Faith, Fairy Tales, & Our Ultimate Reality

Just as the broken heart takes time to heal, the lost soul takes time to acknowledge the light; understanding that the light even existed in order to believe it was ever in darkness.

When we live a certain way for long enough, sometimes we tend to believe our perspective encompasses all others’ reality. Put differently, some people tend to believe their reality is the one everyone sees and lives inside of. Because of this, we argue over perspectives because we believe ours so earnestly. 

One of the perspectives we have are made up of the concept of spirituality and the soul. An atheist’s perspective is that there is no God, no soul, no Heaven or Hell; no such thing as sin and, for that matter—no need for redemption. Since these factors don’t add up, they don’t make a lot of sense to the unbeliever, whose disbelief stunts open-mindedness and leads to a nihilistic viewpoint, rendering everything as pointless and ultimately culminating in death. With nothing further to look forward to or anything to put their hope in, they live passionless lives and argue over the idea of a loving God because, to the unbeliever, death and meaninglessness make more sense for human life without a soul. This is their reality.

One of the many arguments of the atheist, following the derivations of disbelief, is that the perspective of those who have faith have become believers by the process of convincing themselves of an unnatural reality— that basically, after we tell ourselves enough times that we believe in Jesus, that eventually we just feel convinced by our own words; like a spiritual mantra to rev up our spirit. Many believe that once you repeat something (whether an action or a phrase), it becomes habitual the way anything does through repetition; like a child learning to speak by consistently repeating syllables until words are correctly articulated. Similar to speech and children, adults also develop habits. In this case, our spiritual “articulations” might be considered our strength of faith—since this particular articulation requires faith in order to believe it even exists. The question then becomes: How is teaching someone to have faith different from teaching someone how to put on clothes, chew and swallow; rinse, dry, and repeat? Let’s take a step back to view the bigger picture, and discover the difference together.

Outwardly, learning to speak or to wash dishes can be as mechanical as it is physical; repetition teaches the body, and the movement eventually gains momentum, the rhythmic motion guiding the continuity more than the thinking brain. Eventually, the new reality for the young child is that their speech has become as natural as it is for adults. Of course, by that time, this “new” reality for the children as been the reality for adults for many years. This “advanced” ability of adults to speak has become their reality. 

Unlike the mechanical repetition of an activity like learning to speak, spirituality is not developed by the any repetitive motion of our arms or hands (apart from expressing worship and praise), but with the desire of our heart and soul. How can we train what we cannot touch or see? What kind of push is needed to start the rhythm for the momentum of spirituality? 

The push of spirituality is the desire for which reason alone cannot explain nor be understood by empiricism or pragmatism; an intense desire which is grasped by the soul’s indisputable need for and search of purpose. The soul is an eternality transcending beyond the physical threshold of pain and suffering, of life and death, and when we recognize and acknowledge this reality of the soul for its truth, we will discover that the desire of the soul is the foundation of our purpose, laid in place by the love of Christ before we were even born. To break this down, the push we yearn for—we might call it the “articulation of faith”—can only be found by the heart after it is willing to recognize how worldly remedies (like Band-Aids on a hemorrhage; sex, drugs, alcohol, food, obsessions, addictions— all in the face of circumstantial pain in life) only mitigate our pain without extirpating the source of trauma (the cause of initial pain) with forgiveness, surrender, and restoration. Basically, when we realize what we’ve already tried doesn’t work, we will dig deeper for answers; the deeper we dig, the closer to the truth of the soul we get.

From our soul spawns desire, longings beyond mere food and shelter. We long for something more meaningful and transcendent of our daily rituals. These desires come to us in the earliest shell of childhood where our most precocious dreams of conquering the world and living happily ever after are developed. As adults, we refer to this world of “happily-ever-after” as a fairy tale, and we tend to label a child as naive or innocent for believing in such a la-la land. Why? Fairy tales are typically based in a reality without pain, suffering, malady, or death, are they not? They bring to life for the child what is in their mind, but also, I believe, what is in their soul.

For the boy, fairy tales are his means of transforming into a knight in shining armor, saving the damsel in distress, conquering the world, and changing life forever. For the girl, the story may be finding prince charming, being swept off her feet, and living of life of bliss and harmony. Are these “fictitious” realities not based from the desires of a child’s heart and soul? They truly desire these tales of fantasy. So what is this story, this place, of fairy tales in a child’s mind?

