A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORAL DOMINANCE & FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

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

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

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN METAPHORS 

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

THE DILEMMA OF IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY

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

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

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

CHRISTIAN FACADES AND PLURALISM

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

CALLED FORWARD IN CHRIST

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

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

TAKEN OVER BY FAITH

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

LET’S CONNECT

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

Opaque

Darling Downs Diaries

The Rationality Of God’s Existence

I grew up all too closely to the terms “gullible” and “naive,” when my people at school would speak disparagingly in my direction. Even my siblings seemed to tower over me at times with what seemed to be such an experience beyond that of my own. In hindsight, I understand now that I hadn’t lived my own life in such a challenging environment where my character and soul could find its greatest match. As an adult, however, I have come to see what matters in life by living far beyond that of my comfort zones and familiarity; not just on the subjective scale of what matters most to me, but from watching the news from others’ (if political) perspective of importance, from witnessing the political and spiritual altercations of social media (users denigrating others for their beliefs rather than trying to understand the source of another’s perspective), gleaning from research-based books regarding the psychology of the mind and spirit from a global standpoint; reading the Word of God, living in several places over the last eight years, and experiencing friendship after friendship—gaining an understanding of humanity through the way people live and think over the course of many years, discovering the soul behind their decisions, actions, and belief systems. One of the many things I have learned through these experiences has taught me what procures gullibility, what reinstates naivety, and what has the power to motivate us beyond them both.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

What I want to do is take the concepts of gullibility and naivety and help clarify to others what it means to be gullible and naive with regards to faith in Jesus. The reason why I want to write this is because I believe there is an association made in error towards those of faith; that faith itself is a naive approach to life, and that gullibility is the approach of a person who might consider something like faith. My hope is that when we are finished, we will have a new, or hopefully refreshed perspective on what we believe makes a person naive or gullible with regards to the value which they place in faith.

THE DETRIMENTS OF PRESUMPTION

Being easily persuaded to believe something is synonymous with the unwillingness to slow down enough to understand the belief behind the persuasion. That is gullibility. Gullibility is not synonymous with stupidity, but with the laziness in choosing not to understand the source merit of a promise, accepting instead a false promise on the basis of its own uncredited merit. 

Gullibility is the consummation of an unmerited promise with the unknown. When we are gullible, we take our presumptions to a level where we expect our beliefs to explain the complexities by which the entire world operates. For instance, we may expect certain people to be nice, others to be trustworthy, and yet others to be dangerous and hostile. While there are many ways we construct these lists in our minds, the core problem is centered on the way we are presuming our beliefs based on limited information and expecting the digestion and retention of that limited information to form a complete picture. Gullibility is like preparing a gourmet meal made of cheese, bread, and crackers, and surprised when it refuses to satisfy our craving for flavor.

GOD’S EXISTENCE: TWO VIEWS THAT EXPLAIN ITS RATIONALITY

The secular argument against Christianity hits a scabrous dry wall when it claims believers cannot prove the Biblical God’s existence as a rational belief. I have two points I would like to propose in this article which contend with the secular view that God’s existence is irrational. My first point can be made in Timothy Keller’s book, Making Sense Of God, where he writes six compelling reasons why, rationally speaking, it makes more sense to believe God exists than to believe He doesn’t.

#1 – THE UNOBVIOUS

The six ways which he lists (although he admits there are more) are cosmic wonder (something cannot come from nothing, so where did everything come from that has come to exist?), perceived design (“In terms of probability, the chances that all of the dials ((speed of light, gravitational constant, and strength of the strong and weak nuclear forces)) would be turned to sustain life-permitting settings all at once are about 10 to the 100th power”), moral realism (most everyone can agree that there are certain deeds that are simply “wrong,” no matter how ones feels about it. But without God, this sense of moral obligation has no basis), consciousness (the fact that we are “conscious, idea-making” individuals points more rationally to a conscious, idea-making God—rather than the empty notion that our consciousness is “no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”), beauty and reason (our aesthetic senses tell us there is a difference between the hormonal response to a woman’s voluptuous shape, and our awe in capturing a beautiful landscape; although they both derive from our admiration of beauty, only one can be traced back as an evolutionary advantage used in ancient times for survival ((man’s attraction to the female body as a sign of the woman’s fertility, and reproduction was a means for survival)), the other cannot—making it a more viable explanation that beauty is a God-given gift unassociated with anything survival-related. Our sense of reason cannot break this down because there is no scientific breakthrough or explanation for it, but belief in a personal God of reason certainly can).

