Spiritual Peripheries: The War Between Nihilism and Faith

HEAVY SPIRITUAL BURDEN

In the spiritual static of despair, doubt roams steadily but uneasily, prepared to consume and destroy but unable to capitulate the desire to understand and heal.

For several weeks now, I have been experiencing a heavy spiritual burden that has had me vacillating between the darkness of disbelief and the hope that the pieces will eventually fall into place before I lose my sanity, my faith, or both. 

From the buoyancy of this spiritual ambivalence comes the whirlwind, the inner-storm, of misunderstanding the roots of faith itself. What do you believe, and why do you believe it? These are the questions my storm has brought to me the last several weeks, and the lingering silence has been haunting me. What could cause a believer to doubt and question in this way? Which direction does doubt take the precarious Christian? If you find it in yourself to follow my pattern of thought and self-examination, we will search for the clarity of truth underneath this lull of uncertain theism.

LOGIC’S INCOMPREHENSION OF FAITH

In hindsight, I realized a while ago that for the majority of the past 8 years, I’ve been trying to understand Jesus through the conduit of logic. It’s no surprise then, looking back over how my faith came to be, that if I am to find logic as one of the pillars of how I came to grasp what faith is and what it means to me, then my foundations have indeed been frivolous and fallible. In retrospect, understanding faith through logic is like estimating the loyalty of a relationship by scoring how many kisses and hugs prescribe genuine commitment. There is no such equation, of course, and as such, the “formula” to faith is arbitrary and oppositional to any methodical delineation of digits or images. Faith is unlike logic in that it commences in the spirit. Concordantly, one must in the least acknowledge belief in both the human spirit (in addition to the body) as well as a personal, sentient God to grasp more fully the significant purpose of the Christian God in Jesus Christ.

THE REASONING OF AN ATHEIST

An atheist commenting on one of my previous articles turned into an e-mail discussion between the two of us, which eventually culminated in his inquiring for “good reasoning” in order to believe in God and Jesus. In light of arguing God’s existence over the constituents of logic and reasoning, the reason for belief in God comes down to purpose. When I disbelieved in both God and Jesus back 10 years ago, I was nearly certain I had no purpose, which is why I wanted to end my life. The atheist I confabulated with expressed himself with stubborn, austere logic, preventing him from viewing Jesus as any more than a fantasy conjured in the imaginative minds of ancient authors from millenniums past. Reasoning itself, I find, is the schism between the conduit of faith and logic, since logic and faith use different patterns of reasoning to understand their own platforms of belief. Let me explain.

LOGIC VS. FAITH

Logic is made viable through the reasoning of mathematics, formulas, particulars and specifics to reach a narrow and condensed table of exacts. Faith is a much more open-ended platform which allows room for belief in the spirit to expand what we declare to know and believe about our own metaphysical existence—apart from our physical, bodily existence in this three-dimensional world. If one grows skeptical over this “expansion” of belief, the believer could ask the skeptic to explain, from their point of view, the otherwise mysterious paranormal activities and spiritual interventions, such as bodily possession, dramatized vocal changes, telekinetic movement of inanimate objects—and all of these apart from the more “benevolent” testimonies of the inner transformation of murderers and addicts into devoted Christians committing their life to Jesus, praising His name publicly and living drastically altered lifestyles after declaring Jesus as Lord. Logic cannot adequately examine such miracles with mathematical particulars. These are beyond explanation, as they act solely as their own evidence in spiritualized empiricism. 

“THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL”

The foggy haze I’ve experienced for the last several weeks has kept my spirituality from moving out of stagnancy and into growth. I’ve considered the possibility that I’m experiencing what is known as the “Dark Night of the Soul,” (St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591) and it’s quite possible this is far from over. This spiritual stint is as unpredictable as it is unmeasurable, since the purification of the soul is commensurate with how much space in the spirit the grace of God frees and opens in the vessel He is refining.