Let’s take a small step back to understand. Of the many fantasies of a child’s mind, relationship is rudimentary but prominent. For the child, the image of relationship isn’t imbued with sexuality or romance, not until years later. However, what becomes of a child’s imagination with regard to relationship later on will vary depending on the direction of those thoughts as influenced from outside sources along the way. Marriage and romance is, and always has been intended to remind us of our intimacy with God; the marriage of Jesus and the church. For the child-becoming adolescent in a non-Christian home where belief in Jesus isn’t talked about, read about, or encouraged—the marriage relationship becomes a fantasy of selfish infatuation; the seed to the desire for pornography, promiscuous sex, and other distortions are planted with or without awareness of such a convolution of true intimacy.

However, when these tales are completed with the pursuit of Christ in our hearts, this relationship is molded not only around our relationship with Christ, but to the place of bliss and harmony described in child-like fairy tales manifests as a new reality, inspired by Jesus Himself as an actual, physical place called Heaven in the Bible (Rev. 21:4, John 14:2, 1 Corin. 2:9, Rev. 22:1-5, Luke 12:33-34, Rev. 21:22-27, Rev. 21: 1-5, and more—). When we leave Jesus out of our reality, our fairy tales of “love and romance” eventually drown in the ocean of lust and infatuation” (reference my article: “Lust: The Darkest Lie About Love“); but when we desire Jesus, our desire for relationship is not founded in lust, but in unconditionally loving another person through our love for Jesus. Reiterated, these fairy tales which start out with the child-like perspective of what romantic relationships represent, eventually mature and parallel our desire for the Lord, complemented by (but not replacing) marriage to a significant other (For more on the desires of the heart, please find two great reads in John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart, as well and John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating).

If we have faith in Heaven, and if we can recognize our desires are rooted in Heaven, then what comes next is that our soul originates in Heaven. Would it not follow-suit that these “child-like” fairy tales stem directly from the desire for this place where we were created?

See, the promises of Jesus Christ culminate in a world without fear, pain, suffering, shame, death, or tears. Does this not sound like that of a fairy tale? Furthermore, Jesus Himself told us that we must be like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). For me, this includes the ability of a child to see past the darknesses of this world and to hope for something greater. Is this not what Christ-followers believe in when they accept Jesus as Lord and experience the joy of desiring Heaven on Earth? Does that mean we believe in a fairy tale (fictitious realties), or a tangible, Heavenly reality barely comprehensible to that of the human mind? 

To connect the dots, the difference between teaching the practice of learning to speak (or even brushing their teeth, cleaning the dishes, etc.), and the significance of having faith in God obviously extends beyond the mechanics of physicality and breaches into the metaphysical nature of spirituality; more specifically, the nature of desiring what we cannot touch, but what we can sense, desire, and come to understand through time, experience, and belief. Put more simply, the difference lies in the desires of the soul. In one example the soul is held captive in the stubbornness of illogical disbelief (raised without the invitation to know Christ), and in the other it is extended ever so slowly from skepticism until entirely entrenched in the flood of peace and the ever-transforming nature of faith. 

Let’s be open with each other. Do we want to believe in a reality that is inching closer on the eve of Jesus’s Second Coming—inspiring us to experience a hope this world is incapable of offering? I do. My Christ-following friends do. But I also know many, many people who view the story of Jesus and scoff as if considering the idea of the tooth fairy. I understand that scoff very well. When I disbelieved, I scoffed at everything spiritual. I also scoffed at my deprecation in not having a passion for life; in not feeling or sensing a purpose in my life. I didn’t even want to live. Without any passion, life was meaningless—again, like nihilism. For me, passion is commensurate with faith, because without faith, our endeavors—passions, desires, goals—are rooted in narcissism, where purpose dies and selfishness suffocates the meaning of friendship, community, intimacy, and purpose. In order to live like this, we would have to accept the stubbornness of adulthood while forgetting the open-mindedness of maturity. In this way, I would say children are in fact more mature than adults in that they are able to place hope where others search for a reason to doubt; children find light where others refuse to seek what lies beyond the darkness—into the reality of Jesus’s love for us. 