#2 –  TESTIMONY

My second point regards the power of personal testimony. My testimony, as well as everyone who has been born again—has a story. Each story has a tragedy and a rebirth. The tragedy appears to be death itself to the person while they are still living the life of disbelief, viewing pain as a curse from the universe and tragedy as a reason to declare as obsolete the idea of a loving God. Trauma coerces the unbelieving heart, causing it to be subjected to the detriments of presumption; imagining if there is a God, the only God that must exist is evil because He allows evil to happen to “good people.” But who defines what is good or bad?

The response to this comes in the form of Timothy Keller’s point on moral reasoning (a phenomenal chapter in Making Sense Of God), which states that if people believe there are certain moral absolutes–certain deeds which are strictly “good” or “bad” regardless of people’s feelings about the aforementioned deeds—that we are bereft of an argument claiming there is no God from which our moral sense derives from to claim a person is either good or bad. If we cannot route our sense of morality back to ancient times for the purpose of survival, nor associate the origin of morality to the theory of evolution (neither of which could adequately explain the way humans view morality, let alone moral absolutes today), then we are without a reason to claim that our sense of morality isn’t in itself a compelling reason to believe in the existence of a personal, moral God by which to define whether a person is good or bad.

HOW THE RATIONALITY OF GOD’S EXISTENCE EXPLAINS OUR PURPOSE

Many times, unbelievers (like myself, many years ago) fall prey to the detriment of presumption without understanding their reason for blaming or denying certain ideologies and their foundations. Without first explicating theology or the origins of such dichotomous concepts such as morality, our presumptions that our disbelief is rooted in anything firm or auspicious cannot lead to a life where what we do, how we think, or what we believe has any transformational impact on the way we live our lives. And why would we need anything to act as a transformational impact? Because each and every person desires purpose for their lives, whether they can acknowledge it, recognize it, perceive it or not—and the only way we can explain our intrinsic need for purpose is to understand where we come from so that we can understand more clearly where we’re going—which in itself is the substance of the journey we are on called life, where we constantly ask ourselves why we are still here.

So you can see, the main difference between a believer and an unbeliever when altercating over God’s existence is that the unbeliever demands empirical proof, while the believer understands that the only way for an unbeliever to find the rational explanation he is searching for is to surrender their unknowns to faith, acknowledging that the questions without answers are actually answerable with the belief in a personal, loving, moral, omnipresent God who created us to be in relationship with Him above all else.

TESTIMONY PAINTS A PICTURE RATIONALITY WANTS TO BELIEVE

Through testimony, the transformation that occurs within a person is unmatched with any other experience because the transformation triggers so deep within a person that their entire character is made new; the way they speak is inspired with new words of hope and faith, their thoughts are reformed with optimism and joy; their actions are made new with the decision to love others in noticeable, impactful ways because they are first loved by a personal God named Jesus who died in their place and rose again. This kind of testimony is unmatched, and rationality cannot explain it; but it wants to believe that this transformation is possible because to be able to understand it is to transform how rationality itself functions altogether. If rationality could understand the way transformation on a soul-level works, it would not contradict faith because it would understand that the basis for faith does not require ratiocination, but simply an open mind, a receptive heart, and a willing soul.