Such a darkness is very familiar to me, especially since I spent years devoting my spirit (though I didn’t believe in the spirit at the time) to doubt and rage, becoming familiar with agnosticism, disbelief, loneliness, and suffering. Familiarity with these led me to expect them to remain my rock and comforters, rather than Jesus. Therefore the darkness in correspondence with “The Dark Night of the Soul” is merely different in the way this new darkness is wielded by God with the intention of making my faith stronger through the conduits of humility, surrender, and reformation; whereas the darkness from many years ago was initiated and manipulated by traumatic circumstances.

Unrestrained familiarity with misery, suffering, and pain (i.e. emotional trauma) would affect a person’s clarity in discerning the reasoning for their belief, as well as awareness of that belief—by confining the conduits of clarity and reasoning to the darkest recesses of the human psyche; namely, the claustrophobic anti-belief of nihilism—that everything we do, are, and experience hopelessly exist without meaning or purpose. 

THE ANTI-THEISM OF NIHILISM

Spiritual tension-turned-rebellion, born of aggressive unbelief, is a sure-fire trajectory into the dangerously obscured, empty waters of nihilism. How is this true? Spiritual tension is the static thought between our desire for purpose and our denial of its manifestation in our lives, and when this static thought is left undeveloped or unmoved, it can transmute to the colorless backdrop of nihilistic beliefs, beginning with the fallacy that purpose itself is an ideological myth conjured in order for people to tolerate the inevitable tragedy of suffering.

Ultimately, every person believes in something, if nothing less than the something of nothingness (the anti-theism born of nihilism). In order to incarnate the belief in nothingness into its own ideology however, one must incorporate the anti-belief into action by implementing a lifestyle commensurate with the immaterial of its corresponding anti-faith. In order to accept such a broad, ambiguous, and practically anarchic freedom from spirituality or religiosity, one must force-feed themselves the tentative possibility that purpose does not matter, inferring that the significance of meaning itself is purely subjective. In effect, this inference demands that we indefatigably consider accepting that we need neither (purpose nor meaning) to determine whether or not either are mandatory to live a fulfilling, complete life.

SEVERING EMOTIONAL BONDS

Surely we can try to imagine a life without purpose, but such a life demands the severing of emotional association or attachment; connections to people and things which feed us the feeling of acceptance and belonging. Purpose demands that a person finds an intrinsic truth regarding his or her life in feeling connected to a person or thing, and that that connection is their reason to live. We innately seek a feeling of connection, belonging, and acceptance, as this is the criteria from which we search our lives for purpose. Oppositely, the severing of bonds as required of nihilism demands that we retire this criteria and resist/ignore/avoid the desire to connect at all.

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF PURPOSELESSNESS

The very substance of relationships is how we sense our purpose inside the connections we feel safest in. Safety guards our purpose with closure, rebuking the fear we have of losing our purpose and ensuring our existence with the emotional belief that we need connection to live. Purposelessness demands the opposite, requiring that we sever this connection and live under the belief that we need nothing; the thoughts in our head and the repetition of routine—or the adventure of spontaneity—survive merely as luxurious conveniences and psychological appendages stuffed within the unnecessary fat of our brain. However, these “appendages” are also connected to us via purpose—we derive a sense of purpose from either being on the go, or being swept up by the monotonous flow of expecting our life to mirror itself day-by-day. In other words, even what we may refer to as a literalistic sense of purposelessness requires that we remain connected to purpose in such a way as to continue living in the wavelength of a predictably phlegmatic nonchalance.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as purposelessness, as even declaring ourselves without purpose commands that we seek purpose in some other materialistic way. To be completely without purpose would infer a premature nonexistence; not even in death, but only in never having been born into an earthly body in the first place would we no longer carry a purpose. We would then be void of the spirit sustaining this psychological dichotomy between living for someone or something, and living only for the uncompromising dissatisfaction of materialism—both of which require a connection to purpose through the conduit of belief to remain coherently true.

