Finding Miracles At Our Breaking Point

We all need someone to look up to; a role model, an inspiration, someone to emulate and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. While I was very little, my role models were characters from movies from TV shows. At around 5-7 years old, I was drawn to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; their vigilance in fighting crime and standing up for the innocent, especially in their turtle-form, was appealing and entertaining. Later, my role model became none other than Superman himself. He continued to be my hero for many years because he represented the desire of humanity for peace, justice, and the American way; fighting injustice without killing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring characters like this—characters with larger-than-life stories. As humans, we want to connect with something beyond ourselves because we need that inspiration to do what we believe transcends human nature; to live into a higher calling. Why else do we consider these characters “larger than life”?

After I discovered the person of Jesus in my life (in the form of the Holy Spirit in my heart), He became my role model. I had a perspective shift in what it means to live “larger than life”. To me, the best way to summarize what larger than life looks like to me now is through the lens of humility, healing, and surrender. Let me draw you a picture.

Before I accepted Christ, life for me was all about lusting after women, idolizing music and movies, and writing poems in the middle of the night when my dad and step-siblings were asleep. I didn’t feel any sort of purpose in life, and the things inspiring me to live were the songs of bands like Korn, Linkin Park, and Marilyn Manson. They validated my anger towards the pain of my parents’ divorce, and towards the confusion and hurt behind experiencing my parents’ response to their divorce—and not understanding either of their responses at that time. I was exposed to depression from multiple family members suffering from it, without even knowing that’s what I was being exposed to; the malady of which took me into the bathroom tub full of water and the temptation to stop breathing underneath. My purpose in life was defined by music telling me that my anger was legitimate and empowering, that my hurt was deep, and that both were real. Those were the messages I didn’t feel coming from people around me during those times when everything I’d come to know and feel safe with dissipated overnight. God allowed trauma to grab me from behind, but He allowed it knowing what the aftermath would become.

See, I witnessed my parents experiencing their own divorce. My dad grew quiet and uninvolved with me, I didn’t know what to make of it then; I was hurting too, and perplexed. Looking back, I can only imagine the pain he was going through after so many years of marriage. I witnessed my dad experience a pain I’d never seen him feel before, not to mention the death of his parents only weeks before Christmas the same year of the divorce. Mom was experiencing her own depression, and everything happening around us took a toll on our relationship. Our family seemed to be crawling through Hell, and I couldn’t make sense of a loving God inside of that devastating mess. Atheism wasn’t a vague, foreign idea to me after all of that. These thoughts covered me with water in that tub, more than once, when I tried to convince myself not to be afraid to stop breathing when the water pressure was too high. I was afraid because I was alone. Not only in the bathroom, but in my life. I didn’t feel like I had anyone who saw me, and I was desperate for an answer to save me from my self-deprecation and hate.

Years later, after exhaustive amounts of time spent in this deteriorating mentality, I was not only desperate for a reason to be alive, but for the reason why I was desperate. I found it intriguing in such a morbid way that I wouldn’t kill myself and yet I kept asking myself what life was really for.

What was all the darkness trying to tell me? Why were Korn’s songs so important to me—so validating? Why did trying to drown make me feel like something was being balanced in the world—as if trading my presumed worthless existence for the more worthy existence of everyone else—and why did I, even to the slightest of a degree, want a reason to believe that that might not be true…. as the air in my lungs was collapsing, and I had to choose to come up for air or choke on gallons of water imploding on me.

Was Jesus speaking through to me even though I wasn’t listening yet? Did the silence in my heart have anything to do with the hope that kept me alive, even though I rejected His goodness as a fallacy for so many years? Did the fact that I stayed alive despite multiple attempts to die have anything to do with the miraculous power that He had over my surroundings; encouraging me, even at bare minimum, that there was something worth living for? How can I, looking back, not acknowledge Jesus at work in a life not believing, surrendering, loving, or reaching out for the Lord who was trying to show me He was really there all along? How can I not say that wasn’t the intervention of a LOVING Supreme Being who knows me better than I know myself? See, Jesus knows I enjoy water, and He knows I enjoy the quiet because I find it peaceful. When I found myself trying to drown myself in both, He met me, even though I couldn’t feel Him or hear Him at the time—and He took me from death by feeding me even the slightest reason to keep going, even if it was just the music and vindication I received from listening to rock songs and writing poems.