NAIVETY CANNOT EXPLAIN MARTYRDOM

To claim a Christian is naive for believing in Jesus as Lord is in itself irrational because to claim that the transformation of an atheist into a Christian is naive is to say that their transformation is an illusion, or that they’re really just faking it. Can we really claim someone would be so naive as to die for their faith? When we consider how many Christians are killed for their faith in Christ, we must argue that these people are not naive, but rather that they are committed, loyal, and faithful to a belief something beyond that of rationality and logic. They are not committed to numbers, formulas, rituals, or religion, and they aren’t committed to the idea that everything exists “just because,” no, they claim that their loving God died for them in the flesh and that His resurrection is their saving grace from a life spent believing that their every deed done in His name goes unnoticed and without any meaning.

Naivety declares that a person lacks wisdom, experience, or judgment, and yet, as we have seen from both Timothy Keller’s argument in his rational thesis for God’s existence—as well as personal testimony of any and all Christians—naivety cannot explain someone whose life has been transformed so deeply within that their entire experience is made new in both perspective (mindset) and in lifestyle (action).

THE REFLECTION OF GULLIBILITY

To claim believers are gullible is a weak argument targeted for those who never read the Word, never attend a Bible study, who do not enter a church building and spend time worshipping with community, and who preach the gospel but who live hypocritical lives full of adultery, substance abuse, vulgarity, laziness, narcissism, and ostentatious pride. People who claim they know Jesus but are quick to judge others have yet to see the log in their own eye, as much as they have yet to fully receive and accept the love and forgiveness from Christ in their hearts.

A FAITH THAT ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS OF RATIONALITY AND RESCINDS NAIVETY

Gullibility is a believer who agrees with the words being spoken but doesn’t understand their purpose; who consequently isn’t transformed, and therefore cannot put on display how Jesus has impacted him on an intrinsic level. Gullibility is a man (or woman) who hears the Word of God but who only hears its words, rather than receiving the promise it declares. The Word of God is meant to inspire us, to teach us, to challenge us, and to transform us—and when it doesn’t, what’s happened is that the reader has rejected the free gift of life promised through Jesus, given us by God Himself. The Bible is the story of the redemption of humanity through Jesus, and when a believer is called naive for believing that, the only viable argument is that the person initiating the claim has not received the promise that is the purpose of the Bible. Without receiving the promise as a life-changing transformation, rationality remains to be its own explanation of faith, condemning “belief in the unknown” to be proactive gullibility; when in truth, faith in God fills in the blanks which rationality leaves behind by not dismissing the unknowns with excuses rooted in detrimental presumptions, and answering the questions of rationality with the empirical truth of testimony.

CONNECT WITH ME

If you resonated with what you read in 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. May God bless you as you process these thoughts and come to the table with thoughts or questions of your own. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined before. In Jesus name!

Prudent

How God Uses the Damaged To Change the World

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

HINDSIGHT AND ITS TREASURES

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

THE REMNANTS OF A DEAD WORLD AFTER CONVERSION

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

THE SUNNY-FACED CHRISTIAN FALLACY

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

THE FEELINGS-BASED FAITH MYTH

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

FAITH DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS

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

Jesus even warned us of this:

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

TWO DIFFERENCES THAT DEFINE HOW WE LIVE

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

SHORT-LIVED HAPPINESS AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING JOY

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

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

THE REASON WHY WE DO “THE RIGHT THING”

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

LIVE IN JESUS’S NAME

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

THOUGHTS?

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

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

Controversy

Platitudes, Wisdom, & God: Part 1

Whereas overly religious vocabulary can become so heavy as to saturate and bleed through its own potency, secular proverbs are remiss of the reason why such carefully chosen words of transcendence touch us on an intrinsic level. Let me explain.