NIHILISM’S CATCH 22

If we are to accept that we have a purpose, then we must also accept the truth behind nihilism, namely that it is a lie attempting to manipulate us into believing there is nothing to believe. Since that is the fundamental root of nihilism, which in itself is a belief, then what we can gather is that the purpose of nihilism is to believe that there is nothing to believe—or, in other words—a “catch 22.” Once we accept this ‘catch’ as a lie, we simultaneously grasp the truth of our purpose, which promises—through the Christian faith—that our most intrinsic need is to connect, belong, be accepted, feel loved, and trust this feeling of safety within the parameters of intimacy (fellowship)—through our belief that life is fulfilled by experiencing intimacy with other people by the love and grace of God through Jesus. 

A DARK BURDEN REVEALED

This said, as a believer unsure of the source point from which my faith originally began, I am curious to understand the basis of the faith I first started ingesting 8 years ago. My reasoning for this choice is this. Either I completely engage with Jesus, or I pull back entirely by refusing Him. If I refused Jesus access to my heart and gave Him a definitive “no” for an answer (which isn’t something I’m prepared to do), I believe I would end up returning to the lonely, dejecting life of doubt and uncertainty which, after the terrible despair of my adolescent years, I know would be far more severe. Aware of this, I am not ready to refuse Jesus, but careful to tread the waters slowly, unsure of whether this water is where I belong (purpose); not so much because of whether it is too “hot” or “cold,” (preferable or not) but based on whether or not it is the life I feel (spiritually) intrinsically associated with. For example, there are places in this world where each of us feel out of place, out of sync, and disconnected—not only with our environment and the people in it, but also with ourselves. This disconnectedness is our spirit speaking to our subconscious, making known that we don’t belong there and commanding that we find the place where we do. In likeness, I need to comprehend my connectedness with Jesus to move forward with Him.

This is how I know I don’t belong within the torture of refusing Jesus: I can sense—even in the hospitable rumination of denying Him—that He would let me turn away to walk towards to the darkest of the black of anti-faith to allow me to experience the burden I had chosen, in order to reveal why I would ultimately choose to come running back to Him, sincerely desperate for a Savior once more.

THE SOURCE OF THE BATTLE

Sometimes, in the midst of spiritual chaos, there is no happy ending in sight. That is a reality just as there is no war without bloodshed and pain. We began our introspection with the question, “What do you believe, and why?” This question leads us in many directions without an effective compass. We know we cannot expect logic to help us determine a direction because the brain cannot comprehend the spirit. In the middle of this desert-like darkness myself, I have few helpful words to write about where to turn to other than towards the hope that a response from Jesus will come. I am not without any personal experiences inviting me to believe Jesus is real in my life, but I am attempting to understand whether my previous experiences conjured a belief I wanted to cling to for the sake of having something to cling to (careening on the periphery of nihilism while insinuating a lack of genuine surrender to the invitation of Christianity from the start), or whether my beliefs were conjured inevitably from a supernatural source of spiritual transcendence (grace). 

A GLIMMER OF HOPE

Despite my storm, I believe faith to be necessary because without it, we leave all our questions and curiosities without answers or explanations— without even so much as acknowledgement that our questions and yearning to understand derive from our desire to know our life purpose.

Our need to know our purpose is given to us from our Creator, and it is my awareness of this which gives me the one and only glimmer of hope that there must be a reason I want the belief in Jesus as Lord to make more sense in my spirit, and less like an “I told you so” from the outside world. It is this desire to understand why I would want Jesus to be my Lord that keeps me from asking Him to leave me in utter darkness. Moving forward, may God open our eyes and help us to see the Truth He has called us to embrace, and be transformed by his grace in the process. I pray this for myself and for you, in the name of Jesus.

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Foggy

The Space Between Agnosticism, Doubt, & Faith

THE BOOK OF MAJESTY AND MYSTERY

Inevitably gaped between the skepticism of disbelief and the hope of Christian rebirth, there is spiritual buoyancy, namely agnosticism. As a growing Christian, I’ve learned there is so much to understand about my walk with Jesus. The preconceived notion that performance is the underlying evidence of a born-again Christian is one of many common fallacies, one even I continually catch myself being mislead by temporarily. Reading the Bible more thoroughly has taught me how much substance, life, majesty, and zeal are actually waiting to be sought out from its pages. To receive the words of the Bible as merely sentence upon sentence is to mistake the Bible’s mystery and divinity for grammatical symmetry and redundant formalities which ultimately cost the Bible its very soul.

