.

One day soon we will no longer be on the journey, we will be at our destination, and all of our losses will be accounted for and multiplied by eternity. Truly, if this is your faith, you have nothing to lose here, but everything to gain. If you live like this, selfishness isn’t a thought, but a sacrifice; releasing selfishness to replace it with satisfaction in Christ. Humility is the jewel of the soul, refined and molded by Jesus.

We only need look at what is to come and to live in this moment, knowing for certain it leads to that life. Not with blind hope, not with doubt, and not with fear, but with confidence and perseverance, we march straight for Heaven: No matter the pain, the trouble, or the loss. We seek God face-to-face, and our heart’s desires will be fulfilled for all-time. We’re almost there. Can we cling to Jesus and live in the reality of His humility in a world wearing the blind-folders of sin, confusion, shame, and regret?

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Seek the hope of Christ this very moment, and embrace the One who inspires us to live on. He lives in us. With Jesus as our Guide, let the world see us for who we follow—and let them follow Him, too.

Interior

Hope–God’s Greatest Gift From Heaven: Part 1

Humbly surrendering our free will to the influence of Jesus is humanity’s greatest gift to God; His greatest gift to us was sending us His one and only Son to be the prime example of exactly what it means to humbly surrender. 

Look around you. It’s hard to find many people who unmistakably exemplify the Golden Rule(s) of Christ: To love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength; to love each other the way He loves us, and to love ourselves the same way. Why are these so important? What did Christ show us?

There are the miracles; and there are many. Some weren’t even healing– one was just Jesus’ disciples witnessing Him defy gravity by walking on water. But Jesus didn’t place emphasis on His power because performing miracles wasn’t the purpose or message of His ministry. His main message was that of love and hope. Love is the foundation of the church Christ laid down when He died on the cross for humanity, but His greatest gift to us was rising from the dead, conquering death and giving us something to put our hope in; something to look forward to: seeing Him and living with Him forever in Heaven when we die, if we accept His love and sacrifice for us into our hearts, here and now.

So, again, what did Christ show us?– He showed us how to love. Not with miracles, but with His words and actions. Yes– He healed the blind and the sick– but… He loved them. He even healed a person with leprosy by touching them in front of a crowd He’d just given a sermon to. Did He have to touch the person? Of course not! He was God Incarnate! He healed a child in an entirely different city just by responding to a man’s faith in Him. So why did Jesus touch the leper, which–in that time– was deeply frowned upon (for fear of catching Hansen’s Disease)? Jesus wanted the crowd to see that for Him, loving the people with faith in God– and being the reason for the seculars who hadn’t yet discovered such faith or hope– that was His main purpose for existing on Earth. He came to Earth love us; and through loving us, He died for us so that we would not have to pay for all the selfish rebelling we do. But that wasn’t His last act of love. He went one step further than any man, woman, or being in existence has ever done and could ever do: He resurrected. And by that final act of love, He gives us the greatest hope mankind has ever known.

When Christians say Jesus is their hope, what they are recognizing is that Jesus is our one and only bridge from this life to the Kingdom of Heaven, where God is. Jesus claimed that the only way to the Father was through Him. In resurrecting, all of His promises became ossified in history as true facts, and not just hopes and cliches. By resurrecting, all of the parables Jesus said, every miracle He performed; every sermon He told and rebuke He made became parallel with His claims during trial that He was the great I Am. There was nothing anyone could do but exult His name, worship the Him through the Father whom Jesus claimed He served on behalf of, and to love each other the way He commanded us to.

On an additional note related to this point, I hope some of you can relate to this short story:

In my later teens, I had a relationship with a girl, and I would ask her, even when things were going fine, “Do you love me?” This question wasn’t aimed from something she’d done to show a lack of love, but at my own insecurity. At this time, I was an atheist, and so–looking back now, as a Christian–I can recognize an aspect of that relationship I never noticed before: I was looking for God’s validation of love and hope through this girl. The essence of our relationship with God can never be satisfied with another human being. Looking for God’s love through the opposite gender will never satisfy that need. Only God can do that. And as stubborn as I was when I was an atheist–and for those of you who are an atheist or agnostic right now–I was never open to trying to believe God was the missing piece. But I have been there and I am here, as a Christ follower now, and I can tell you for a fact that there is no missing piece other than God, Himself. Without Him, no one will ever give you what you need. And that is not discouraging–that is the reason to have hope in Christ!!

