Grasping Our Reason To Live

MODERN EMPIRICISM AND OUR REASON TO LIVE

Although some of us seemingly give up immediately while others do not, every one of us searches for a reason to live on after something tragic, difficult, or painful happens. Why is that? Through intuition of the spirit, humans can perceive a truth, subtle or otherwise, as to why we are here on this Earth. That truth, when examined closely, points to far more than mere pleasure-seeking. When we pretend we don’t require an answer to our questions about purpose, or when the answer we receive is not the one want—we may deny our instincts and live a life unlike the one we imagined to be more satisfying or exciting. The truth is that we are here for a reason, and if we can’t seem discover the answer to “what reason?” through our spirit, we may try to figure it out with the use of logic and reasoning—depending on and trusting in science and the theories of modern empiricism to give us an answer we consider easier to digest. However, is “more digestible” also more true?

The problem with this approach will be explored in the first portion of this article. Later, I will explore the more sensitive topic of Christianity and how faith plays a role in the lives of many who fall away from their faith in the belief that God isn’t truly real or that Jesus isn’t truly God. How does a person get to this place? How can we avoid it and help others not to? We will explore this together as well.

THE PROBLEM BETWEEN PURPOSE AND LOGIC

When we rely solely on logic and reason to make sense of life, two titans of existentialism—purpose and meaning—lose their essence. If purpose undermines logic, insofar as understanding purpose does not demand the human mind to find value in something as precious as the comfort of breathing without pain (i.e. Equating a difficult breathing pattern to “life is terrible”)—then purpose knows its identity without needing approval from the body. Put differently, purpose finds value in the most infinitesimal living matter; such as the “awe” in the awe-inspiring beauty of the sky, the pensive appreciation of a butterfly’s spotted wings, or the humbling treasure of hearing a child’s playful laugh—because it is not measuring by size; rather, purpose measures by quality and significance.

In other words, purpose breathes whether or not we do. While logic is enraptured by numbers and equations, ratiocination and patterns—purpose is birthed by sentiment, meaningfulness, emotion, generosity, selflessness, and truth. Logic and reason may be indirect conduits by which purpose can be viewed or considered, but logic cannot explicate the complex mechanism that is life without ignoring the intrinsic aspects of the soul. Our soul cannot fit into a pattern any more than God can be fit into a box. Therefore, when our search for life’s meaning and purpose is searched for using any one criterial facet of logic, the journey automatically culminates in disappointment because the very nature of logic fails to understand the depth of purpose and its intrinsic measurement of quality.

PURPOSE DEMANDS FAITH

The failure to understand the human soul is evidenced by the inability of the intellect to counteract the proposition that our lives are meaningless. Because the sentiment we associate with the meaning of life is so sensitive, our intellect is incapable of understanding or grasping the weight of such significance. Intellect may try to explain it but it cannot discern or sense its power. Needless to say, intellect disappoints immediately, whereas purpose demands a higher calling for life’s meaning than any intellectual explanation can offer. Purpose demands substance from the unseen, the untouched; the transcendent. What substance? we ask. The substance of faith, to be clear. Purpose demands faith. Let me explain.

Faith instills within our existence a meaningful dimension nothing else can make known. When we solely rely on anything outside of faith, the lack of meaningful interaction between faith and intellect ends up forcing us to face the emptiness of our reason to keep going. This is what I faced during the stint leading up to my discovery of faith; I came to a breaking point where I decided if I could not find an authentic reason to keep living, I would end my life. If you have not already, you may read my testimony here

When we associate the purpose of our lives with this world, the tangible, or empirical (all of our experiences within grasp of our five immediate biological senses)—becomes our idol, and the only significance we can conjure from this tangible world is our depraved desperation for pleasure that is never quenched regardless of the habit, addiction, or lifestyle we adhere to.

BORN AGAIN

What is all of this leading to? Purpose and a meaningful life are particularly fond terms in Christianity—mainly because being “born again” refers to the process of surrendering our self-devised purpose for a higher purpose given to us after rebirth, by God. The difference is that our self-devised purpose is built on the tragedy of narcissism and the vacuity of stubbornness. God’s purpose for us is birthed from His sovereignty and selfless love.

How does a man think he knows Christ when in fact he only knows an idea of Christ? Why have some people who professed to be Christian ended up killing themselves? We ask ourselves at what point God was for them. We wonder what purpose they had in “finding Jesus” just to die in the end. This is a sensitive subject. I’d like to touch on this, even briefly, as delicately as I can.

THE BIRTH OF HELL

A believer is called to follow Christ through every adversity he is given, turning to Jesus and surrendering his fear, worry, panic, anger, bitterness, and doubt—straight into the hands of his loving Savior. When a believer refuses this humbling aspect of the Christian walk, they deny themselves the blessing and fruit of a budding relationship with Jesus—and this, when planted consistently, is the seed to the malady of disobedience, disbelief, and ultimately Hell. Hell is more than an eternal place of damnation; it begins in the void of the soul, where our mind—ill-equipped with disbelief—succumbs to disobedience as unbelief and doubt take over the spirit in a body which dies never having known Christ (Matthew 7:21-23). Hell finishes in eternity for the soul who never fully surrendered his or her life to the vocation of humbling themselves before God in desperation for His grace, gratefulness for His love, awestruck by His compassion; relieved by His forgiveness, and ultimately transformed by His resurrection.

I will return to this in the last paragraph of this article.

FAITHFUL OR FAITHLESS?

How often do we consider where we stand when we contemplate the meaning of life and our purpose here on Earth? Why even ask the question? We worry about money, sex, relationships, food, and making it to our appointments on time, but what about considering the impression we leave behind with those who only have the chance to watch us scurry off in a hurry? Our heart beats, but not forever. Where do we place the trust of our decisions each day? The choice of a Christian to be faithful in Jesus by surrendering our fleshly desires when we feel swayed towards disobedience is our only way to make a difference capable of sending a ripple of hope into eternity. Oppositely, living solely from the character of egocentrism would send a ripples echoing the void of narcissism, comprised of a life stuck at work; always in a hurry, never present, barely grateful, absent of humility and unforgiving of others’ imperfections. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), a faithless life lacking in obedience and surrender to a power beyond selfish ambition is a grotesque caricature of the human experience. We weren’t born to live for ourselves, and yet so many of us do, even many of us who claim to know Christ.

How do we know if we know Him?