The words “Love your neighbor as yourself” for example, can become so overused that the power of the command is depleted. The implementation of a command such as this becomes more essential than the words themselves. In another example, the words “Love the Lord with all of your heart, all of your strength, all of your spirit, and all of your mind” are denuded of their power when we do not humble ourselves enough to desire the relationship needed to embrace such a command. Humanity without humility is lost, pridefully convinced it can play the role of God while denying one exists, mistakenly redefining godhood by believing the supplanting of self-aggrandizement for faith has the strength to embody the characteristics of omnipotence. When we refuse to give God the praise and glory He is due and instead claim to be in control ourselves, we blind ourselves by pretending to take the title and power from an incorrigible God and fool ourselves by thinking our resistance to a Higher Power somehow gives us merit to praise our own intelligence, rather than use it to understand and seek the perfect transcendence of a selfless God. Ultimately, without a purpose given to us by Something outside of our will or knowledge—and without that Something calling us into that purpose out of love for us—what we define ourselves with instead proves transparent, incomplete, unsatisfying, unpromising, weightless, impermanent, pointless, and ultimately guided by pure, blind narcissism.

What am I talking about? The dilemma of secular wisdom with regards to the way humanity speaks to itself through platitudes and aphorisms is that all of wisdom without God’s truth is an incomplete conglomeration of pithy, anti-climatic, empty words; an aggregation of memorized ideas running without traction or destination; an egregiously misguided catalogue of self-made promises recognized virtually but not implemented palpably. What does this look like? Let’s take a look at one secular proverb (one for now) and understand this point for ourselves. 

In one example, the platitude “live with kindness in mind,” while not Bible-based may seem scrupulously admirable, begging more questions than promising answers. The questions which follow may or may not be obvious: What is the speaker’s definition of kindness? Is their definition spiritual or secular? Is it socially acceptable or subjectively defined within cultural perimeters and empiricism? Does kindness denote obligation or an invitation into something transcendently joyful? What picture represents the speaker’s idea of kindness most accurately? These questions reset the idea for what we expect kindness to mean when taken without context or foundation. These words are without objective moral principality, and yet so many times we consider these types of platitudes admirable merely because we associate the word “kindness” with something positive.

What is my point? Basically, if we only look at the words we speak as letters on a page, then we undermine the purpose of the value of using the words at all. Why speak about kindness from a universal standpoint if we only understand it subjectively? We mean no harm, we simply want to live with kindness; however, the word’s context as used by the speaker is presumably simplified to be associated with all people—and in that situation it is ignorant of the way listeners interpret how such a word operates compared to the way the speaker presents their belief. Put simply, kindness, when implied ambiguously, no longer holds a positive connotation because the people receiving the word do not know the context in which the speaker is using the word. The delineation of kindness may look one way to one person while being entirely empty and meaningless to another, and when this is the case, kindness is without any substance.

For example, kindness to one person may mean that they are affable and polite; but this is an altogether different kindness than the example of spending time with geriatric men or women who have lost their loved ones and live alone—sharing the love of Jesus with them by spending time cooking, listening, and praying for them. The difference between these two examples of kindness is that one is enigmatically barren of moral intent, whereas the other is altruistic at its core. Using this as our example, the person who says “Live with kindness in mind” may be referencing politeness; but to many, politeness and kindness are not equivocal; one requires a particular sincerity which derives of a selfless motive (to love in response to the inspiration of a transcendent, loving Source), the other is simply an etiquette with requires nothing but phlegmatic participation.

Backing up a bit, the speaker feels confused because their only original intent was for the word to be perceived positively. If their intention was to use the word to translate as something positive, can we safely expect they are using the word scrupulously—that they meant to speak of kindness as an antonym to something negative? If so, is it not safe to say they are speaking of moral particulars?

When the speaker dips into moral particulars, we translate this by understanding our reason to be kind by explicating the reason under the spotlight of morality. What follows is the argument of moral obligation and subjective morality. Moral obligation claims we all follow the same rules and that there is and always was a Creator for these rules in order for there to have ever been any. Subjective morality claims each culture defines morality for itself; killing may mean survival to one culture where it means mortal sin to another. Infanticide (the crime of killing a child within one year of birth) may be acceptable to one but an abomination to another. Who defines what is clearly right or wrong? Humans, or a moral Creator who speaks, acts, and exists as the mediator between what humans believe and the reasons why? If we claim to know these rules on our own, then we must claim to be the creator of morality. But how can we make this claim if each culture holds an astutely separate set of beliefs?