Previously, in my post “Masculinity In A Broken World: Revisited“,  I wrote this:

A man needs no affirmation of a woman to be a man (Readers, do not confuse affirmation with validation. A kindly spoken, “You look handsome today!” or “So proud of you!” can go a long way. But that is not validation, those are compliments.) , and a man who thinks he does is still a boy.”

When I say this, I’m directly speaking into my point right now. God’s validation is all anyone need’s– whether or not they understand the wisdom from that truth. My point in that post was specifically directed at men and their relationship with God, so here in this post, I am speaking in another direction about the same point. People do not need validation from people in order to recharge or to be fully alive. In fact, for a woman to become fully a woman, she needs the same thing! To become intimate with God is to know oneself fully without the approval of humanity complimenting her every move, choice, or appearance. And where does all of this come from? Hope in Christ.

So for the secular, atheistic, and agnostic crowd out there, I want to speak into your space here. As a former atheist, myself, and a current Christian, I can elaborate distinctly on the difference between Christian hope and atheistic complacency. The hope of Christ is something that does not derive of this world, and it does not come from the pleasures of sex, drugs, partying, clubs, or attention; validation from your mom or boss, nor the way people respond to you. The hope of Christ comes from within your spirit. A first step towards understanding exactly what I mean by this is softening your heart. What does softening your heart feel or look like? Well, first, do you understand what hardening your heart looks and feels like? When you are rigid, stubborn, jealous, envious, closed-minded and difficult to communicate with effectively, you are being “hard-hearted”. When someone wants to pay you a compliment and all you can respond with is, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just a shirt,” you’re being hard-hearted. In reverse, softening your heart means becoming humble and seeing things from another point of view without the fear of it automatically and drastically changing you upon impact.

Honestly, the fear of change is prevalent and universal. The fear of someone changing our belief systems, morality, and ratiocination (reason)–is, therefore, that much more daunting and unfamiliar. So when the first step towards any direction is softening your heart, the very first thought is usually– “you’re asking me to let it in the unfamiliar, and to trust myself enough not to be afraid that I’m going to let the unfamiliar change me right away if I don’t want it to.” Yes, exactly!

Now let’s back up. When Christians mention “hope in Christ”, what we’re talking about is softening our hearts to the will of Jesus–meaning–we are receptive to what Jesus has to say in our hearts, and we are willing to listen before dropping it on the back burner of our minds as useless. We consider what His words are saying, what they mean, how they would impact us and/or others, and what the intention Jesus is behind His words. Softening your heart doesn’t mean you become Christian. If you choose to follow Christ, that is your own decision to make. But first, softening your heart means you’re willing to listen. How willing are you to listen to someone you hardly ever–if ever– give a chance to speak fully, clearly, and honestly into your heart and soul? You’ve heard all sorts of voices; parents, co-workers, friends, strangers, enemies, significant others– you know them all very well. How well do you know Jesus’ voice? Do you know for a fact that He wants something bad for you; to threaten you and all that you want in life, or do you assume that based on the unsolved mysteries (unsolved as far as you believe) of this over two-millennium-aged book called the Bible? If you don’t understand Jesus, you will not understand what He has intended for you to know about Him and from Him. Are you willing to let Him tell you exactly what He wants with you, and for you? Would listening to Him really hurt you? Has not listening to Him truly helped you?

When I was an atheist, quite honestly, I was very hard-hearted. I was obstinate and rebellious against any idea of faith. Friends would mention God and I would hate every word they said. I didn’t want to hear anything and I tried my hardest to discard every word. Their words come back sometimes now because I want more than anything to know more about Jesus. But at that time, I wasn’t ready. Can you become ready to hear what the hope of Jesus means for you today?