INESCAPABLE CURIOSITY

Recalling my testimony, I have come to be very familiar with the way God has worked in my soul since I was 22. Admittedly, God has been at work all along, but He only revealed His Truth to me beginning at age 22, where He planted the seed of desire to pursue Him. From mere desire has propelled a deeper longing, a pensive curiosity desperately calling my attention—a curiosity I would instantaneously refer to as inescapable and insatiable to the degree that I am always satisfied and simultaneously never finished. The ultimatum of breathing in this day-by-day faith is how the water Jesus gives leaves us overflowing with eternal life (John 4:14) and honestly, I can say I do not thirst for purpose any longer. I belong to Him, and my mission is to help others who have eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus is Lord.

However, what is unfinished is my desire to know Him more deeply and intimately. The depths of the intricacies of our Lord in Jesus are never satisfied any more than He is infinite and eternal. Because of this, I am always satiated with His promises. Nevertheless, coinciding with this hope is the honest and humble acknowledgment that I can never know everything—which brings me the thrill of the never-ending pursuit of His heart.

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A FALLEN WORLD

Despite the immeasurable darkness in this world; death, poverty, sex-trafficking, terrorism, homelessness, mental illness, and oppression (to name a few)—there is a greater, stronger, more obdurate light now than there has ever been. Look at the church, the body of Christ. Though there are no perfections, there are also no limits. God is moving through us and to each other. His plan to renew us is as never-ending as it is scandalous. Our God is love, and through Jesus, He is relatable, real, and historical; not merely mystical, metaphorical, metaphysical, or incongruous with any form of reality we experience.

Rationality cannot cloak faith with conjecture, science cannot prove its absence with empiricism, and skepticism cannot fade it out with resistance or denial. Just as naivety is the absence of experience—disbelief and closed-mindedness are the absence of the fullness of life; in that the fullness of life is found only in our God-given purpose, not a created purpose concocted by the transient, empty-handed motivations of this heart-broken, ephemeral world. 

COMPELLED BEYOND IMPERMANENCE

At some point, every person comes face-to-face with the question of their purpose in this life. Our innate desire to seek out and embrace our vocation becomes so strong that the thought of not having a vocation makes life feel intolerably small and pointless. We inevitably find ourselves asking, “What am I here for?” In response, absent-minded secularism would answer, “What do you desire most?” Faith, alternatively, would narrow this overly spacious path to what we feel most called by God to do. What’s the essential difference? The first is driven by selfish motivation, while the second is motivated from our connection to the infinite hope beyond this life. Put differently, the latter is driven by the belief and understanding that this life is not all there is, and what follows is if this is not all there is, then what we will feel called to do will reflect the impermanence with which we associate this lifetime.

Our recognition of impermanence separating desperation for pleasure from godly wisdom is how we perceive each breath as either a gift or a waste, and this separation is the difference between the pretentious secularist mentality and soul-compelling faith in Christ. When we are able to see life on Earth as a gift while simultaneously acknowledging its transience, we can appreciate every breath without clinging to it. Oppositely, if we cling to every breath in the belief that this is all we have, pleasure becomes our purpose. Driven by narcissism, our existential identity becomes as void as our transparent hope in a distant tomorrow.

FUNDAMENTAL PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS

Truly, our perception of this life plays a significant role, not only in what career we choose, but in the way we define our role identity, the role the people we connect with have in our lives, the meaning and weight of the love we believe others (as well as ourselves) do or don’t deserve, the reason why—and how to apply these developed viewpoints with our personal beliefs in what life in total really is.

Considering how fundamentally these perspective bifurcations affect our lives, we either become aware of how important it is to contemplate and understand our points of view more fully (which begins in the same space where we are either driven by curiosity for and towards the unknown ((faith)), or thrown into a haze by the overwhelming mystery of this universe and life—seemingly too daunting to pursue), or we do not pursue this contemplation any further—a choice which leaves us in the vulnerable position of living an unanswered life full of agnosticism and dubiousness. Living this way, as I have come to learn, is not worth the “liberation from labels.” Truly, it is better to know what we believe and to stake our eternity on it than to profess there is nothing to believe and live a vacuous life of ignorance and unfulfilled desires.

