The Light That Shines In the Darkness: Part 2

One of the responsibilities of being an effective writer is learning to reach your audience, and a part of that responsibility is recognizing who your audience is in order to reach them efficiently and purposefully. My audience, as you may have come to know, must be open-minded, vulnerable, and willing to think outside the box. You don’t have to be a believer of Jesus, nor do you have to be an unbeliever. You don’t have to be a certain age, although I think it helps to be mature enough to consider these subjects. 

The reason for this thought is that I have had to consider the needs of the readers who would benefit from reading from a blog such as mine, and what I have come to realize is this: Being how my blog is an amalgam of self-help and Christianity, one must desire to be helped, and one must be open-minded enough to enter the discussion of faith, Christ-follower or otherwise, if they are to glean something useful from my writing.

On that note, I would say that I’ve come to understand something else as well. What strikes me is that my writing would be beneficial to someone open-minded, vulnerable, and willing to think spiritually complex, but only those who are looking to be helped in those regards. What that means is there are a plethora of people in this world who do need help thinking more “outside the box,” who would benefit from considering faith, but most importantly–are looking for that help. Those who aren’t looking—and here’s the key point—aren’t reading about it. My words aren’t reaching people who need these articles to give them an encouraging nudge, a push in the right direction, a mental/physical challenge to get them out of the place they’re feeling too comfortable in—because they’re not on the search for something they don’t feel they need help with.

That means, those who read this are hoping to find something. You’re curious, you’re open enough to search for an article related to your quest for answers, and you’re wondering if what I have to say will fit your inquiry. What that means, is… you will now have knowledge that people who aren’t searching for answers directly will not have, and that means you are the bridge between them and that life-changing information. The difference is that, while they aren’t going online looking through blogs to find knowledge or wisdom, they know you, and when they talk to you, you have a light about you that they don’t have yet. That “light” is your desire to find hope (or it is the hope itself), to find answers; to not stay stuck in your hopelessness. 

My hope—why I even have this blog—is to shine the light of Christ into the world of people who do not yet have Him, but who are searching for the answer to life that He is. When people talk to you, specifically those who aren’t searching for what you are searching for—they can see the bridge between what they don’t know and what they don’t think they need. That bridge, that hope, opens their (spiritual) eyes to see that they don’t have something they need, and the revealing nature of that eye-opening experience allows them to yearn for hope. 

Now, that leaves you to either share the information directly (orally or through writing) when the right time comes to share it, or to share this blog (or another’s blog/book/resource which inspires you and encourages you). When the time comes, you will play a role in their quest, whether or not they realize they need to be on one. We all need this answer, but we’re not all going to find it the same way. Many, many people will not read this. But you are reading this right now. Already, you are one step towards a part of your life where you can move forward with something useful, something significantly better than before, and now that means you have acquired what others need to have shared; otherwise, they will remain in the dark.

See, you are curious enough to read this, which makes you open enough to receive it, and possibly bold and brave enough to actually apply it, whereas others haven’t even taken the first step. Their stubbornness precludes them from taking any step in the right direction; they will continue on in stagnancy if you or someone else like you doesn’t help them. This isn’t an obligation, this is a privilege. The same part of you which is curious, the part which yearns to grow, develop, and outlive the part of you that is damaged, broken, and unhealed—this same part of you can show others that there is something to yearn for and hope in. The fact that you yourself haven’t stayed stagnant is reason for others (unbelievers) to believe there are people out there who do the same, and that is inspiration to find passion in life through purpose in Christ.

Certainly, countless people have discovered the slow, torturous banality of monotony. The others around you who are not yet healed don’t even realize their own brokenness, but you can see it because you have eyes to see. You can hear it in their voices and discern the pain in their words because you have ears to hear (Mark 4:9). That makes you a vessel to help them see and hear. Truly, if you are only reading this, but are not sharing what you learn, you are rescinding so many others’ experience to grow out of their tedious state of desultoriness. You already know how that is; you have been there before. That’s empathy. You can relate to their pain because you’ve experienced their pain before in your own circumstances. But now you can step back and realize with a shift from your old perspective just how different things can be if we can change the way we view ourselves and the lives we’re in. This is not about enlightenment. This is about what it means to have a soul, and that our soul purpose on this Earth is letting others know about Jesus, His love, and His eternal purpose for our souls in Heaven—that, without Him, we have no hope in anything. That is why I write this blog, and that could be the answer you’re looking for. If it’s not, then perhaps you’re asking the wrong question.