Where are you today? Do you believe faith in Jesus and life in Heaven is more of a fairy tale than a reality that is possible when declaring Jesus as Lord in your heart? If you don’t believe that this is a possible reality, what is holding you back from wanting to believe in such an inspiring place, and the possibility of living there forever? How does the picture of living in Heaven impact the way you view pain, life, and death on Earth? How does knowing that Jesus died and rose for you so you could live a changed, shameless life impact the way you view His commands to love God, others, and ourselves through our words and actions? How do you think your purpose is affected by these commands? How does all of this play back to your soul and the way you feel towards your life?

My hope is that this article helps you to see that you must desire faith to find purpose in Jesus, and that repetition doesn’t teach faith as it does the method of practices such as washing dishes, brushing our teeth, or learning to speak. Faith requires us to desire the pursuit of our God-given purpose, and our pursuit requires us to believe in a soul, because without our soul, our “purposes” are rooted in narcissism. In realizing this, we can choose to change our ways and live selflessly in the name of Jesus, impacting others’ lives for the best in Jesus’s name; or continue to live the same lives, allowing others to see us the same way they see the rest of the world. So, do you want to make difference, or just fit in? All of these choices draw us back to whether or not we believe in our soul purpose. I hope you join me in passionately pursuing Jesus, aiming to change the world with His love running through our veins, emanating through our thoughts, words, actions, desires, and adventures. There is so much to be done.

Where does your faith look like today? 

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Invitation

Departing From Stoicism: Allowing Ourselves To Feel

What would be the purpose of healing if we didn’t first experience pain?

Like the shift in perspective between seeing the glass as half-full or half-empty, faithfulness is a drastic shift in perspective from faithlessness.

NUMBNESS OF HEART

Pain is arguably the most universal source of faithlessness. We blame God for our pain and then deny His existence because we refuse to accept the concept of a God who allows suffering. Many people attempt to obscure their response to pain with the facade of apathetic immunity. Some are convinced they have overcome pain with a numbness of heart, but they live in disillusionment; their attitude towards pain weakens their ability to handle the rest of their life adequately, and consequently, they have not overcome pain, but have been submersed in its misery while trying not to blink an eye or shed a tear.

When I notice the stoic personality of someone near me, I feel for them. I understand their expression of pain, as well as their apathetic countenance—the numbness of heart may seem like the appropriate response when it appears to give us strength, but in actuality, numbness is only the mirage of strength. What really lies beyond its scintillation is the schism between bitterness and acceptance.

INDEPENDENT STOICISM

Similar to the pain-covered stoicism is the numbness associated with faithlessness. There are an innumerable amount of people who live life giving off the impression that they are capable of taking on anything alone. The catch, however, is that they’re not one-hundred percent involved in the role they’re portraying. They are tenacious in that they choose to endure, but they leave their truest feelings, and their humanity, at the front door: They enter inside, walking on pins and needles with clenched fists and gritted teeth, just to walk back out and scream into a pillow. This is the immunity of stoicism of the faithless—those who say they don’t believe in anything, but are so disappointed that there seems to be nothing noteworthy to believe in that they feel defeated. This is how I was when I was an atheist, and this is the same malady I see so many others suffering through as they deny faith in Christ, all because they automatically and inaccurately associate the message of Jesus with the piousness of so many strict and misguided churchgoers who preach that rules and rituals (which inhere to religion) are essential to faith, while minimizing—or leaving out entirely—the importance of receiving and accepting the love of God in our heart (as in the walk of faith with Jesus).

WHY NUMBNESS IS NOT A STRENGTH

Like me, there are many others who have survived, although barely, by believing the numbness of heart is a strength. Personally, I have come a long way since living in that mindset. I would heavily argue its weakness in the way numbness completely contradicts our humanity. Basically, humans are designed to feel. Like the way we are designed to have desires (i.e. food, relationship, purpose, etc.), we are also designed to feel, and when we choose to pretend that we don’t have feelings, that doesn’t turn them off—we just live in denial—which contradicts the reality that our feelings are being compartmentalized in a place where they aren’t managed properly, where we don’t learn from them or with them, and where their negligence undermines our innate desire to live passionately; the very opposite of a numbness of heart.