GOD FINISHES WHAT HE STARTS

First off, God finishes the work He starts in us (Philippians 1:6). This is a promise. If He has started work in your soul, He will finish that work. A person who considers the faith and thinks about the faith but never walks the walk is somewhere between an agnostic and a pagan—but not a Christian. It is entirely unbiblical to say that Jesus claimed us but that the invitation wasn’t strong enough to keep us walking through the narrow gate. Jesus compels the soul (2 Corinthians 5:14), and there is no “realizing later on” that Jesus is fake unless we never understood He was real.

THE NASCENCE OF CHRISTIANITY

To not understand He is real and to disbelieve in His glory are one and the same. Furthermore, to never believe He was real or even to claim He might have been is not belief. Pushing further still, to claim to believe He is real, to go to church and praise Him, to be kind to others on behalf of Him, to pray with others in His name—but to never have known Him personally–is still unbelief. But how can we know someone we never physically met? we ask. Jesus Christ gave us the Holy Spirit when He ascended. This is His sure promise to be with us during every moment of every day. When we do not receive the gift of His spirit, we have not received Him in full. We will know when we know Him by how much of ourselves we surrender in the faith and pursuit of receiving His spirit, seeking transformation in His name. In the transformation of our spirit from its sinful form to the sinless form of Christ’s resurrected spirit, rebirth occurs; the nascence of our Christian walk and the beginning of our personal relationship with Jesus. 

THE SOUL OF REBIRTH

To receive Jesus is to receive new life (spiritually and mentally). This is how we know we have fully come to believe: When we feel His life in ours, speak His words for ours, feel His desires for ours, and live His life as ours. To claim Jesus exists is easy even for demons (James 2:19); this is not rebirth, for the demons believe and still perish because their works do not proclaim Him, but rather, try to destroy Him (which is impossible). Therefore, proclamation is not the seed to rebirth. Actions validate what our words cannot prove. To worship and pray and celebrate but not believe will not lead to surrender or humility, and it will not seek His grace to spiritually penetrate our souls. 

LOGIC CANNOT MAKE SENSE OF REBIRTH

Putting everything together, the disappointing reality of logic—when faced with spirituality—is clearly evidence that when we live solely from our intellect, the disappointment is grave enough to undermine our intrinsic sense of purpose; evidence of the cogent veracity of faith. By living in the faith of Jesus, we can know with certainty the reality of our personal relationship with Jesus by the way we actively seek and pursue transformation from within our spirit; His love overcoming our selfishness; His humility undermining our pride by exposing it to His divine presence; His omnipresence refocusing our loneliness on His unceasing attention to our deepest needs, and His invitation for us to be known and to belong within a community of people who live, serve, and love each other by His grace.

A SUBTLE FORM OF PRIDE

Logic cannot make sense of this reality or its process, nor can it emanate the hope faith naturally exhales into our souls. To live from reason and logic is to live within limited means of our full potential. What’s more detrimentally true is how living within these limited means keeps us believing we can love each other selflessly based on a goodness we already have; one of our more subtle forms of pride. There is no form of selfless love we are capable of perceiving or extending without the grace God. To claim any credit is to turn away from the goodness of God and to claim ourselves worthy without first receiving salvation; an irreversible dichotomy we cannot win. This is why Christianity is a life-long lesson in delayed gratification as much as it is a walk of humility: One cannot live with faith in Christ without first being humbled into the subservience of the God who sacrificed Him. Concordantly, one cannot patiently wait in anticipation of the undeserved reward of Heaven without first receiving the blessing of humility to desire it without boastfulness in the first place. 

SHARING JESUS WITH THE WORLD

We ask ourselves the painful questions surrounding the reality of professed believers who end their own lives. In response, what we can take away is the importance of sharing the truth of Jesus with the world. Not everyone’s eyes will open, not all ears will hear, but that cannot stop us from sharing the Word of God with the whole world. Christians will know they are believers when they seek Jesus above all else. One cannot mistake His voice; the sheep know their shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). When we hear Jesus calling, we open the door and let Jesus in to eat with us, and us with Him (Revelations 3:20). If we never hear the call, we never knew Him. Let this be a reminder to all who believe, just how pivotal it is that we are not only a living example of Jesus with our actions, but that we also take seriously the importance of inviting Jesus into our public conversations. Jesus Christ is still relevant because the Word of Truth is alive, and also because of word of mouth. We share Him, and people will receive Him while still others don’t. But this isn’t our decision whether or not someone will hear Jesus’s call. We are called to be obedient unto Christ, and that is the command we are to follow. Let others see the Truth and witness His power in our words and actions, and may He who gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) soften theirs towards Him as well, in Jesus name. 

LET’S CONNECT

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Lifestyle

Discerning the Guise Of Failure

LIMITATION AND SURREALISM

There is a short-sighted platitude: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” The idea professes that with enough focus, energy, passion, and time, we can put our mind to work and accomplish wonders. In the farthest stretches of the mind, however, is a guise: Limitation. For some people, limitation is catastrophic and final—this perspective claims there is no way around to the other side. For other people however, limitation is an invitation to try harder, to use more muscle, creativity, and brute tenacity to supplement their action.

There comes a place where the boundary of limitation, dividing what is humanly realistic from that which is idyllically surreal, will cross; the latter of course being the umbrella hospitalizing several aspects of pride, separate from the body of our spirit. When we cross the line and believe in what is surreal, our belief in the surreal becomes the ultimatum between what is possible and what is preferred. When we stay behind the line, sometimes we get trapped in the opposite belief that the line itself exists as a means to truncate our potential by professing our worthlessness. This “staying behind the line in fear of worthlessness” is the defining air of failure.

What I’d like to do in this article is take a closer look at how our relationship with Jesus can eliminate the mirage of failure as a culmination of our mistakes, and instead come to understand failure is merely the choice of inaction. In this way, I hope that by reading this, we can move forward confident of success, surrendering anything in our lives that doesn’t lead us to the purpose we are intrinsically called into through Christ.

FAILURE IS A GUISE

If failure is the choice of inaction, then inaction is the malady of laziness and insanity, repeating the same inaction in the hopes that a positive change will occur. In the world we live in today, one of the most grave maladies is the absent-mindedness in believing life is merely an amalgam of perception-based sensory input (i.e., Empiricism), rather than a meaningful imbrication of experiences leading us to the One who gave us the blessing of such a journey. When we believe life is only a formulaic equation expressed in chemicals, hormones, molecules, and matter, we have already failed ourselves not only with disappointment, but self-defeat. We undermine the notion of purpose by denying ourselves our chance to desire fulfillment. When this happens, we feel the seed of hopelessness growing inside, swelling up into the questioning of our very existence. 