Have you ever looked to anything else in your entire life and received a purpose outside of your own desires? Outside of your own selfishness? This is but one of the many ways I know Jesus is the answer: He loved us before we even existed on Earth. He created everything about us, from how much hair we have on our heads to what we’ll desire when we’re adults. To live for anyone or anything other than Him, it’s mere narcissism. There’s simply no eternal point to any of it. In a previous post, I mentioned our preference for chocolate or beer aren’t bad to have, and I hold true to that statement. What I’ll add here is that our desire for anything outside of Jesus is less important. That means, we’ll have many, many things we’ll enjoy in this lifetime, but ultimately, the only thing that we could ever enjoy, that will matter during and beyond this lifetime on Earth, is Jesus.

How do I know? Let me be frank. I used to be an atheist—I was an atheist for most of my life, and when I discovered Jesus and truly learned who He is and was, my heart was changed by Him. He enraptured me with His story and the purpose of His ministry; to be the salvation to the souls of the world by being the Mediator between our sin and God’s love and forgiveness. When I learned this, I fell to my knees in adoration for this man, this God Incarnate.

Once I realized faith had nothing to do with “going through the motions”, saying the same words over and over, repeating prayers out of a book instead of genuinely saying them from my heart—once I learned, in fact, that relationship is more important to Jesus than rituals and religious obligations, such as praying the rosary to absolve ourselves of our own sins**—I came to not only understand and respect faith in Christ, but to embrace the faith as my own; to walk in the light of Christ, meaning, to walk in His footsteps along His path, not making my own footsteps on my own disastrous path. My path, as I discovered along the way of pain and mistakes, leads to spiritual death. But when we “die” to Christ, or when we surrender everything about ourselves to His will and desire His love above all else we become even more alive in Him, inspired and drawn to His liking through faith in His truth: He died and rose again so that we could be with Him forever. This inspires hope: Christian hope. This is the reason people have riveting joy in Christ, joy that makes another person think, “What do they have that I don’t?”

**(I believe praying the rosary is helpful if, by praying it, you close to God, but I believe it’s utterly redundant if you pray believing the rosary itself will save you. Nothing saves us but Jesus. And it’s not praying that saves us—but Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. And He did that over two thousand years ago. The only thing that can save us is our choice to have faith in Jesus as Lord, accepting His love for us and letting Him rebuild our spirits through surrender and choosing to obey His command to love others the way He loves us. Only then are we saved; long, long before we ever begin the rosary, we have already been saved, if we believe in Him. The rosary is only a prayer, and it venerates Jesus, no doubt, but veneration does not save us anymore than talking about Jesus without believing in His Lordship does.)

Nothing, not even death itself, provokes any kind of fear:

(Philippians 1:21) “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

There is no way to lose when living in faith of Jesus. And if there’s nothing to lose, what is there to fear? When we catch ourselves feeling afraid of fear, we are not trusting in Christ, so really, believing in Christ requires us to trust Him, which in turn eradicates all remnants of fear. Truly believing in the hope of the promise of His love destroys all hopelessness, and shines light into all darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5)

You’re reading this, you’re searching for something. My writing can give you clues, thoughts, pieces of knowledge and wisdom for your soul to digest. But you must apply what you learn, and you must share what you gain from the experience. You must inspire others towards that light and tell them the reason for your hope. Hope is not food, nor a holiday, nor a day off, and not even in sex. Our hope is in Christ, and Christ alone. Through Him, we gain, and we truly live. Through Him, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death… fearlessly (Psalms 23:4). Through Him, we are renewed and rebuilt. We must be this light for others to help them find the path of Jesus to walk on as well. We must tell them that this life wasn’t mean to be lived without Him. We must tell them He loves them no matter what, and He always will. In every word we speak and every action we take, we point to Jesus, because He is our answer, and our hope. We must be this for others, so that they will not continue to wander asunder. Jesus commands us to feed his sheep; the “sheep” are the lost. They need Jesus, whether they know this or not. All we can do is shine, love, and direct them to the One who saves. That’s what we’re called to do, that is our purpose, and that is what will matter when we die: Did we believe in Jesus; did we make our faith known to the world, and in so doing, inspire them to the same love that inspired us to surrender and trust in His path, His way, His Truth? 