The hope of Christ is that you no longer have to suffer for your sins. You don’t believe in sin? How do you describe what it is when someone kills another person? What is abortion; a choice? It’s a choice to kill. Readers, I’m well aware that saying that causes controversy. I get that. But do you understand what abortion is? A “professional” either provides a mother a herbal medicine meant to destroy the fetus–or–they stick a blade into a woman’s uterus and removes the still-forming body parts of a human being by forcing them out in pieces. Is that not murder? And if it is murder, how is that not sin? How is that not rebelling against the miracle of God’s blessing of giving life to a child?

Women and men alike will ask, “What if we can’t afford a baby?” I ask back, “What about adoption?”– “What if we can’t afford adoption?”….But you could afford to have sex, right? Why should a defenseless human be paying the price for your irresponsible hormonal decision? And you know what else? Where is your faith that God won’t provide a way for the newborn to be given a proper home in 9 months? Nowadays, in 2016–there are plenty of couples who can’t get pregnant who would travel across the world to take the one you can’t afford to give a proper, healthy upbringing. I personally know a couple who adopted a child this year, and I’m proud of them. That is better than a blade, is it not?

(For those of you who have already had an abortion and are reading this, please hear no condemnation or hate from me. I make my point about abortion to be clear about sin, and to be helpful for those who have not yet had an abortion– to encourage them to seriously reconsider such a heavy decision before carrying it out. I believe in the power of forgiveness, and that your choice to receive an abortion in the past can be made right through Christ. By asking Jesus for forgiveness, and upon accepting forgiveness from Him, I believe in peace beyond such painful choices. I do not believe you need to live the rest of your life in shame based on your past decisions; I believe in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness wholeheartedly! Be filled with forgiveness today and be raised up with His love. All is made right through Christ!)

Readers, again, the hope of Christ means we no longer have to suffer for our sins. In this life, we will have adversity; we will have trouble. But Jesus has already taken care of that. If we would accept His love now, we have something to look forward to later (that is, still living in present moment with the hope and joy what is yet to come after we die), something that will completely blow this vapor of a life away. Imagine 80 years to eternity! When you consider the comparison, imagining a place without death, pain, disease, suffering, or tears is a pretty amazing thought. And you can look forward to that, but first you must acknowledge who made it possible: Jesus. If not for Jesus, we would have nothing to look forward to at all. Not even death.

The expression from the workaholics out there, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” falls on dead ears. They live a life full of meaningless relationships and selfishness, thinking money will spell love to the ones dying for their affections right now, and then they think they’ll go to a place without pain while leaving those on Earth who needed their affirmation for their life without so much as a clue as to who they even were. How does that work, exactly? Jesus was always ready to stop and talk with people, even when He was completely exhausted. But workaholics have to work until they can’t even function enough for those they make the money for? Something tells me they don’t have faith in Christ’s ability to provide, and that is destroying their soul.

Christ wants us to lean on Him, one-hundred percent! He wouldn’t ask for such a commitment if He didn’t have something significant to offer. But He offers eternity with unconditional love– without pain! There is no fathomable experience within a lightyear of that promise on this Earth. So if He is promising that after His resurrection, there is truth to His promise. But, again, we must first acknowledge who gave us that option! Jesus did!

Be encouraged today. Whether or not you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, know that His offer is open to you, always. All you need to do is soften your heart and speak to Him honestly, and listen to what He has to say. If you can’t hear Him yourself, perhaps He’ll speak to you through another believer who God sends your way. Whatever happens, I can promise you there is nothing to be afraid of with Jesus. He always has your best intentions in mind. His roads don’t make sense lots of times at first—I’ve found myself countless times thinking, “Jesus, what are you doing??” But, in hindsight, I can see Jesus always has a plan, but it isn’t important that we know what the plan is every time we’re in it. It’s more important to Jesus that we’re obedient. He will never take us down the wrong path.

What will you do with this information? Will you try to do what I explained about softening your heart and speaking honestly to Jesus? Will you remain stubborn like I once was? You already know how the stubborn road feels and looks like– you’ve walked down that fork in the road before. Are you willing and brave enough to try something new? I would like to challenge you to try to give this a shot. The worst that can happen is… nothing happening. How bad is that? For your own sake, I would ask that you try, and see what best case scenario comes of it.

Be blessed, readers! May God lift you up and encourage you through every interaction and every circumstance you encounter today!

Recharge