LIVING IN THE MIRAGE OF HOPELESSNESS

One of the most common facial expressions I recognize in the city of Los Angeles is nonchalance—the desultory attitude of someone who has “been there, done that, and given up all hope.” This attitude is extremely uninspiring. I realize some people just need a small nudge back into the light of hope and they’re good to go, but there are so many others who are cantankerously stubborn and convinced that their lives are permanently doomed. Failure, however, does not find us; failure merely illuminates where we are so we can recognize the wall blocking our path. The hard part—ironically—is not recognizing that there is in fact a wall—the hard part is recognizing that the wall is not a dead end, but a detour.

We can be so busy trying to figure out (or complain about) why what is holding us in place is even there that we don’t search for a way around or through. When people live in this “trapped” space that professes “life is over” for long stretches of time, gradually that wall becomes their room, their microcosm, their mentality—rather than the mere recognition that there is something to be overcome.

ASSOCIATING OUR IDENTITY WITH THE WORLD

For many people, failure is the absence of achieving a life aspiration. For example, some people want a house, a wife/husband, a child/children, a nice job and an affordable living. To lack of one or two of these is disappointing, but to not even achieve any at all may translate as catastrophic. For these instances, our identity is centered on our life aspirations. The problem with this is how our aspirations fluctuate and change according to our lives, and therefore are undependable. Basically, if the very thing our identity is based on is vacillates and wavers, then our identity is subject to the threat of fallibility, mistaking what we thought would be an auspicious future for fragile dreams.

This truth should be a strong indicator that we cannot depend on our life goals or aspirations to fill the role of our identity or purpose. If we live to be married, for instance, we raise our expectation of marriage to an unrealistically high degree (surrealism), placing its significance in a flamboyantly harmful position and starving its refreshingly natural state with vacuity. If we live for a dream home, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the inevitable dilapidation to occur—no matter how well it is renovated. Centering our existence on children would bear its own weight as well because, without question, regardless of proper child-rearing, raising a child has its disappointments and fallouts as well. In other words, absolutely nothing in this world succeeds to be permanently perfect. What then can we place the weight of our hopes in? What can satisfy our inevitable, intrinsic, meaningful urge for purpose while not falling short in the long run?

IDENTIFYING WITH FAITH

At first, when I found Jesus, being a Christian meant “get it right”—hit or miss; succeed or fail. I was trying to understand what living a Christian life looked like. For a couple of years, it was all about performance. It took me years to realize that I had received the Good News, but was still trying to do with my choices what Jesus had already done on the cross: Purge my own sinfulness rather than hand it over to God (surrender).

Years later (about 3 years ago now), I finally starting understanding, through the loving wisdom of friends, the Bible, and spiritual leaders in my church—that performance isn’t the point. When we identify with Jesus, I learned, we actually desire for Him to permeate who we are. That means our relationship with Jesus becomes such a high priority, such a first instinct, that our desires begin naturally molding around what He is calling us into. For me, that has been expressed through serving others, writing about Him on this blog, testifying to His goodness, and learning to be as Christ-like as possible through my words and actions. While performance isn’t key and is not the point, how we live our lives is a direct reflection of what’s in our hearts, and I want everyone to know that Jesus is good no matter what.

“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING JESUS CALLS YOU TO DO”

What strikes me is how Jesus constantly reminds me that I’m not alone, and that it’s not about what I do or don’t do, but about what He already did. To associate with Jesus means, in other words, I could never “fail.” This truth points to how important my need is to lean on His love and strength (The Bible, community, prayer, supplication, surrender, obedience, and placing His relationship to me above all else) rather than my own. In doing this, I don’t even have to think about performance, I just think about Him. It’s not “You can do anything you set your mind to,” it’s “You can do anything Jesus calls you to do.”

DISCERNMENT AND SURRENDER

Listening to what Jesus says is not the same as listening to people speak from themselves. His voice lovingly and uniquely speaks through circumstances, music, nature, yes–other people, and even directly into our heart through sensations (of the Holy Spirit) or images. I have experienced each of these, and all are quite empowering—particularly the latter three (people, sensations, and images). I have many Christian friends who have also discerned these spiritual inputs from Jesus in their spiritual walk. In order to pass from the worldly view of failure into the Heavenly view of success, we must practice spiritual discernment, which requires the surrendering of what we have received from the world and releasing it to God. What does that look like? Humility, trust, and obedience. Let me explain.

TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR EXISTENCE

Clinging to the world is the mental action of claiming the doctrines of this world to be more trustworthy than the Creator of this cosmos. Further, to put the notion of trusting God into perspective, consider the creation of the cosmos and all of its refinements. If the degree of the cosmological constituents (i.e. Mass Density of the Universe, Ratio of Electromagnetic Force, etc.) holding the universe together was off by 10 to the 120th power, our life would cease to exist. Also, the cosmos is continually expanding, which inevitably means “something” is pushing on the matter of the universe. That said, if the universe is continually expanding AND being contained to 10 to the 120th degree so that life does not implode or explode, the Creator of our universe must be trustworthy, or we would literally die.

Understanding this, if we trust the secular doctrines of the world (i.e., Empiricism, science over faith, etc.) over the promising Biblical love of the Creator who holds our existence safely in His hands, I think we’ve touched upon a new problem than that of our fear of failure. Ultimately, we don’t need this world, we need God. Humility teaches this, trust commits to it, and finally obedience acknowledges and implements the commitment. In claiming this, we surrender our desires to embrace those of the One who gives us life, love, mercy, and breath—every second of every day.

WE CANNOT FAIL

Hear me readers, we cannot fail in Christ. We “fail” only when we inevitably fall short of our own desires, or when our desires inevitably fall short of our expectations. But this happens because when we try to override our natural desire for meaningful purpose with attempts at gaining transient pleasure, our motives do not complement our intrinsic desires (which complement our movement towards purpose), and as a result, we feel the pain or loss (of purpose/meaning) spiritually, whether or not we believe in Jesus as Lord.

While it is true not all unbelievers are materialists, it is also true how disbelief forces a person to seek meaning/purpose in places where the discovered meaning/purpose is short-lived; rooted in that which is not eternal or fulfilling. Beyond God and the eternality of the soul, wherever we search for meaning, connection, and purpose—we won’t ever find it. When we find our purpose rooted in the soul itself, our intention remains selfish because the motive sources back to us. For the believer, rooted in Christ, the motivation never ceases because His love is continually ongoing, and our means of attaining our goals are unlimited because we are rooted in a purpose created through the very Word which spawned the birth of eternity (John 1:1-5), far beyond the science and short-sighted maladies of this world.