This is our reason to breath, to move, to live. This is the passion in our souls, and the fire burning to keep us going. Jesus is our everything, or we are only making up reasons as we go. Our reasons or merely excuses for narcissism, because at the end of it all, all the reasons we could ever conjure would only lead to self-satisfaction and pride. Through Jesus, there’s actually something left behind rippling throughout eternity; nothing and no one on this Earth could ever do this so flawlessly but the name that rings through our hearts, whether through admiration or controversy. Only such a powerful name would spawn argument for those afraid to be wrong about their own spiritual choices. Any vocation not inspired by Jesus is an agenda, and it will not glorify Him; it will not matter when they pass. They merely pass as another name in history, soon to be forgotten. But they could pass as someone who drove many to the one name above all names; not to their credit or glory, but for the prospect of making their life something meaningful, purposeful, and worthwhile. 

We only have a vapor’s worth of a life; a mist (James 4:14). For many, that means splurging on sex, drugs, and alcohol, flooding chemical after chemical into their bodies which we aren’t designed to intake, and they sit in that place of malady and discontent, telling themselves repeatedly so as to somehow convince themselves (since the pragmatic and empirical evidence isn’t adequate enough) that their habits are a means to an escape from the reality they are obstinately unwilling to embrace. But that morbid, self-sabotaging choice leads to a disappointing, worthless life of regret, mistakes, and deprecation. There is no success story of someone who tried drugs, sex, alcohol, and “escape,” having lived a life full of bliss and acceptance. These escapes are deviations from the purpose of Jesus in our lives, and without His love, we are already dead and empty. Chemicals won’t feed our hungry souls; perhaps the wise who choose to read this know that the only substance we would ever want to be addicted to is the Word of God. We can’t intake too much Jesus anymore than we can’t be too joyful. 

If you’ve read this, you want something you may not have. Honestly, I don’t have what you need (other than my faith), but I intend to try to point you in the right direction, and that means directing you to Jesus; His love, His sacrifice, and His promise—they are for you. They are for us all. Receive His Truth, apply the message, and be transformed. Be what everyone in this world needs us to be, because no one else has the boldness and bravery of a fearless Christ-follower who walks in the confidence of their faith, and not in the confidence of society, or culture, or religion, status, gender, race, or age; only bold confidence in the miraculous, transformative powers of Jesus, His redeeming love, and His proclaiming Truth. We are vessels, shining back to the God who saves. We are lights shining in the darkness, pointing towards the brightest Light of them all. 

To read more, please follow this blog. 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 share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below—a prayer request, a thought—I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Discover

Let Me Tell You God Loves You

As I’ve grown older, knowledge has become somewhat less important to me, and wisdom has taken precedence. What hit me is that knowledge doesn’t get me any closer to my soul, but wisdom digs at the walls of my character and dares me to challenge myself. Additionally, as I’ve grown older, being challenged has become more meaningful to me. I yearn to be challenged because I constantly want to grow. When I am not learning, I get bored easily, and boredom leads me to question the purpose behind my passions. Every year, I notice the way my desire to learn is met by a new phase in life; a new job, new/changing relationships, new living situation, etc. I find myself reading more spiritually engaging books that dig at my soul and beg me to seek the hope of eternity. While I digest what I read, I think about the rest of the world, pondering how many others are as enthusiastic and passionate about concepts like purpose, meaning of life, eternity, and the human soul as I am.

One of my greatest inspirations as a blogger is to challenge others to think outside the box of their comfort zone—outside of what they’re familiar with. The reason I feel so passionate about this particular challenge is that I once was an atheist, and I took seven years of my own life to realize that I needed to believe in the challenge of finding my purpose in life in order to desire my own next breath. Living in the cocoon of a depressed, angry heart is a suffocating existence; certainly not worth seven years, and yet that’s how much time I let go to that lonely, self-defeating lifestyle. Not that being in that mentality isn’t a challenge—but I wasn’t yearning to learn anything new; the challenge was finding a reason to stay alive.

Discovering my passion for learning new concepts was tantalizing; finding Jesus in my heart was enthralling. My passion for knowledge is a fun part of me that I enjoy utilizing every day, but what is so much more important to me now is that my heart is open to Christ’s work inside me. I can feel His presence pulling me ever so slowly through time, inviting me into yet one more challenge. He knows what I can handle and He gives me as much as I can take, but no more, and no less.