If we are not captivated by God’s magnanimous existence, we are dejected by the skeptical conclusion that belief in nothingness is merely easier—even if less rational, less fulfilling, and less innate than desiring an intimacy only a relationship to God can make sense of.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE AND SPIRITUALITY

One of the most problematic facets of spiritual apathy and nonchalance is the decision not to be challenged. During my teens, I was in denial about faith in Christ—but then I also didn’t want to talk about faith at all. I had no defense beyond that of my anger and misconstrued notions of who God was—my only argument was emotionally driven. For many people today, this is the case for agnosticism and even atheism; they want to argue and complain, but they don’t want to understand what they argue about. An emotionally charged response against God’s existence does not change anything anymore than a child stampeding off to their room challenges their parents’ rules about bedtime. We may argue and cross our arms, but the argument for God stands far above and beyond emotions. Once again, skepticism is as powerless as responding emotionally to an argument we don’t like. While skepticism and doubt are welcomed in the presence of faith, the face of skepticism is merely a mask of makeup compared to the authenticity, freedom, selfless motivation, and transcendent hopefulness of abiding in Christ.

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Pursue

Darling Downs Diaries

Faith, Fairy Tales, & Our Ultimate Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where does your faith look like today? 

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

Invitation

Growing Familiar With God

THE SENSATION OF THE SOUL

Life of disbelief made me feel like I was drowning; life was the pool and I had nothing with which to float on. When I finally invited Jesus to enter my heart, I realized the sensations running through me were more than mere awareness or consciousness. Over time, I realized what I had experienced was the feeling of God’s purpose for me pulsating through my spirit. Discovering my purpose in Christ was exhilarating; I felt like could conquer the world. I also came to understand this response did not carry any physical sensations. Basically, my body was not suddenly stronger or different—these pulsations vibrating through me occurred at a deeper level of myself than anything I’d ever experienced before. In receiving Jesus, I learned what it means to have a soul, because that’s exactly what I had become aware of: I finally understood what my soul felt like in my body. 

FAITH, BEETHOVEN, AND MUSIC

When an atheist or unbeliever tries to “make sense” of God, they use ratiocination in the hopes of untangling the mysteries of the unknown with the retina and the other four senses. But this is like trying to understand music by observing a muted symphony band play on a TV screen; we may be aware of the band’s use of exquisite dexterity in performing a particular song, but until we feel the instrument in our own hands with the vibrations from our fingertips (and if the instrument includes a mouth-piece, then the sensation on your lips and in your throat), the rhythmic thumping of our feet on the ground in sync with the drum (whether a physical drum, or your “inner drum”)—music simply cannot be grasped.

The deaf Beethoven himself laid on the floor to feel and discern the distinct vibration of every note until he created the masterpieces that are still revered even today by every generation. He understood music because he embraced the importance of understanding the purpose of each note: Its harmony, octave, and timing. The loyalty and dedication it required to gain such an understanding would have been tedious, time-consuming, and even frustrating, especially with his impediments—but he was impassioned to grasp the concept of music and song, to create and innovate what ultimately became famously known by the world at large. Likewise, God simply cannot be grasped simply through logic and equations; one must choose to desire to experience Him personally in order to understood Him at all—and understanding the supernatural, like God, requires choice, commitment, intention, authenticity, openness, vulnerability, humility, and reverence.

THE TRUMPET, AND THE SENSATION OF FAITH

When I was in fifth grade, in order to join the school band, I began learning to play the trumpet. After months of practice, the trumpet became more familiar. But let me tell you, after seven years, I was reaching notes that even impressed me. I understood how much air in my lungs was required to reach a certain note and I didn’t have to hope or guess if I would reach high enough—I simply knew where to put my lips and much pressure to supply in order to climb the octaves. I became very familiar with the instrument, and my body knew how to distribute impressive sounds to complement and add to the rest of the band.