I write this so that you can know, if you’ve ever been in a situation in your life where you’ve believed the compartmentalization of emotions on the back-burner of your mind is a helpful choice, it isn’t. Not only that, but the numbness we drown our emotions with also turns us against faith because the home of our emotions is our heart, where faith and hope also reside. When we lock the door of our heart from the inside, hope and faith are trapped on the outside, and we have then locked ourselves away from embracing the full human experience—comprised of feelings, experiences, and the passion to serve the God who gave us both.

If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, you will receive no judgment from me. I would only like to send you a message of hope that feeling numb about life won’t help you find any joy. Feeling apathetic towards life will certainly damage your attitude towards pursuing the purpose of your life, and even the process and journey of discovering what your purpose is. I lived this way for many years, and it made me beg for death. Please don’t let it do the same for you! Learn from my experiences; turn away from the numbness in your heart and embrace life’s experiences in full, and, if you’re ready and willing, take a step forward to surrendering your stoicism to Jesus, asking Him to meet you where you are, and to show His face to you. Ask Him to speak to you in a way you will listen for Him. If you’re uneasy about the idea of praying, just say a simple, “Jesus, show me who you truly are,” He will not leave you without a response.

LETTING JESUS INTERVENE

Feeling numb is not uncommon for people who have experienced heavy trauma, as their traumatic experience seems to leave them without an explanation for all the “why?” questions. When we live long enough without an explanation for our pain, our hearts become harder and more difficult to soften because the constant jabs of life causes bruising; sometimes we feel we’ve been battered to the point of no return. But I would argue that Jesus will never give us anything we cannot handle without His divine intervention. Ask Him to intervene, command it in Jesus name, and watch His power come into fruition with your reality. Believe in Him, and let Him show you His unlimited, accessible power through faith.

My hope for you is that you will come to understand the reason why stoicism isn’t a healthy way to live, and that you will choose to walk away from that path, entering the path where Jesus is standing and waiting, instead. His love for you is unending, and I imagine you would rather feel your heart overflowing with the unconditional love of God, rather than a numbness of heart, which often times feels like we’re laying on our deathbed, watching out the window of life into a still image of nothingness—weary of the rhythm of our heart stopping, promising us our life is over. Numbness of heart is a waste of existence, and we all have so much to offer. You are conscious (you are reading this post, after all), and most importantly, you are loved. Loved by Jesus.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON PAIN

We all experience pain, but the reason for pain is not to dwell in it, but to learn from it. Sometimes what seems like such a complex concept is really the most rudimentary life lesson: How can there be any healing if there is nothing broken? We are all broken, in one way or another. We all need healing, whether we admit to it or not. The solid truth behind pain—and the excruciating conversation about the purpose of suffering in our world—is that there would be no such need for healing, or for God—if there was no pain, and if there was no sin to cause so much pain. This life is a test to see if we will rely on the love, joy, hope, and strength of God above our own, if we will be willing enough to admit one actually exists in the first place. In Him, and only in Him, can we find healing for our pain. Would we not rather find healing in a loving God, than to live life feeling numbed by the world’s inability to fix what only God can?

TIME TO COME ALIVE

May these words reach you and inspire you to feel again! Don’t spend another waking moment feeling dead inside, but instead, wake up and remember you are loved beyond words. Don’t just take it from me, though—talk to Jesus, Himself! It would be beneficial if you did not pray to Him as if believing He’s trillions of miles away on a throne. No—He’s right there beside you, listening ever so intently to every word you say. He cares so much to know how He can help you to feel closer to Him. Stoicism builds chains to trap your heart in numbness, but feeling His love fills in the space between numbness and self-doubt, exposing the mirage of strength for what it truly is; a mirage—and fulfilling our deepest desire to feel accounted for; to feel like we matter and are seen.

Jesus never takes His eyes off of us, we are precious in His sight. Remember that, and move forward with your day. You are loved, and your are precious. May you feel these truths in your heart! In Jesus name.