How does this roll into kindness? If we try to clarify kindness by claiming it as morally correct (compared to the opposite of kindness; arrogance, pride, etc.), we are claiming our view of morality bespeaks a presumptuously pre-determined set of rules which must be true for all people. But if kindness to one person means one thing and to another person it means something different, kindness no longer carries a universal definition. When people understand this schism between moral obligation and subjective morality, they get caught in the web of explaining right from wrong, sometimes for the first time; understanding their perspective is prematurely astute, based on personal opinion rather than the belief in a higher, moral Being; namely God through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, if kindness is denatured by the confusion of how it should be perceived, how can we assign moral scrupulosity to such a secular proverb? In short, we can’t. There is no befitting explanation, no viable argument, not even an inspiration denoted in the words “Live with kindness in mind” if kindness is so ambiguously fallible.

Is my point that we shouldn’t live with kindness? Of course not. But my reason for believing kindness is important is that I believe in a loving God who came in the flesh through Jesus Christ, who died and resurrected for me and anyone who would believe, and that in so doing, He gave us an eternality of hope which invigorates far richer inspirations than simply living with kindness. Jesus intends for me and you to live with passion, excitement, and adventure; trusting in Him, transformed (spiritually reborn) after being rescued by the jealous, unfathomably unconditional love of God through Christ. When we live off of mere platitudes—although many of these stay with us sentimentally—we fall fundamentally short of the freedom of the invitation which comes with receiving Jesus as Lord and embracing a life-altering relationship with Him. When we refuse this, and when we supersede His invitation with something like wise quotes and platitudes, we blindly march forward with a fragile confidence, without a firm foundation or viable explanation for anything beyond subjective arguments.

How do we expect to face a world of hatred, corruption, murder, rape, slavery, terrorism, and poverty by countering these with subjective arguments? How can we look into the face of the reality of a world like this and claim what scrupulosity stutters with the tongue of ambiguity; that the only promises we use to back up why we behave the way we do derives from personal opinion? How boldly will that stand in the face of horrible Earthly pains; such as suicide, depression, anxiety, abuse, or addiction?

What I would like for you to take away from this article is a choice: Do we define, objectively, why we say we live the way we do—or do we live with subjective definitions, pointing aimlessly when we’re asked why we believe what we believe? Can we expect to inspire others by the way we live when the reason for our choices is “just because”? Do we expect others to accept our decision to deviate from subjective moral actions when we act in an amoral way “just because”? Should we accept others when they do the same? If we expect kindness not to fall within the scrupulous focus of moral obligation, then we must expect others to accept our decisions to act either way. Is this the way we expect to be an example to the world? What does it mean then, to be an example? If we can’t answer these, what is the point of such secular proverbs regarding kindness, or others regarding peace, hope, or love? These thoughts will be the topics of Part 2.

If you would feel comfortable sharing your responses to the considerations of this article in the comments below, please feel free to do so. My desire is that this blog would be a place where people can have a healthy, productive, open-minded discussions. This is admittedly thick material, but I feel passionate about addressing subjects like these because I feel they deserve more careful attention than they receive. Perhaps some of you feel similar. I would love to hear from anyone on either side of the spectrum.

If you would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. May God bless you all as you consider these thoughts, and may you experience the love of Christ in your heart today! In Jesus name!

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Recognizing the God Of Love

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

OUR NATURAL STATE OF NEED FOR LOVE

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

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

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN A CORRUPTED WORLD

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

GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE

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

WISDOM AND HONESTY FROM ABOVE

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

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

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

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

Words of wisdom:

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

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

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

OUR CALL TO LOVE

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

PUNISHMENT FOR SIN

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

THE TRUE NATURE OF FAITH

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

THOUGHTS?

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

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

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