Simply put, if we cannot fail because of Christ, we can only succeed through Him. Our gratitude and humility for this truth are forever His. 

CONNECT WITH ME

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

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Soaring with Him Ministries

Transformed From Within: How We Are Meant To Live

Life is precious. Every breath is significant as any one of those breaths could be our last. That is an exhilarating truth; both an invitation to truly live, and a heeding not to do anything less.

Would you miss the sound of wind rustling through the trees if it stopped? What about the cool, slow ripples through the water of a pond? Feeling the tender, fragile petals of a beautiful flower on the pores of your skin? These preponderances of life are the delicate and ubiquitous complements to existence, and reminders that we are still alive; yet so few of us pause in appreciation of these details, as if they have little or no value.

These examples aren’t all there is of course, God also provided human relationships—the closest relational bond we can have to that of experiencing relationship with God Himself (because we are made in His image).

There are people in this world who are gifted (through time and practice, intention, and humility/surrender of the self to God) at making the best of every situation; pleasant or unpleasant; ideal or less preferred. Oppositely, there are others who dwell in the negative aspects of the same situations, adhering to hedonistic downtime as a means of an escape from the Hell that is life at times of adversity.

For the unbeliever, life on Earth is Heaven since this is as close to an idyllic life as one gets when they deny the existence of Heaven—the promised eternal home for believers of Christ who live changed lives; loving on those who hate them, forgiving those who hurt them, putting God before themselves, and living selflessly in the name of Jesus—denying the world its offer of transient hedonism in exchange for our eternal soul. Under the closed eyelids of the unbeliever, Jesus and the Bible are the most conflicting, confusing message of love, miracle, testimony, and intimacy in the history of humankind.

Furthermore, for many the unbeliever, to believe in Jesus as Lord and to follow Him as such is to relinquish the freedom to live autonomously, and, therefore, to lose the ability to enjoy life. The implementation following this deliberation of disbelief is distorted in two ways that I want to mention. The first, as Timothy Keller intuitively writes in his book, The Reason For God:

This oversimplifies, however. Freedom cannot be defined in strictly negative terms, as the absence of confinement and constraint. In fact, in many cases, confinement and constraint is actually a means to liberation.
If you have a musical aptitude, you may give yourself to practice, practice, practice the piano for years. This is a restriction, a limit on your freedom. There are many other things you won’t be able to do with the time you invest in practicing. If you have the talent, however, the discipline and imitation will unleash your ability that would otherwise go untapped. What have you done? You’ve deliberately lost your freedom to engage in some things in order to release yourself to a richer kind of freedom to accomplish other things
.”

We may choose to allocate our time practicing disbelief, but the freedom that we lose in that is the assurance of eternity; sacrificing the peace in knowing every moment is purposefully spent preparing for the promise of Heaven. Without deliberation aimed in the direction of an eternity permeated with unconditional love and infinite peace and joy, one’s life culminates in deprecation; disappointed that all our Earthly endeavors lead to the dilapidation of time, the ultimate degradation of egocentrism in a world indulging itself with fanatics commercializing humanity’s greatest weaknesses for the admission of our humility, and the downfall of pride in a world seeking purpose while castigating the desire for meaning in life beyond emotionless copulation, soulless entertainment, and the disparaging lies of media and politics.

Yes, believers choose to give up their freedom—in exchange for not living a life full of constant disappointments and without reassurances for any kind of turnaround or comeback. When we believe the comeback to this life is the promise of an eternal home where there is no pain, death, suffering, wickedness, sin, tears, or disappointments—there isn’t much to consider or think about—it’s pretty black and white: Why choose a life of disbelief when following Jesus not only changes our eternal home, but also encourages us to live more fully here and now? Belief in Jesus is entirely incomplete if one believes that faith in Jesus only means “You get eternity in Heaven” without rebirthing their soul in this very moment. Believing in an eternity in Heaven is spiritually lustful when we take the gold without thanking the Miner; living our lives fully believing we are going to Heaven should change more than just where we believe we’ll go when we die: It relieves us of the disappointment of believing everything that happens between now and then is purposelessness in that everything we experience while on Earth is only for here and now. The eternal promise of the Bible is the exact opposite: Everything we do here and now matters in that it leads us directly to where we go next. In other words, if every word we speak, every action we take and decision we make leads us towards Heaven, would we not want those words, actions, and choices to be the very best in the name of the King who provided their route? If not, can we authentically admit that we have faith in what’s to come, or just lust in the idea of receiving what we do not deserve? This question leads me to the second distortion of implementing disbelief: We sometimes think that believing we’ll go to Heaven is the end of the story of belief; but entering Heaven isn’t even the beginning. 

Make no mistake, Heaven is not anything we earned, nor anything we deserve, rather—it is what we are given freely through the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ sacrificing His life for ours on the cross. Heaven isn’t about what we do on Earth, it’s about what Jesus did on the cross. Let me repeat that for emphasis: Going to Heaven has literally nothing to do with anything we could ever do on Earth (as if to prove our worth to God), it has everything to do with Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. This isn’t about shaming us for His death—He chose to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to pay the eternal price for ourselves. That is the relief and hope of believing in Christ; not that we get a free life living in sin and then expect Heaven—NO—the hope of Christ is that as a byproduct of having faith in Jesus as Lord, we have hope in what’s to come because of what Jesus did in our place. This isn’t some kind of eternal freebie, it’s a life-changing grace and alteration of our soul substance. Before we have Christ, we are lost in our sin; selfishness, greed, lust, gluttony, pride, etc. When we accept Christ, we become aware of our sin (like Adam and Eve after they ate fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and became aware of their nakedness with shame (Genesis 3:7).), we realize that sin is wrong, we pause in reflection of how we can better ourselves by surrendering to the will of our loving God—who, by the way, literally clothed Adam and Eve Himself right after they had sinned (Genesis 3:21). What kind of God rebukes the sin but loves the sinner all the same? This one does; the God of the Bible.

Do we live our lives in thankfulness that a God like this loves us so much that He came and died for us in the flesh so that we wouldn’t have to pay for desiring lust, gluttony, idols, obsessions, blasphemy, stealing, and killing (among the others)? Not that we live perfect lives, no, but do we live transformed lives? Different than before? Refined by gratefulness, thanksgiving, submissiveness to God, surrender of our will and our desires? That is Christianity; that is rebirth.