I write about this because I am passionate about telling you why I do what I do, and what strands of thought bring me back to the keyboard. See, purpose to me is wine to wine-maker, and a story to a film director—it’s food to a chef and thought to a philosopher; I crave to know more about it, understand it, embrace it, teach about it, and ask others about their thoughts on it. I wouldn’t even be writing if I didn’t feel this was a part of my purpose. I write because I absolutely LOVE to write. Another reason I write is because I’m passionate about informing you about things you may not think about on your own. To put it playfully, I love to give others food for thought that I hope they will consider worth their while. Food they will not only eat, but want more of.

Knowledge to me is a great book—and I love reading—but wisdom to me is when I bow my head in humility and ask Jesus to overcome my pride and my ego, hoping His love will overcome my arrogance and find me in a place where I will just surrender all of me. I learned how soothing surrender is upon realizing how much closure there is in letting go of the fears in my life that don’t matter—like social norms, acceptance from people I don’t respect, and losing things that won’t hurt my existence in 50 or 100 years. Little things that bother me that don’t need to put weight on my shoulders—I’ve learned to let them go and be released from the anxiety it caused me. The surrender behind that kind of release is not only believing that certain areas of my past no longer matter, but that there is a replacement for the useless moments I let waste away to bad choices: Jesus Christ. Where social norms and the critical eyes of society that are used to judge and belittle have previously shrunk my soul from fear of condemnation, Jesus’ love picks me up and reminds me why I exist in the first place. When I accept and embrace that my purpose is in Him, what happens in return is that I understand what others think of me doesn’t matter, and that what does matter—regardless of whether or not others like me—is that they know Jesus. Why would I not want to share the love of someone who takes away all of my fears about life with others around me?

As a writer, this is yet another reason I blog: I want others to hear about how much of an impact Jesus has on a man like me; someone who was an atheist for most of his life and converted after living with depression, anxiety, anger, and fear for years and years. Jesus was able to turn all of that around. And though there are traces of reminders of what I went through, they are only that—reminders—and I use them as references to remind myself what an incredible role Jesus plays in my life today, and where He always was, even when I was too stubborn to believe it.

If you’re reading this, I hope you will find something interesting about my story, and I hope you will find that it inspires you; I hope my story will give you hope about your own story and challenge you to consider seeing your past from an even different perspective than you may have been seeing it from before.

My name is Lance, and I have this blog because I want you to know Jesus. I desire for you to know how he impacts people like me, and others who I will write about whose stories reference back to Christ again. I hope that in writing about these experiences, you will feel challenged in what you think you know about your life, and inspired to take on new and refreshing points of view you may not have had before. I only write with the intention of helping others, and my goal is to extend myself to you, personally, in a way you can feel it in your heart. You may not have met me before, but if you could, I would want you to know that life isn’t over yet, and there is still time to do what you love, feel how you were meant to, and trust in a God who saves. Life is meant to be full of love and complete with dependency on the God who protects us from ourselves in our worst moments.

You are seen, you matter, and you are loved more than you could possibly imagine. If you don’t know it yet, I hope you will come to feel this way soon. May God show you the way to this truth, and may He use these words to encourage you to believe in their validity and authenticity.

May this day be blessed for you! I would love to know who reads these articles, what they do for you, and even what you would like to see in future posts. To engage with you would make my day, more than you know. Please follow this blog to read more. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LancePrice2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. May God bless each of you!!

Explication Of Christian Love: What It Means To Receive Jesus

Doubt in the purpose and deity of Christ is a prevalent theme in today’s world. Many times condescended by a castigating skepticism, Christianity can become the contemporary joke for modern folklore, reprimanded for its largely misunderstood and underestimated call to love others, as well as to receive unconditional, eternal love from God.

There seem to be several common denominators for this love relationship between humankind and God. Among them, I believe unmitigated disgust with the ambiguity of human purpose is ranked very highly. I believe, at least in part, there is confusion about the message of God’s love, and that the confusion was brought about by the religiously pious—even in the days Jesus walked the Earth. The very attitude which defined Jesus’ manhood and simultaneously set Him as God Incarnate—His gentle, confident, knowledgeable, infinitely loving nature—is what the religiously pious completely lose sight of. In missing this, those who are quick to judge and slow to love, while claiming to be highly religious, have shunned people– generation to generation—from being fully receptive to Jesus’ unabated love. With knowledge comes pride; people learn about God and sometimes grow proud of their understanding. Rather than apply the knowledge, they abuse it, losing sight of the wisdom derived from humility. They forget to extend Godly love to the needy because they forget they are among the needy, themselves.