Like in music, we must desire to feel the sensations of God’s presence within us, the “vibration” of the spirit, if you will, that we would be so familiar with our relationship and experience of Jesus and God as to be able to create our own masterpiece; the very rippling effect of love on this world we were designed to distribute in His name.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND MATURITY

Spiritual maturity takes place in a location inside ourselves we cannot find without searching with questions, some healthy skepticism (meaning, carefully thought out questions asked with an open mind and ready heart), and faith. How much faith, you ask? The faith of a mustard seed is enough, according to the Word of God (Matthew 17:20). We don’t need much to find Jesus, only the will and desire to be in His presence, to desire His presence in ours, and to be ready to hear Him speak to us. He speaks honestly, and sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth because the lies of this world (the enemy’s lies) are very tempting and manipulative. Lies such as: “Sex will make you happy,” “Money can buy you anything,” “Just do what you want and everything will be fine.” These are all fallacies designed to equip us with narcissism and help us to forget our innate desire for purpose.

There is no purpose in narcissism, which is a seed towards nihilism; the rejection of all religious and moral principles, resulting in the belief that life is ultimately meaningless. Disbelief in God is one thing, but to replace doubt and skepticism with hedonism is the recipe for a purposeless, meaningless life full of transience and dissatisfaction. Listening to Jesus helps us to stay in the clear and to discern between the world’s lies and His clear and loving voice. We only need be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10)— He will never lead us astray.

THE STARTING POINT

Personally, I believe some doubt is ultimately healthy because it instigates a starting point. When have a place to begin, the questions shed a light on which way to dig and search. Those who do not ask don’t move, and therefore they don’t grow or mature. To mature is to see one perspective from a different angle and to receive a multitude of angles as possibilities, carefully discerning where God is speaking the most clearly. Spiritual maturity is understanding there are many faiths to choose from, but discerning the one faith which is healthiest for us. There is only one God—the Biblical, Christian God—who is so personal as to come down in human form—God in flesh—to take the punishment we deserve and place it on Himself so that we wouldn’t have to suffer for our wrongs. Only one God loves us so deeply as to desire nothing but deep, intimate relationship with us, and not require us to prove anything—whose only command is to love Him, others, and ourselves, the way He loves us first.

THE CHRISTIAN INVITATION

I never wanted to believe in a god who required me to prove my worth, because I believe that is an impossible feat. I never wanted to believe in a god who required me to resist having desires, because that seemed unnatural and inhuman (we’re made in the image of God, and God has desires. He desires us!). I never wanted to believe in a god who commanded me to kill those who didn’t believe what I believe. The Christian, Biblical God requires none of this me, and loves me unconditionally on top of it all. He loves all of His children. This is the Christian invitation, but ratiocination can barely comprehend its supernatural promises. However, faith can, and faith is all Jesus requires: The faith of a mustard seed and the desire to know Him personally, with a familiarity unparalleled by anything in this world. This is what Jesus commands of us and desires with us, nothing more or less. This is what I have learned through being a Christian, and this is what was introduced to me 7 years ago when I first heard about the God of Christianity. I’m telling you so you’ll know and be able to decide for yourself whether this is the kind of God you want to serve, to know, to love, and to receive love from.

FAMILIARITY WITH CHRIST

See, God already loves us, but we need to recognize it as such, thank Him for this perfect gift, and live into the promises He instills through Christ Jesus. When we accept Jesus, we understand the sacrifice He made on our behalf, and the inspiration that comes of that—let me reiterate that point—NOT the shame or guilt, but the INSPIRATION—renders me speechless. How can I say no to the God of the universe, loving me even as I am a sinner?

I invite you to come to know Jesus as well, to come to be more familiar with Him, to invite Him into your heart today, right now. Just talk to Him like you would a friend. After all, Jesus is “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Be blessed, readers!!

LET’S CONNECT

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Shine

Fighting For the Name Of Jesus

Language is a very powerful tool. As a writer, I’m passionate about learning new words, which is one of the reasons why I intentionally look for challenging books; not only to challenge my brain, but to expand my vocabulary. One of the reasons I’m passionate about learning new words is because I am passionate about being an effective communicator. Effective communication is a helpful tool to use in just about every facet of life, and so I take it seriously to develop my skills in this way.