When we awake one more time, are we aware of how much godly beauty is in this world, or do we take it for granted? Are we aware that every breath is given to us? When we aren’t suffocating for air, that is a blessing. That is a gift from God. Every time. Do we spend our lives thanking Him for these gifts, or do we spend time taking them for granted and splurging ourselves? This kind of lifestyle is like (in the most rudimentary, basic sense) a parent, after carefully and lovingly baking a batch of delicious, savory chocolate chip cookies, and watching their child stuff the cookies in their mouth and leave without so much as a smile or “thank you”. The parent still loves their child, and I imagine the parent would still want to make more cookies for their child just because they want to see their child take pleasure from what they know their child enjoys, but—where does that leave the state of the heart of the child? Will they go into life expecting everyone to treat them with such consideration and love without thanking them for their generosity and selflessness? If they don’t, and they die one day in that state of their soul, should they be judged as “normal” (“like everyone else”), or as selfish and hedonistic? Does that kind of soul know God? Are they transformed and living a life in thanks for the gifts they are given, in effect leading others towards the same God of love?

How would the parent feel, ultimately, every time they make cookies and the child just walks away after taking everything? Hurt, maybe? How do we expect God to feel when we ignore Him, reject Him, and live carelessly when we get what we want? And yet, a life of closed-minded disbelief does not lead us to a selfless life of purpose, but to a life of meaningless gain and purposeless suffering. Even those who give in the “name of love” do so without giving credit to anyone but themselves; even their “selflessness” is rooted in narcissism. Without giving credit to God, how do we thank the Giver of life?

I urge you to consider these thoughts and, if you’re truly living a selfless life in the name of Jesus, I commend you and urge you to continue shining your light towards Jesus so others will continue to notice that you’re different from anyone else they know for a specific reason. You aren’t the way you are “just because”. The love we give comes from Jesus, or it is meaninglessly selfish. Which kind of love do we want to share; selfish or selfless? How do you define what is selfish and what is selfless? Perhaps this will change your definition of what living in faith means when compared to “living in peace but without God”.

My hope and prayer is that this article opens your eyes to the way God loves us all, and how the way we live our lives impacts not only God’s reception of our thankfulness, but others’ witnessing of His love through our lifestyle and decision-making. The way we treat others matters for this exact reason, and the way we respond to this truth ultimately defines our view of faith, the authentic transformation that comes with that faith (or lack thereof), and finally, the way we lead ourselves to our eternal future— in hope or in fear/ignorance. Where are you today? I pray you find Jesus today, and that you come to accept His grace, mercy, love, and promise of hope in His resurrection from the dead. He did not stay dead—He came back to life, and that is why we all must live a life of worship, thanksgiving and praise; implementing a life of gratitude in the name above all names: JESUS.

Oversight

Hedonism In A World Transformed By Christ

Christianity is a walk of faith, and a life-long lesson in delayed gratification. In this life, we are given the choice to either indulge in hedonism and selfish pursuits or to surrender our desires and embrace the life God provides us. In order to fully receive God’s blessings, of course, we must surrender our selfish desires and reallocate our energy on our faith. The very thought of surrender can be daunting because it is much easier to pursue a life where we get what we want—but that is the foundation of hedonism, is it not? 

OUR FEAR OF SURRENDER

What seems threatening about surrender is that we are afraid we will never feel satisfied if our personal desires aren’t fulfilled, but that is a lie of the Devil. The truth is that the life God has planned for us is far richer and more fulfilling than all of our desires. How do I know? From my personal experience, I lived most of my life burrowed in selfish pursuits as an unbeliever, and when I finally began understanding the basics of surrendering to God, my life radically changed in ways directly related to the choice to surrender. For example, surrendering my desire to be well-received by everyone in order to receive the love and acceptance of God means understanding the world’s point of view is based on ego and identity, whereas God’s point of view is based on love. The difference of this example alone has helped me see and to embrace that my identity was forged long before I was born, and when I realize what it was intended to be, the way I express myself is much more influential and authentic than the way I express myself when who I am trying to be is a conglomeration of facades I’ve gathered from what the world likes to see.

THE IPOD STORY

For many years, I had an iPod Nano, I would listen to music in the car and during my walks, gathering thoughts for future blog posts, song lyrics, or just zoning out. My iPod was very important to me, and I used it just about every day; obviously, my desire was for my iPod. Sure, the songs I listened to included some Christian songs, but for the most part, rock and soundtrack music flooded my iPod. What’s important about telling this story is how heavily swayed to continue listening to the music without realizing the impact it was having on me: Unnoticeable to me was the truth that I was feeling frustrated, negative, and upset more frequently.

Well, recently, that iPod broke, and ironically, I did not get very upset, and I’ll tell you why: I was being humbled by Christ Himself, lovingly reminding me that I had not been using music to glorify Him or to build my confidence in my faith, and, furthermore—I had been going through a period in my life when I needed God more deeply (there is never a time when I don’t need God, but to be honest, this period of my life made me feel more desperate for His love). Since I was using my iPod abusively, I believe God allowed the iPod to break so that I would be forced to spend time in the car (and out walking) praying, listening, and practicing presence. Ever since the incident with the iPod occurred and I haven’t had music to give me company, I must admit that the difference has been humbling, sobering, and it certainly has had a positive impact on my faith life.

MUSIC IS A TOOL FOR WORSHIP

Sure, in some version of a perfect world, my iPod would be working, and I’d be listening to my music constantly while on the go. But, is that really a perfect world? If I’m being honest, viewing music so highly is tantamount to worshipping music, rather than using music to worship Christ. Music comes from God, and when I abuse His gift of music, I abuse my ability to sense God inside the songs I listen to. When I listen to music without remembering Christ, I abuse its purpose. Worse yet, when I glorify music instead of God, I misplace the importance of God with the importance of one of His gifts—and I believe that is why the incident happened with my iPod.  

While music is truly a beautiful invention, it is not God; but merely only an extension of Him. Is there something in your life that acts in the way my iPod did for me? Are you holding a gift of God above God? Are you able to worship God while using His gifts? If not, do you think that’s helping you to see Him as a loving God? When we’re unable to witness God in the blessings of life, it is not because He’s not blessing us, but because we are not perceiving His blessings for what they are. It takes one to extend their hand with a gift, but it takes another to take the gift and be thankful for the giver’s generosity. God gives us so much; food, shelter, water, relationship, cars, jobs, money, music—and so many times we receive these without any thanks, using our gifts while ignoring the Giver.