Sacred

A New Chapter In Life: Friendship With God

While I could tell you at great lengths about my darkest moments so many years ago, about finding myself laying in the fetal position and begging for death while putting scissor blades to my wrist—that is a darkness of my past not nearly as important and relevant as the phase I am in now. By only mentioning that in passing, I am letting you know that my history with darkness and atheism runs deep, but its stint ended and relationship with Jesus has replaced the road leading to misery and hopelessness.

For those of you who don’t yet know Jesus in a personal way, I wonder if the reason why is because when you hear about Him, you instantly find Him connotative with that of a child’s bedtime story—you know, something only for kids? Perhaps you’ve felt like the person bringing it up is naive. But this is all from the point of view of someone who has never had a relationship like the one you can have with Jesus. I know, because I used to hear the name of Jesus this same way.

People are amazed to know I used to be an atheist because of the way I am now. By no means am I some saint, but I try to shine a light for others because of the passion in me for the Truth that Christ’s resurrection means an eternal life with peace, joy, and love—that no matter what pain I’m experiencing here on Earth, Heaven will unequivocally make up for every second of suffering here in this life. That promise comes with accepting Jesus into my heart and believing in the Good News of who Jesus was and still is. So… how did I get there, if I was an atheist?

Basically, I was an atheist from 0-years-old until I was just barely passed 22-years-old, and I’m not quite 30 yet. Though raised Catholic, I didn’t understand anything I was being taught, and so I naturally didn’t believe in any of it. In fact, I remember kind of mocking the receiving of the Eucharist (“Eucharist” is the Catholic term for the cracker which represents Jesus’ body during Communion) when I was first being introduced to it. Why? Because it seemed silly to me. “Here’s a cracker. It is the actual body of Jesus. Take it seriously.” WHAT?? Why?? It’s—a—cracker… I was only in 3rd grade when I received Communion for my first time, but I was only going through the motions I was instructed to follow: “Walk up, put your hands together with palms facing up, say ‘amen’ when the usher finishes speaking, and then eat it.” Got it. Eat the cracker. No, it’s Jesus. Not just a cracker. The whole thing was ludicrous to me, but I did it until I was confirmed a Catholic in 8th grade. The very next year–two years after my parents divorced, two of my grandparents were killed in a car accident, and new family moved in—I didn’t just state my frustration with a theology I clearly misunderstood—I declared my disbelief and labeled myself an atheist.

Do you recognize or relate to some of the mistakes of the church system I experienced while growing up? If you’re currently experiencing disbelief, maybe you can even relate to the frustration towards rules and instructions that mean nothing to our ears. To choose relationship with Jesus, what usually helps is a little context and a realistic backstory to who He was and is.

The context is that Jesus loves us, has always loved us, and WILL always love us. The realistic back story is that for over two millenniums, millions of people have given their lives to the pursuit of emulating Christ, even become martyrs in the process (does that not say something about the man of Christ as more than a myth, fantasy, or hoax?). More of the story is that Jesus was seen by over 500 people post resurrection, validating all of the claims of Jesus pre-crucifixion. That makes His claims to be God (which are what got Him crucified to begin with!) true! If He had stayed dead, everything would have been over, and Jesus’ story would be nothing but an obscene disappointment. But He did rise, and people did witness it; many have died for His Truth.

For those of you who aren’t quite familiar with Christianity, it is the one walk of faith set apart from all other religions where you don’t have to do anything to receive God’s love; rather, it is freely offered. It is in accepting His love that changes us. Relationship with Jesus is a relationship involving the soul. Though there have been some notable physical experiences with Jesus, they are referred to as starting from inside and working their way to the surface—such as being embraced “as if the Lord hugged me”, or “like the Lord caressing my face”. The Lord shines His light upon us—and by the “light”, I am referring to the truth that Jesus is the Light of Heaven. So, if you understand that and use the metaphor from Heaven as a reality in our Earthly experiences, the light of Christ shining on us is His presence with us, and we can feel that presence in our hearts, our souls, and—when we’re most in touch with His voice and His presence, even a form of physical touch unlike any other you’ve ever experienced by another living being.