Unmerited judgment from these theologically confused, pious believers can feel an awful lot like a contradiction of the love Jesus calls us into, and an intrusion of hypocrisy. Furthermore, when someone who claims to be close to God acts in this way, their distorted expression of love defines religion in the eyes of the weary and the lost, and when an unbeliever experiences the haughty of religion behaving like know-it-alls—rather than experiencing unconditional love from someone living in the hope of Christ’s love, the prospect of faith appears to surrender to fallacy; blood-soaked in religious discrimination, which Jesus never taught.

Forgiveness of sins is definitely a hard topic to uncover, but the heart of the issue is that we are commanded to forgive others in order that God will forgive us. Now, instead of jumping to the conclusion, “I thought it was said that Jesus forgives us no matter what?” This command to forgive others is for the benefit of us seeing how detrimental our bitterness is in the context of our relationship to God; in the context of understanding our sin compared to His perfection. God has forgiven us through Christ–IF we receive, in our hearts, that promise through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His forgiveness is a promise if we receive Jesus’ love sincerely. However, the reception of His promise of forgiveness requires our humility, repentance, and the desire to move forward in His love; away from our desire to satisfy ourselves with indulgence and greed.

Receiving His love does not mean we forget we ever desired to satisfy our sin with greed and indulgences; in fact, we’ll likely fall many, many more times before we see Him again. The difference is that we do not treat our sin with nonchalance and a numbness of spirit anymore. Receiving Jesus’ love means we understand the weight of His holiest promise: eternal life in the presence of God. In understanding its weight, we are transformed by the love that saves us from an eternal life separated from God, and the peace and joy which comes from that promise is what brings our souls to life in a way nothing else ever could. That is the reason why Christianity is humbling: no matter how much we feel the pride of Jesus’ love covering our entire lives, that is NEVER a reason to be condescending, careless, or nonchalant about our words and actions. We can always refer back to Christ, who lived a perfect life, and ask for strength. There is no excuse for us to justify sin when we accept Jesus; only the humility to confess the sin in openness and transparency with Him, and try our hardest to do better moving forward. Pride is justification; humility is striving to do better without so much as an explanation other than “I didn’t mean to cause you harm. Forgive me, I’ll try harder from now on.” The voice of humility is a complement of receiving Jesus in our hearts.

Jesus’ love also translates into the acceptance of who we are as individuals. He always sees every facet of our being; flaws, strengths, the number of hairs on our head, the number of tears we’ve cried, and the number of times we have sinned or will ever sin. And He doesn’t see us with a sigh of disappointment or a loud moan of frustration; He sees us with everlasting love and mercy. Why? What did we do to deserve such fantastic love from the God of the Bible? Nothing. We have never done–nor could we ever do anything. We are loved because He created us to be loved by Him. He chose to love us, and that is why He created us. Think of it this way–parents don’t make babies intentionally just to dispose of them or scoff at them; they procreate so they can spoil the child with love! God wants to spoil us with His love, because we are His children. We don’t always see it that way because we’re busy focusing on everything but His blessings.

These are some of the truths of His blessings:

  1. If you’re breathing without suffocating, it’s a gift from God.
  2. If you can swallow without choking, it’s a gift from God.
  3. if you can move with excruciating pain, it’s a gift from God.
  4. If you can smell, taste, touch, hear, or see the world around you–these are all gifts of God.
  5. If you’re alive–your life is a gift from God!

Think about this the next time you’re sure you aren’t being blessed. And if you are experiencing all of the items in the list above as unchecked, are you being supported by friends or family who want to see you through to your recovery? Are you alone in your journey to healing? If so, your support system is a gift from God.

Please hear me, I do not mean to belittle anyone who is experiencing any kind of pain, or to dismiss anyone’s pain as worthless. My point, and what I would hope you might take from my words–is that God has bestowed us with SO many blessings, we would honesty have to make excuses in order to not give Him credit where it is due. We all experience pain. But we all experience the love of God, as well. He does not leave us empty-handed, even when it may seem like it sometimes.