This isn’t intended to be a statement about thanksgiving, albeit that is a point which could be made—rather, this is a point more about the nature of worshipping God, and not the gifts of God. Where do we extend our worship? Do we worship sex, drugs, power, identity, relationships, alcohol, music, the internet? These are all things which can be worshipped, and none of them are God. 

A REMINDER OF HOPE

In this world, the pace and speed of life is ever increasing, and the challenge for the Christ-follower is needing to be constantly reminded to keep their faith in the hope of Jesus. When we surrender to the name of Jesus, we let go of all the things in our lives we could be worshipping instead of Jesus by releasing our grip from the desires in our heart. Since desire begins in the heart, it is from there that it must be surrendered. Surrender is a physical, mental, and spiritual release. When we release one thing, we grab another; in releasing our selfish desires, we must cling to the hope of Jesus by having faith in His promise that He has delivered us from Hell, providing a way into Heaven; an eternity without pain, death, suffering, loneliness, malady, or disease. When we place our faith in this hope, the hope itself nourishes our soul with humility, replacing the impulse for our selfish desires to be met, and in their place, we are replenished with the desire to be filled with joy, peace, hope, love, grace, and forgiveness—gifts of the love of Jesus. This is why I say Christianity is a life-long lesson in delayed gratification: We believe so strongly in the Word of God—Jesus, Himself, and His promise of redemption—that we live our whole lives in the hope and faith of seeing Him when we die, surrendering our selfish desires for our lifetime here on Earth, knowing He will fill them with something far greater.

For many, the notion of surrender sounds like a threat because they disbelieve in the promising hope of Christ. In our hope for Christ, we find reason to love unconditionally, to give generously, and to believe whole-heartedly. Without Christ, our hope is founded in the transient pleasures of a corrupted world. The world has a set of rules by which loving others adheres to, and to extend beyond these rules is to beg for judgment and condemnation (i.e. unconditional love versus expectation and disappointment). When Jesus came into the world, He set a new example for how the world can love: By dying on the cross while we were still sinners, He rescinded all our excuses to be phlegmatic about love. We can no longer explain away narcissism without first identifying its purpose by comparing it to Christ-like love; whereas the selfishness of narcissism lives for itself in harmony with hedonism, Christ dying and rising again opened the possibility for humanity to live in the embrace of the unconditional love of the Heavenly Father, through the most selfless, altruistic act given as a gift to the world; for all generations past, and all generations to come. Jesus became the epitome of altruism and the prime example of love, and when we try to excuse our selfishness, we must speak to the cross itself, for no example raises higher than Jesus’ choice to suffer for us. 

When we surrender, we surrender our desires in the faith of attaining Jesus’ promise of eternal life with Him. Not hope as in, “We’re not sure, but maybe,”—no. Hope as in, “We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we know that what’s coming will be glorious.” Our hope in Christ isn’t some figment of “perhaps one day,” but rather, “only a matter of time.” The hope Christ offers is absolute, promising, and real. 

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE

Is there anything left in your life you haven’t surrendered that is keeping you from embracing God’s promise for you? Are you ready to take one step closer to Jesus and make a bold choice in surrendering any idols you’re worshiping which do not exult Jesus’ name–but instead, exult the propensities of a broken world? These are tough questions because they require more than just a “yes” or “no”—they require action. Don’t just think about these questions—apply them to your life. Where could you strip away parts of the world from who you are to leave room for Jesus to fill you up with peace, joy, and humility; hope in the eternal, painless, deathless future with God Himself? 

My prayer for you is that Godly humility will overcome you, and that His strength of spirit would remind you that you are not alone; you are never alone. God is with you always, and He desires to embrace you with His unconditional love. If you’d like to receive His gift of love through Jesus Christ, you can take that step by surrendering what’s holding you back from worshipping Him. I was worshipping music too much, and barely even Christian music! What kind of surrender will help you feel God’s love today? Ask yourself, and follow through by trusting in the process of surrender. Transformation starts inside. You can say “yes” and think “no” all day and never move. Instead, say yes, then get up and do something about it. Take action, surrender the world and receive God’s promise of love through Jesus. Truly, this will be the single greatest lesson in humility you will ever learn, for it will be a daily reminder of Jesus in your life.  

May God bless you as you go forward today! 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!! May He meet you where you are and encourage you with His love, in Jesus name. 

Tough Questions

Paving the Path For Trusting God: Part 1

By and by, I feel the need to respond to secularists, atheists, and unbelievers whose questions scrutinize the Bible, its authenticity, and what it calls Christians to believe and live by. After so much skepticism, these people’s questions leave them baffled, silenced, confused, and bitter– their hearts malformed by cultural and societal misunderstandings, resenting the censure of a massive conglomeration seemingly tossing all their eggs into the basket with a dusty old book called the Bible. One of the most powerful questions–even for the Christian, is: Why should I trust God? You see, if we don’t trust God– the Source of all argument for theology, religion, morality, and faith–then we undermine those concepts altogether by claiming the Creator and Causality of such inquisition is scandalous, fake, and too ambiguous to be real, mighty, or supernatural. And if God isn’t who He claims to be– if He is not really with us today– then how can we trust Him with our lives

As a former atheist and current Christian, these questions are poignantly familiar to me, sinking right into home base with my history of disbelief years ago. The mystery of trusting the concept of a God was what instigated my departure from the Catholic church at age 11, when my parents divorced. After that, the mystery of trusting God became the seed for dark humor when I was about 14. The notion that God would do such horrible things–such as allow trauma, suffering, and death–did not match up with the type of loving God people seemed to profess that He was. How do you trust in a God who allows suffering and death? How do you trust in a God you can’t touch with your own hands—scream at while anticipating His reaction with heavy breathing and clenched fists? How do we come to try to understand this dilemma of the misunderstanding of God, and how He fits into the very relationship He calls us to be a part of? First, as I discovered, we must try to understand the context of God.

What is the space He lives in, and how does His presence and existence affect what is around Him? The Bible says God is love:

(1 John: 4:8) “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (italics mine)

The Bible gives an explicit example of the way He physically affects those around Him when anything of His true physical nature is revealed. When Moses came down the mountain after God had passed around Him– Moses’s face was literally glowing from exposure to seeing the backside of God (Exodus 33:18-34:9); not God’s face, no– His back. God warned Moses if he saw His face, He would die:

(Exodus 33:20) “But,” he said, “you cannot see my face. For no one may see me and live.”