I understand everyone has their own story of adversity, struggle, trauma, crisis, and pain. We all do. I have mine, and I’ve shared a chunk of my story so that you can understand that I don’t speak of anything I haven’t experienced myself. I experienced the desire to die as the main focus of my life for several agonizing years. I’ve also experienced choosing narcissism over Christ, trying to get what I want just for me—and hedonism was a disappointment through that as well. Self-satisfaction is no reason to live at all. All that living for pleasure ever did was tire me out and make me want to die. You may think that perhaps I didn’t find the right kind of pleasure. I disagree. For instance, the argument for sex is invalid. For about 15 years of my life, I’ve heard from countless people about meaningless, promiscuous sex, about how much fun it is, but how unsatisfying, and therefore unfulfilling it is. They admit how having sex with someone you love is much more satisfying, but wisdom will tell you that it’s nothing to live for.

For another instance, those who would concede to the argument of the pleasure of drugs as a good reason to live—the high from drugs has the same effect; if anything, people lose brain cells from drugs, as well as concentration, time, and the ability to prioritize. Drug addicts continuing their lifestyle without any desire to change ignore the truth that their addiction only obscures their reason for doing drugs: To hide from pain. Sure, some do it for fun because they feel they have nothing better to do. That’s my point: There IS something better to do! There is so much… and I was drowning myself in a tub because I couldn’t see it, either. 

To give you a more recent picture of my life, today I see women as treasures of the living God, and relationships as complements of what God allows into our lives when we treat them as gifts from Him, and not invitations of the devil to throw our souls away. Though my history distorts relationships because of my traumas, I seek the Lord and pursue the way He views women, fighting my past with faith in Jesus as my guide to healthy boundaries. I still deeply appreciate music, but I intentionally incorporate worship music to balance out my propensity for rock music, and the rock music I enjoy does not glorify the devil, nor degrade or convolute the concept of God. My writing continues on and off this blog; I write songs once in a while, but I enjoy writing these articles in hopes of inspiring others like you to look beyond disbelief and darkness, seeking answers to your life’s purpose, ranging deeper than you could imagine.

Truly, I understand atheism and disbelief like the back of my hand. But I’d rather adhere to knowing Jesus as the center of my heart. Now that I know why He came, what He was, is, and will always be about—He worthy of all of my time, all of my thoughts, desires, and hopes. If you haven’t gotten to that point of your life, I empathize with your dissension; there is no judgment here. I spent the majority of my life being spoiled and not giving any glory or credit to Jesus: I’m one of the people who don’t want to spend another day without surrender and humbleness. I want you to know I didn’t find Jesus in the tub that day, but it was because I hadn’t chosen to see Him yet; not because He wasn’t there. I don’t believe that. What I believe, because of what I experienced—is that the second Jesus knew I was ready with a softened heart, He flooded Himself into my life; and I’ve been different ever since. There was a lot of learning and growth to do, and there still is, but compared to the days of my crisis and family trauma, I’m light-years away. I write this to you so you’ll know you’re not alone in your pain. You’re not alone in your situation. God sees you and wants to help you, but He won’t come into a closed heart. He won’t because that’s your choice to let Him in or keep Him out. 

My prayer is that you would find peace, even in your pain. That you would find forgiveness for those who have hurt you, and peace even inside of all the trouble you’re facing. When I say Jesus really is the light of the world, I don’t mean for that to sound cliché. He is the “light in the darkness” because He is the hope in a world crumbling at the feet of sin and corruption. He is the reason I keep going, and I pray He will be yours. When you can’t feel His closeness, I pray you would seek Him by name; the name above all other names. There is no one like Him, the One who saves us from ourselves each and every day. I believe in His love, even when I’m too rigid in my shame to receive it from Him. May you find it in yourself to seek Him at all costs, above all the rest of your priorities in life; may you find Him in your heart, and once you do, may you never look away—may you never move back. I pray you would let Him transform you from the broken soul you have now to one of restoration, peace, completion, humility, and strength from above.

As an atheist for most of my life, I never found any satisfaction in anything of this world. Often I reminisce just to look over the differences in my life since I accepted Christ, and every time I do, I realize how blind I was when I was closed off from Jesus. I understand it all happened in its own timing according to God’s will. He knew how long I’d need to accept Him, but He didn’t push harder than He knew He should. I chose Him when I was done trying to find pleasure in narcissism. After I exhausted myself of trying to find meaning in this world, I realized there was nothing to find, and what I did find was never, ever enough.

Jesus’s love, and the hope which comes from His resurrection, brings me more satisfaction than anything this world has to offer. When people talk about parties, alcohol, sex jokes, vacations, or time to just “to do nothing”, I pity for them; despite understanding their desire for a break (Jesus Himself commands us to heed the Sabbath for rest), I always find myself quiet so as not to offend people who brag about worldly pleasures. If people ask me my opinion, I honestly tell them I’d rather read or watch a movie than to go partying. I already know there is nothing meaningful in this world besides faith in Christ. 