Experiencing the love of Christ means loving others the way we know Jesus would. Even though you can’t heal people, you can pray for them, you can show them kindness, thoughtfulness, mercy, patience, understanding, grace—and above all, you can tell them about the one inspiring you to be that way. Christianity is a not a faith of the ego, but an ego-check. Christianity is not about egocentrism; what’s in our hearts must be shared because it’s too invigorating, too important, and too purposeful to keep to ourselves. The love of Christ is the key to the lock of our soul—a key we didn’t even know existed before we realized our hearts were locked shut with doubt, shame, regret, and the excuse of transient pleasures masking the wounds of our empty hearts. We need Jesus more than we realize.

Without faith, the whole world looks very different. When I was an atheist, I appreciated very little about my surroundings. I was heavily enamored with the desire for lust because human relationship filled the hole in my soul where I resisted my need for God presence. There was nothing as ecstatic as the idea of a romantic relationship, because human love is a bridge to–and representative of– our love with Christ–hence Jesus is the “groom” of the church, with the church (community of all Christ-followers) is the “bride”. That said, I was only seeing the first half of the equation. Lust was all that mattered to me; Christ was just a distant religious joke that made as much sense as pickles and mustard. Very different from what I understand now as a Christian.

My understanding of both sides of the fence is what inspires me to write this to you, so that you would understand someone like me, who once viewed Christianity with facetious mockery, now worships the deity of Christ because I understand the importance of Jesus’ love as more significant and purposeful than the void of an Godless life, where purpose is only moment-to-moment, defined by society and instant gratification; not life everlasting through Jesus calling me to action through love, grace, and forgiveness.

Where instant gratification gives me what I want now, it simultaneously strips me of retaining my sense of meaning and purpose once the satisfaction wears off. Instant gratification is like a drug/alcohol buzz: once the buzz is over, everything wrong with the world comes flooding back into my mind. That is empirical evidence in direct opposition of the ideology of selfish pleasures masquerading as the definition of purpose in life. Believing in selfish ambition as the replacement for “What else is there to live for?” is just as empty and vacuous as a picture without any hint of dexterity. Art can’t be art without the artist; likewise, life isn’t life without its Creator—and humanity didn’t create itself. Making up as many as thousands of excuses as to how humanity arrived on the scene of Earth is not as fulfilling as believing that a loving God created us to be fulfilled in the promise of His love; once accepting that following His love also commands us to to love others the same way—forgiving them and treating them with the same kindness and mercy God did when He came down in the flesh as Jesus. We could argue all day about where humanity comes from, but at the end of the day, the question may actually deviate from the point of a scientific origin story and culminate with a theology that invites us into a purpose both worthy of striving for, and exciting to embrace.

What I want to leave you with is that there is more to Christianity than the judgment you may have experienced. The love of Christ is so much more important than someone correcting your wrongs by condemning you. We need to check the log in our own eyes before we pick at the spec in others’ eyes. As much as we need not let someone do that to us, we also need to be encouraged not to close ourselves off from receiving love from those who understand Christ’s call to love us as brothers and sisters of God’s family. That is what we’re being called into, and that is what we embrace as Christians.

If you have any questions you would like answered–whether about this post or what you might like addressed for a Part 2, please leave those questions in the comments below. If you enjoy reading these posts and would like to read more, please feel free to follow my blog and share it with others you think would benefit from reading about the message of Christ. I am passionate to tell you about what Christ’s love has done for me, and what it’s still doing, as well as to clarify so many confusions about the Christian faith. In the end, what happens from clarity is there is a transformation of the heart from rock hard to soft and open, and that is when Jesus can enter. That is what I want for you, as a Christian writer; that you may experience the love of Christ in your heart when you’re most vulnerable and susceptible to feel it completely.

May you be blessed while reading this and I pray you walk away with some newfound understanding that you may not have had. In the very least, I hope you are reminded that Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done, and it’s up to you whether or not you receive that love and live into its promise to transform you from the inside. Jesus is the key; the answer. Will you let Him be that for you? If so, let this be a new day for you. If not, may He help you to understand and embrace that His love is everlasting, compassionate, confident; steadfast and eternal. He will never stop loving you, even if you can’t believe He already does.

Let that soak in. May He transform you, if that is your desire today. In Jesus name.