If people would not survive witnessing God back in Moses’s day, surely they would not survive the experience today. Why is that? What is the nature of God? He is love. Then what is our nature–human natureWe are sinners.

How do we know we’re sinners? First, we have to define sin. The dictionary defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” One might think of “divine law” as represented by God’s ten commandments**, others might add that it refers to the Golden Rule (Mark 12:28-34). I refer to sin as the rebellion to, the transgression of, and the deliberate departure from– what God wants with us in our relationship with Him. Rebelling against His love is to resist it, living apart from its blessings.

When we don’t accept His love, many times that can be as simple as not thanking Him for the blessings in our lives (food, apartment/house, job, friends/family, etc.), and likely taking them for granted, rather than lifting them up with thanksgiving and gratefulness. We have a tendency to sometimes assume what we get in life, we just get, without recognizing them as blessings. Even the secularist must admit, however, that finding that random samaritan willing to help fix a flat tire is less likely to be someone who doesn’t believe in random, selfless acts of kindness without getting something in return. People hardly extend themselves without a scoff, sigh, or moan when their desire to do the deed derives their own esteem, or their own conditional supply of grace. Those who extend themselves with a smile on their face have a Source which they pull from, and this Source derives from faith in something bigger than themselves. For many, it’s the karmic belief in what comes around goes around. Others, holding to a more eternal perspective, understand loving others is their way of loving the Creator of existence, time, space, purpose, love, and reason; they extend themselves from the reservoir of faith in that Creator, knowing that He bestows His gift of love on them constantly; in turn, their response is incorrigibly the desire to share that gift with others, which just so happens to be expressed in the form of the contagious attitude reminiscent of the character of Jesus: joyful, graceful, and unconditional.   

**(The Ten Commandments are a set of guidelines meant to help us stay intimately close with God, and in harmony with one another. Many unbelievers regard the ten commandments acrimoniously with repulsion and bitterness. Perhaps the commandments feel like an unnecessary scolding for choices and lifestyles we view as innocuous. The rules of the commandments, for many, don’t seem have any basis other than inconvenience. The question then becomes: Is convenience the way to God? Secondly, if we can explain the difference between our incomplete understanding of the need for the ten commandments, and the reason for which they were originally given–we may come to grasp the truth that the ten commandments are really just lifestyle principles God requested us to instill in our lives in order for us live more fully, not just indulgently. The question which may then arise is: Do we want to be close to a God who wants to feel close to us by providing a fuller life?)

When we resist His love, we are saying one or more of these:

  1. I don’t believe in His love
  2. I don’t need His love
  3. I don’t want His love
  4. I don’t deserve His love
  5. I can’t live up to His love

Resisting what God wants for us–as a fuller life–is to claim we believe God’s intentions are not aligned with the best version of what our life could be, and instead, wresting the control of our futures out from His hands, not seeking His help or involvement. If we can understand this as the reason for the mistake of missing out on our best life, then we can understand the waste and nuisance of denying the power of God, capable and willing to create the entire cosmos for our benefit. But, for those who adhere to denial, God continually reaches out with His love, hoping we’ll surrender our resistance and choose to see His intentions as they are; authentic and rooted in love.

How can the human race put trust in a God we can’t see with our physical eyes, nor touch with our hands? How do we know when or if He hears us–or if He does or doesn’t want to respond when we ask Him a question–or how He feels when we cry out to Him in frustration? Something critical to understand about our relationship to God is the significance of the differentiation between the way we need God, and the way God doesn’t need us. It’s the most beautiful dichotomy really, because God speaks and acts through what could be just as arbitrary to Him as choosing what color underwear to put on is to us: He chooses to love a species which cannot give Him anything other than praise and worship–because He is love. Do you follow me on that train of thought? God is love–meaning–He doesn’t have a limited amount of love to distribute in specific amounts to each component of creation He makes, careful not to run out—no, He IS love, so He has an infinite supply to give from. There are no bounds, no lengths, no limits– no measurements to God’s love. We could never fit God’s love into a math equation because it would break every rule in the book. God’s love is unlimited, permanent, and forever; powerful, unshakeable, incorrigible, and it’s a decision He’s already decided on.

Is it harder or easier to trust in a God, who, despite not needing us for anything–loves us more than all of creation? Does the truth of this explanation change anything in your heart, or help you see God’s love in a different light? God’s love isn’t just comprised of some words in the Bible, His love is real and–yes–tangible. Perhaps not from his hands or arms themselves–but through others; through nature, and through circumstances— God loves us constantly

In Part 2, I will touch on ways we can see God’s love for us through creation, how we can tie that back to trusting in Him, and I will close with an example from my personal life; an explicit example of God’s love for me in my life, and, consequently—proof of God’s for us as a species.

For now, I want to leave you with some questions to ponder for the sake of your own faith journey and spiritual life. When you think of God, how do you feel? Do you feel judgment, disappointment, and frustration? Do you feel as though God only comes to you or answers you when you’re “performing well”? How do you feel God sees you as His child? How do you define the concept of God’s love in your life today, and what prevents His love from making more sense to you than it does right now? What would have to happen to cause you to consider the possibility that God loves you more than you can imagine, and that He wants you to accept that gift and let it transform your life? What is your response to an invitation like that?

May God bless you as you look inside yourself to discover these answers, growing towards freedom from confusion and the entanglement of the lies of the world and the enemy. I’ll see you in Part 2! 

Trust

Hope–God’s Greatest Gift From Heaven: Part 1

Humbly surrendering our free will to the influence of Jesus is humanity’s greatest gift to God; His greatest gift to us was sending us His one and only Son to be the prime example of exactly what it means to humbly surrender. 

Look around you. It’s hard to find many people who unmistakably exemplify the Golden Rule(s) of Christ: To love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength; to love each other the way He loves us, and to love ourselves the same way. Why are these so important? What did Christ show us?

There are the miracles; and there are many. Some weren’t even healing– one was just Jesus’ disciples witnessing Him defy gravity by walking on water. But Jesus didn’t place emphasis on His power because performing miracles wasn’t the purpose or message of His ministry. His main message was that of love and hope. Love is the foundation of the church Christ laid down when He died on the cross for humanity, but His greatest gift to us was rising from the dead, conquering death and giving us something to put our hope in; something to look forward to: seeing Him and living with Him forever in Heaven when we die, if we accept His love and sacrifice for us into our hearts, here and now.