Having experienced 22 years of atheism and misunderstanding Jesus, I also experienced heavy pains of worthlessness, meaninglessness, and anger towards life. Some people respond to the world and its unexplainable circumstances, when cornered by the question of the existence of the supernatural–with the last resort excuse that the universe is a enormous constitutive mass of thoughts and feelings, and therefore God is just the total sum of peace, love, and happiness—which is one way to explain paganism, or even pantheism. Pagans don’t worship Jesus, but they won’t worship God, either, so they combine various random elements of different religions to create one “safe” religion—still denuded of Jesus or God—but without complete disbelief in everything supernatural or spiritual, considering themselves safe from the accusations of closed-mindedness.

My response was to live inside of my anger and doubt for many years, exhausting any choice to give the supernatural a place in my life. That kind of living is exhausting and very undesirable. Hence the scissors to my wrists reference from earlier. Disbelief is the worst prison to live inside of just shy of solitary confinement—being restricted from any outside world communication is just inhuman, it’s no existence at all—disbelief, on the other hand, is living life without believing you even have a reason to exist. The terrifying reality of solitary confinement is truly believing you shouldn’t be in there, believing there is purpose in desiring to be on the other side of the restrictive walls separating you the outside world. Disbelief is experiencing that existence without even knowing why, and worse—disbelieving there is even a reason to know.

I explain about solitary confinement and disbelief to give you the picture of me living in disbelief for most of my life, including the most traumatic time period of experiencing life after my parent’s divorced— shattering most of everything familiar in my life. After living in that, the one thing I had left was curiosity to get me to tomorrow. Why live tomorrow? Why not just die today? My thoughts would taunt me day in and day out, hanging onto the fear that if I was wrong, then I would go to Hell and burn forever. Curiosity may have been the key to keeping me alive, from a secular point of view, but I look back on my time before finding my faith and I realize now that God was hanging onto me, desperately hoping I would not give in to the temptations of the enemy telling me to take my own life. God allowed the trauma of my parents’ divorce to give me a more complex reason to need Him as the Source of strength in life. God knew I needed Him above all else, and that the way to my heart was pulling out the floor from beneath me, having me in what seemed like a free fall position for long enough to desire nothing but Him. That free fall period were my atheistic years post divorce. When I finally reached the point where I became desperate for a purpose beyond death, Jesus became the only thing left I could see. I reached out for Him when I was 22, and He immediately took my plea for help.

The process of becoming a believer wasn’t exactly overnight—it took me a couple of years of asking questions and experiencing the devotion of others’ praying for me in faith, as well as seeing the differences in my life as I started trying to believe. One of the most notable examples was something I wrote about in my post, “Paving the Way For Trusting God: Part 2” where God provided rent when I was about to be evicted from my living situation. That was just one example, but simply nothing else could explain what happened to me. Obviously a person put the money where I found it, but God inspired that person to do it because there was no one else who even knew I couldn’t afford rent. God spoke to someone and they followed through. That is one of the most obvious examples of Christ acting in my life, other than fantastic friendships and people supporting me through the faith while directing me back to Christ when they did. Over time, Christ became much more real, and far from just a one-dimensional character in an old book from millenniums past.

No, Jesus is real. He is real to me, and millions of others. He can be real to you if you’ll accept Him into your heart. Just say a prayer and He will show Himself in a way unique to you and your relationship with Him.

I love ending posts with prayers. If you aren’t sure where to start, try praying like this:

“God, I don’t know if You’re real. But if You are, please speak to me. Show me who You are. I want to know You and I want to receive Your love for me. I am sorry I’ve neglected trying to know You, and I want to try that now. Please meet me where I am and show Yourself in my life and in my heart here, today, now. In Jesus name I pray and ask this. Amen.”

Now let Him speak into your life. I pray you would recognize Him above all else. If you would like to share your experience, please do so! I have a contact form from the Menu option on my homepage. I’d love to hear how Jesus is speaking to you.

To read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LancePrice2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below—I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Second Thoughts

 

Understanding the Finitude of Disbelief

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

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

THE MIRAGE OF THE RELIGIOUSLY PIOUS

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

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

THE REALITY OF SUFFERING

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

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

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

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

DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES

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

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

PERFORMANCE ISN’T THE POINT

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

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

INVITATION–NOT A “THREAT”

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

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

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

MOVING FORWARD

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

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

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

What will you do? Be blessed!

Sated