My rigidity to faith in Christ was not at all different from unbelievers’ rigidity to Jesus today, but some people hang onto theirs for longer. One of the differences between me and other unbelievers is that I got tired more quickly. I hope you won’t wait long before you let Him in to give you a more satisfying purpose. He is always waiting, always ready to give us all we need. We only need turn ourselves to Him with humility and surrender, and He is ready to embrace us. He was never gone, we just weren’t looking. 

Let us “look” today, let us try to strive in a world more and more confused by its own contradictions with the hope of Christ expressed through our words and actions. May God bless you as you choose to search for Him and may you recognize His goodness, even in your pain. He loves you, and He desperately wants you to choose Him, as He is a jealous God. But He won’t make you. You have a choice. 

If you resonate with what you’ve read here and you’d like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would benefit, and if you’d like, please write in the comments below and share a thought, a prayer request–I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Gone

Reminiscence: The Power Of Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 feel free to 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!!

Year

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

 

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

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

Paving the Path For Trusting God: Part 2

God knew what He wanted with humanity far before He even breathed into causing the Big Bang. All of creation was done for Jesus and by Jesus, and that makes the story of creation that much more beautiful, colorful, and saturated in sentiment. Do you realize what that means about Jesus’ crucifixion?

OUR LOVE STORY WITH GOD

While many people look shamefully towards the cross, the cross represents a part of the love story between Jesus and humanity– or, from the big picture perspective— between God and humanity. See, the cosmos and all of creation were made by and for Jesus, so the love story between humanity and Jesus is that we are the centerpiece that Jesus had in mind for the creation of our solar system, and the reason for all the orbiting planets making Earth the most life-sustainable planet in the galaxy.

That isn’t even beginning to mention how God birthed us into creation during the most auspicious time period, when we were able to integrate and learn to utilize the tools necessary to discover for our very eyes the origins of the galaxy during the Big Bang!

This provides evidence that God wanted us, intentionally, to be able to see for ourselves our entrance into the existential plane of time and space dimensionality, so that we would come to learn the critical role time played in the process of humans creating amply advanced technology to look into the past and witness our entrance; to witness for ourselves that there was and is no better time for us than now—because before or after now and the galaxy would have been too dark to discover any of these historical divulgences.

THE PURPOSE OF THE COSMOS IS US

God wanted us to know that the galaxy is for our existence, and then as we combine that story element with the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, what we have is a more complete story of how Christ loved us SO MUCH that He not only created the entire cosmos for us—but He even came down and died for us Himself so that we would not be separated from Him (should we choose to accept Jesus’ love for us into our hearts and live transformed lives by loving others, ourselves, and God) after we chose to rebel and transgress His divine laws and love for us (For more information about the details of the cosmos, the Big Bang, and how science actually complements Christianity in the sense that facts about the cosmos directly link back to the Bible–please reference back to Leslie Wickman’s “God of the Big Bang“, and also Hugh Ross’s “Why the Universe Is the Way It Is“).

Does that change at all the perspective we have in regards to seeing God as a God worth trusting?

A TRUSTWORTHY GOD

Knowing these details, we can explicate the way God responds to our pain and our questions by His attitude towards both our creation and our suffering. Having accomplished so much for us for the sake of our convenience, what we can take from this is that the facts point directly to the great care and consideration God has for us as a race. Why would God work so carefully for the last part of creation–the very pinnacle of creation, in fact– if He did not care about us? And, to connect dots–would we not place trust in a God who would put so much meticulous, careful planning into making our existence so worthwhile?

One of the problems I had as an atheist with putting trust in an “invisible” concept like God was the fear of the threat of sanity. “What will the world think of me if I start including Jesus/God/theology into the conversation?” We start to place weight on the world’s view instead of on the sentiment Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross means for us as individuals, personally. The world condemns and censures, but God loves and forgives, constantly inviting us forward, towards Him. If we don’t place our trust in Him, is our resistance really based on some mistake God made, or are we too proud to admit how lost we are when we try to solve the mystery of life with technicalities and empty rationalizations? The capitulation of curiosity is among the seeds of the death of theology in understanding God after exhausting ourselves by trying to solve the argument against His existence. My point is not all that ambiguous: what reason do we have as a race for distrusting in God? After really pausing to look at the evidence, everything intently points to His genuine love for the human race. If we don’t place our trust on that foundation, where else would we place it? 

BASED ON A TRUE STORY…

I want to share with you a small but profound true story which happened to me years ago.