As a tool, language is loaded with abilities. Language can be a barrier, or it can be a bridge. Words can hurt, and they can inspire. As a Christian, the most upsetting use of language is the vulgarity in hearing Jesus Christ used in a derogatory sense. I also find it ironic that those who claim to be on the fence about Jesus, or directly claim to be an atheist, use Jesus’ name in such a way. If they don’t believe in the man’s story, why use His name?

Hearing this makes me very upset. Jesus has become a very close friend to me through my faith. When I hear His name used disparagingly, I want to address the person with compassion but also with assertiveness, because the name is not to used for anything besides respect or veneration. If a man named Bob heard his name being spoken with a disparaging inflection, I think he would be insulted or hurt as well. Why is Jesus any different? Why use the name if it has no meaning to you? Why not use John Digadee, or Abbott and Castello? I don’t understand why people must use Jesus Christ in vain. There are so many names to use when you’re angry—why choose His name above all the rest?

This bothers me both because I have a personal relationship with Jesus, and because it simply doesn’t make any sense to me. Using the name of someone you claim not to believe in makes you sound moronic and absent-minded, and that’s after claiming whether or not you believe in the God whose story Jesus belongs to—and your disbelief in the God whom Jesus Incarnated as just doesn’t make much sense when you use His name like that. Do you follow?

Do you use the language because of the friends you have, or perhaps the employees you work with? Both? Can they rationalize of the use the name of Jesus in a derogatory sense beyond carelessness? There is literally no reason for it whatsoever. It’s flat out hurtful to the person of Jesus, and it’s offensive to believers of Jesus like me. When I get angry, sometimes, I admit—I will catch myself using a vulgar word—I’m trying to stop—but never Jesus, and never God. For those who claim Jesus either never existed or wasn’t God Incarnate, I respectfully disagree, and I openly ask that you please stop using His name until you have a better reason to. Particularly if you believe in Him as your Lord and Savior, but even if you don’t—it makes even less sense! I hope this point is being hammered into the cement.

With love, readers, I mean to correct you with love. Jesus loves us all, and using His name like that is absolutely unnecessary. Even using other vulgar words is unnecessary, but they are at least more understandable because they have no spiritual foundation. Some vulgar words even have a history which do not have any blasphemous origins; history itself made certain words “vulgar” by their use and context. But Jesus Christ is not one of the names on that list. His name is precious, whether or not that’s what it is to you. For others, like myself, His name is gold, and you pour acid on the gold when you say His name with such arrogant malice. Please, as a believer of Christ, PLEASE—stop using His name until you are praying to Him, or talking about Him with an open mind to someone. His name is too meaningful to use any other way.

If you want to use a name, use John Digadee. I guarantee you that using it will help improve your mood—if not from laughing at using it when you’re angry, then from not using Jesus’ name instead. Either way, using a different name will be much better for not only you, but everyone around you. There are plenty of vocabulary words to use when you’re angry. Just keep His, and God’s—out. Please.

That said, I hope you will take my words into heavy consideration. I care for your heart, and even if you don’t believe Jesus is real today, the power of His name is more powerful than your disbelief. I pray that His love would overcome your lack of desire to know Him and that you might give Him a chance to enter into your heart and ask Him to help you understand Him better. Change your usage of His name from blasphemy to respect and admiration. If nothing else, think of His name as a man who lived a loving, selfless life; there is no reason to use His name when you’re upset. Hopefully, over time, the banality of John Digadee will cause less of a laugh, and you’ll start wondering who Jesus really is. And when that happens, I hope you’ll remember reading this post and look up the book He’s written in: the Bible. There is plenty to read, and more than enough to fall in love with. Please give Him a chance, and please stop using His name blasphemously.

John Digadee, if you exist, I’m sorry for all of this. But I hope you understand my point and will take this hit for Jesus. He took everything else for you.

Filthy

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!!

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