Transformation

Recognizing the Broken Soul In the Mystery Of Faith

 

Before I received Jesus into my life, I was an atheist; and before I was an atheist, I was raised Catholic in a very traditional church where repetition seemed more sacred than relationship, and repentance more emphasized than forgiveness or community. The concept of God always seemed a one-dimensional idea that didn’t breathe, feel, or matter, and therefore it never pulled at me during those years. I didn’t pray because I didn’t have any faith in receiving an answer, and also because I didn’t believe with my heart that there was even a God listening. 

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & IDENTITY

During the end of seventh grade, when I was going on 14—I began weight-lifting to get in shape for the football season the following fall. What I eventually grasped, after playing for one season and disliking it at the time—was that I only had a passion for muscle-building. I enjoyed my time in the weight room far more than my time on the field. Once I fully realized my interest for weight-lifting as a bodybuilding exercise and not as preparation for any specific sport, I began idolizing muscle-building, putting more emphasis on working out my body to receive attention from society than on challenging my mind and soul to stretch and understand the esoteric of the supernatural and the theological. If I couldn’t work out, it was a big deal because I had associated looking strong as a part of my identity; trying to act strong with my body without actually being strong of heart or pertinacious of will.

Years of this mentality drove me to take offense when anyone would label me as thin or weak, because I tried so hard to be the opposite. Truth is, I only weighed 155lbs, but my pride told me I was 200lbs of muscle. In fact, my pride convinced me that my identity had to be stronger than I really was, and it rejected the humility of accepting that I was holding myself back from my true potential. What my true potential was—or what I learned it was later on—obviously had nothing to do with my muscular physique. But I was stubbornly clinging to the artificiality of strength for power in a lifestyle void of spiritual purpose or meaning.

From where does our desire for power derive from? Everyone wants to feel powerful, but not always in the same way. Some people want power in the form of wealth, where others want power in the form of fear or intimidation. I wanted power in the form of strength, volition, and recognition/validation. And while none of these related to my true potential, they all drove me towards the desire for a purpose that made sense to a heart lacking belief in the supernatural; I didn’t believe in God, therefore power and validation were my reasons to breathe and to live for the next moment, the next hour—and even for tomorrow.

UNINSPIRED BY RELIGION

The impersonal aspects and disconnects of my childhood religion–preceding the trauma of my parents’ divorce, grandparents’ death, and being forced to cope with the repercussions of such drastic life changes–were still my reasons not to return to some one-dimensional religious system. However, looking back now, lacking faith in God changed everything for the worse.

There was a time in my life when I was only open to the topic of God if I was allowed to exit as soon as possible. I remember choosing to restrain my capacity to accept the topic of the possibility of God’s existence to enter the conversation long enough to make me think. Now, I consider myself a very deep thinker, and quite analytical, but at the time I was an atheist, I was “deep” in that I was studious about the psychology of the mind; not so much the influence and influx of spiritual matters and their pertinence to human purpose.

I obstinately rejected the consideration of a world in which supernatural forces could coincide with the existence of mankind; where the insidious actions of some God seemed to leave behind a trail of devastation, heartache, misery, and pain.

PAIN, EVIL, TRAUMA, & GOD

What I failed to understand as an atheist, and one of the ways I now relate to atheists today, or even agnostics who aren’t sure of what they believe—is that pain, suffering, heartache, and even devastation—these are all circumstances God allows so we will call out to Him for help, closure, and guidance; where His response will not be to eradicate the danger or to rescind the trauma, but to guide us through our hurt and pain.

Does this all sound too technical or cliche? To rephrase: God uses trauma to help us to draw near to Him.

Another common argument I hear brought up is that if there is a God, He is evil because He allows evil. If you are someone who believes God causes evil, however, then you have misplaced the Devil with God, confusing the two by making the mistake of allocating evil to one spiritual force, and ignoring the other. Basically, you are–whether intentionally or not—dismissing the fact that there is not one, but two separate spiritual forces at play simultaneously: God and the Devil (good and evil). Ultimately, you absolutely cannot have one without the other while on Earth. To argue that point, you would have to claim that love can exist without evil—and on the plane of Earth, free will is what convolutes the nature between choosing one over the other. This picture of free will is what creates the undeniable schism between love and hate; good and evil. Free will dictates the extraordinary dichotomy in which humans have ably produced the atrocities of generations past, as well as the blessings of goodness in human history (good samaritans, acts of selflessness without credit or reward, etc.). The choice to love can replace—or override—the choice to do evil, because in order to decide on one and not the other, one must be decided against. Primordially, choice is what gave birth to sin to begin with: Choice (pride over humility) was what transformed Lucifer into Satan.