When I was living in an apartment in Glendale, California, I was about to be bankrupt and I had already been warned of eviction because I couldn’t make rent. My roommate and I arrived home one night after a life group to find the note that is the picture of this blog post, taped to our door. I promise you readers, no one knew that I could not afford rent besides two people: my roommate, and my dad– who I had seen the past two days–and I had been with him the entire time, so he had no chance to put a note on the door, nor get the money through the crack of the doorway so that I would only see the $700 in cash laying on the ground after I opened the door. My roommate was just as shocked as me, and that made it obvious this was clearly God seeing my situation, and responding.

Now, I’m not claiming God wrote the note, I know it was a person–but the miracle and blessing within this story is that someone knew I couldn’t afford rent (when I hadn’t told anyone, nor had my roommate), and no one ever confessed to being the gift-giver. They remain, to this day, and unknown samaritan who helped me at a crucial time without desiring to receive credit for the gift. I cannot tell that person how much I appreciate the gift, and that they were clearly doing God’s work in telling me that “God loves you. He sees you. He’ll never forsake you.” Clearly, this person wanted God have all the credit. To me, that is love of the Father in Heaven, and that is a reason to trust in Him to provide, always. Has that ever happened again since? Nope. And that’s the idea: God doesn’t generally perform a miracle the same way twice; but He always answers every prayer.

WITNESSING GOD AT WORK BEHIND THE SCENES

One last thing to note about my short story–if I had not gotten that money right when I did, and if I would have had to be evicted (possibly along with my roommate if he couldn’t pay it all himself), I would not have been able to get the job that I got within that next month at the school district, and where I stayed for three years working in Special Education with kids with autism and special needs. None of that would have happened! God was speaking into my life through another person, and it was loud and clear that I was not alone in my journey. This isn’t just me, readers–it’s you, too.

I shared this truth with you to let you see how God does work, even in mysterious ways; ways where people are involved, but where they’re not trying to take the spotlight off of God. God uses people to show Himself, because the Holy Spirit is at work in this world through the spirit of believers. The Prince of Darkness (the Devil) may be influencing the world, but the King of all kings (Jesus) is controlling it. That said, whoever wrote that note and provided the money without ever asking for it to be returned or claiming the act was his doing–he was allowing the Holy Spirit to work inside of him. That’s what matters to God, and that’s what counts to someone who needs to experience God’s grace in the form of tangibility that is distinctly God’s hand–only without the skin, bone, or tissue. While God’s physical hand cannot be seen touching us, He is certainly moving, He is most certainly alive; He most certainly exists, and He loves us all. Not everyone might get a note taped to their door, but they are no less loved or seen. He created everything so that we could have relationship with Him and give Him the glory. He loves us so that we have an example of what it means to be loving.

GOD’S REALITY

I understand many of you will likely not appreciate the way that I didn’t explain God’s physical intervention in our lives as an actual touch, but if we aren’t aware that God moves through people and through nature, then we’re missing an important point; He doesn’t touch us in the same sense that humans do because of the point I explained in Part 1: He is outside of our dimensionality, and if He came inside of ours in His physical form, we wouldn’t survive the process. Sin cannot survive the presence of pure, perfect love. Putting faith in the existence of God means knowing that God is with us in our hearts–and through other believers–but that doesn’t mean that we dismiss God just because His body is somewhere else; He is omnipresent, spiritually. That is how we access the Holy Spirit. And unless we put faith into that possibility, we are resisting His love due to of our rebellion, not His non-existence.

We would not need faith if He were here with us, physically, right? He loves you, He sees you, and He will never forsake you. Open your heart, look into the soul of Christ as He is knocking on the door to your heart. Let Him in and show Him around. He wants to be a part of your life. Putting your trust in God is the best decision you could make because of His adamant loyalty. If you don’t understand His loyalty, just look to the stars, He never drops them— they’re held firmly in place; how much much firmly and carefully would He hold your heart, the heart of the peak of His creation? Everything He created, and all that He’s done, is for you– because His love is that deep for you. What will you do with that truth?

MY PRAYER FOR YOU

I hope that you feel His love for you today, and I pray that it inspires you for the better. That is my prayer for each one of you; that you would come to know God’s heart, Jesus’ loyalty, and place confident trust in their means of being for you and giving to you all that you need. May you feel His presence as you continue understanding how to place more trust in God, knowing what He is capable of, what He’s done, and what He will do based on His promises. I urge you to do this with a believer who can encourage you, pray for you and with you, and help you as you ease into this, especially if this concept is new for you. God will meet you where you are, and He will lift you up. He will never leave you standing alone. He’s always watching and waiting for another heart to choose Him over the world. He’s excited to be a part of you. Will you reach out for Him in trust? I hope you will.

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