Therefore, God and the Devil cannot both be evil, otherwise love could not exist. But since we know love does exist, both of the spiritual forces cannot be evil. One must contradict the other in order for us to raise the dichotomy of their differences in debate, transmuting the concept of morality into a reality we can see, touch, taste, and smell.

For instance, the taste of flesh is connotative of cannibalism and, depending on which culture you reference—for the majority of people, cannibalism is considered “bad.” However, does it make a difference whether or not the person being cannibalized is an adult or newborn baby? Does your conscience not speak into this discussion and call for a timeout? If that is not an explicit indicator of the existence of morality, what is?

As an atheist, none of these thoughts were even given the light of day. Not until years into discovering Christ did I even give them any consideration to make sense of them at all. What’s important to me now is that I share where I am with people who are open to receiving it, and that I try to be as gentle as possible out of respect of understanding where they are now, considering where I was, many years ago.

GRACE AND MORALITY

For those who don’t believe in the love of Jesus–extending grace may at times becomes not a gift from one person to another in the name of something bigger than themselves, but rather the scoff of resentment for having to go out of the way to do good, and to be genuine about doing it. I remember as an atheist, I cared so much about what others thought of me that a lot of times, my actions were only influenced by my intention to get a reaction from the crowd. In hindsight, this indicated a lot of my actions were influenced by my desire to be accepted by others, and not by authenticity.

I witness so many secular-minded people dismissing morality as too complex to discuss, and theology as too unbelievable to process, and yet–magic seems a feasible topic because, when transfused subtly, it doesn’t require God or Jesus to be interjected in order to be validated. What also seems confusing and distorted to others–and what was distorted for me growing up in the Catholic church–is that God requires religion to initiate contact with. That is something I strongly disagree with. In fact, I detest religion, myself, as a Christian. I consider Christianity a walk of faith, not a religion, because to me–religion signifies rules, obligations, and false pretenses (“Talk the talk but not walk the walk.” Or, as another example, those who go to church and pretend to have it all together, just to leave the same way they walked in: unchanged and not trying to improve). I was raised to believe religion was the only way to God, but I’ve learned that Jesus wants intimacy; not false pretenses. I was convinced that God was a God of rules and expectations—not to mention a God who allows trauma because He is careless; but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Now I understand religion is not the way Jesus ever taught us to follow Him—He taught us the way was through HIM; through loving God, others, and ourselves, the way He loves us.

JESUS DESIRES INTIMACY

What I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t want me to come to Him uncomfortably in some formal fashion, but rather, He wants me to come to Him to build an intimate relationship with Him as Savior of my life and best friend, recognizing and worshiping His deity while also admiring His precious sin-consuming humanity (Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself when He was crucified; therefore He consumed all of our sin and paid the price for all of us at the same time). I couldn’t love Him more for that. And, if you will accept that into your heart—that is your choice, after all—could you not love Him for that as well—for being worth deifying and also worth the admiration of a best friend? Jesus is not just some character in a book; He is as real as anyone you know. I didn’t understand this truth until I was in my mid-twenties! You may not be ready yet, but I want to encourage you to open your mind and try to seek further into this truth for yourself.

My prayer for you is that you’ll come to understand whatever area of your life this represents, and that you’ll try to seek out the Truth for yourself. Whatever that means for you, I pray you will pursue this for your own sake so that you have answers where now, you have none. May you be blessed in that search, and may you do it authentically, putting intentional effort into uncovering whatever mystery is blocking you from living into the building of your soul, and not the hopes that this world will ever get you what you want. What you want is to feel important, validated, cared for, and loved. Intimacy, right? Guess what? God planted those desires in your soul, He knows what they are and why they are there; even why they are unique to you. Why don’t you try talking to Him about that, and see how He responds? It would be a great conversation starter:

“God, I’m not even sure if you exist… but You know me better than I know myself. Please help me to see you in my life, and in my heart. Help me walk away from my distortions of you, and towards the Truth that you are my loving Father. You know what is best for me, and You want that for me. Please help me to move towards what that is in my life. I have never tried trusting you before, but I want to trust you now. I’m sorry for ignoring You and not putting more time into understanding Your intentions for me. I want to try to do that now. Please meet me where I am, and help me to feel Your presence in my life now. In Jesus name.”

BE BLESSED!!

Artificial