So, again, what did Christ show us?– He showed us how to love. Not with miracles, but with His words and actions. Yes– He healed the blind and the sick– but… He loved them. He even healed a person with leprosy by touching them in front of a crowd He’d just given a sermon to. Did He have to touch the person? Of course not! He was God Incarnate! He healed a child in an entirely different city just by responding to a man’s faith in Him. So why did Jesus touch the leper, which–in that time– was deeply frowned upon (for fear of catching Hansen’s Disease)? Jesus wanted the crowd to see that for Him, loving the people with faith in God– and being the reason for the seculars who hadn’t yet discovered such faith or hope– that was His main purpose for existing on Earth. He came to Earth love us; and through loving us, He died for us so that we would not have to pay for all the selfish rebelling we do. But that wasn’t His last act of love. He went one step further than any man, woman, or being in existence has ever done and could ever do: He resurrected. And by that final act of love, He gives us the greatest hope mankind has ever known.

When Christians say Jesus is their hope, what they are recognizing is that Jesus is our one and only bridge from this life to the Kingdom of Heaven, where God is. Jesus claimed that the only way to the Father was through Him. In resurrecting, all of His promises became ossified in history as true facts, and not just hopes and cliches. By resurrecting, all of the parables Jesus said, every miracle He performed; every sermon He told and rebuke He made became parallel with His claims during trial that He was the great I Am. There was nothing anyone could do but exult His name, worship the Him through the Father whom Jesus claimed He served on behalf of, and to love each other the way He commanded us to.

On an additional note related to this point, I hope some of you can relate to this short story:

In my later teens, I had a relationship with a girl, and I would ask her, even when things were going fine, “Do you love me?” This question wasn’t aimed from something she’d done to show a lack of love, but at my own insecurity. At this time, I was an atheist, and so–looking back now, as a Christian–I can recognize an aspect of that relationship I never noticed before: I was looking for God’s validation of love and hope through this girl. The essence of our relationship with God can never be satisfied with another human being. Looking for God’s love through the opposite gender will never satisfy that need. Only God can do that. And as stubborn as I was when I was an atheist–and for those of you who are an atheist or agnostic right now–I was never open to trying to believe God was the missing piece. But I have been there and I am here, as a Christ follower now, and I can tell you for a fact that there is no missing piece other than God, Himself. Without Him, no one will ever give you what you need. And that is not discouraging–that is the reason to have hope in Christ!!

Previously, in my post “Masculinity In A Broken World: Revisited“,  I wrote this:

A man needs no affirmation of a woman to be a man (Readers, do not confuse affirmation with validation. A kindly spoken, “You look handsome today!” or “So proud of you!” can go a long way. But that is not validation, those are compliments.) , and a man who thinks he does is still a boy.”

When I say this, I’m directly speaking into my point right now. God’s validation is all anyone need’s– whether or not they understand the wisdom from that truth. My point in that post was specifically directed at men and their relationship with God, so here in this post, I am speaking in another direction about the same point. People do not need validation from people in order to recharge or to be fully alive. In fact, for a woman to become fully a woman, she needs the same thing! To become intimate with God is to know oneself fully without the approval of humanity complimenting her every move, choice, or appearance. And where does all of this come from? Hope in Christ.

So for the secular, atheistic, and agnostic crowd out there, I want to speak into your space here. As a former atheist, myself, and a current Christian, I can elaborate distinctly on the difference between Christian hope and atheistic complacency. The hope of Christ is something that does not derive of this world, and it does not come from the pleasures of sex, drugs, partying, clubs, or attention; validation from your mom or boss, nor the way people respond to you. The hope of Christ comes from within your spirit. A first step towards understanding exactly what I mean by this is softening your heart. What does softening your heart feel or look like? Well, first, do you understand what hardening your heart looks and feels like? When you are rigid, stubborn, jealous, envious, closed-minded and difficult to communicate with effectively, you are being “hard-hearted”. When someone wants to pay you a compliment and all you can respond with is, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just a shirt,” you’re being hard-hearted. In reverse, softening your heart means becoming humble and seeing things from another point of view without the fear of it automatically and drastically changing you upon impact.

Honestly, the fear of change is prevalent and universal. The fear of someone changing our belief systems, morality, and ratiocination (reason)–is, therefore, that much more daunting and unfamiliar. So when the first step towards any direction is softening your heart, the very first thought is usually– “you’re asking me to let it in the unfamiliar, and to trust myself enough not to be afraid that I’m going to let the unfamiliar change me right away if I don’t want it to.” Yes, exactly!

Now let’s back up. When Christians mention “hope in Christ”, what we’re talking about is softening our hearts to the will of Jesus–meaning–we are receptive to what Jesus has to say in our hearts, and we are willing to listen before dropping it on the back burner of our minds as useless. We consider what His words are saying, what they mean, how they would impact us and/or others, and what the intention Jesus is behind His words. Softening your heart doesn’t mean you become Christian. If you choose to follow Christ, that is your own decision to make. But first, softening your heart means you’re willing to listen. How willing are you to listen to someone you hardly ever–if ever– give a chance to speak fully, clearly, and honestly into your heart and soul? You’ve heard all sorts of voices; parents, co-workers, friends, strangers, enemies, significant others– you know them all very well. How well do you know Jesus’ voice? Do you know for a fact that He wants something bad for you; to threaten you and all that you want in life, or do you assume that based on the unsolved mysteries (unsolved as far as you believe) of this over two-millennium-aged book called the Bible? If you don’t understand Jesus, you will not understand what He has intended for you to know about Him and from Him. Are you willing to let Him tell you exactly what He wants with you, and for you? Would listening to Him really hurt you? Has not listening to Him truly helped you?

When I was an atheist, quite honestly, I was very hard-hearted. I was obstinate and rebellious against any idea of faith. Friends would mention God and I would hate every word they said. I didn’t want to hear anything and I tried my hardest to discard every word. Their words come back sometimes now because I want more than anything to know more about Jesus. But at that time, I wasn’t ready. Can you become ready to hear what the hope of Jesus means for you today?

The hope of Christ is that you no longer have to suffer for your sins. You don’t believe in sin? How do you describe what it is when someone kills another person? What is abortion; a choice? It’s a choice to kill. Readers, I’m well aware that saying that causes controversy. I get that. But do you understand what abortion is? A “professional” either provides a mother a herbal medicine meant to destroy the fetus–or–they stick a blade into a woman’s uterus and removes the still-forming body parts of a human being by forcing them out in pieces. Is that not murder? And if it is murder, how is that not sin? How is that not rebelling against the miracle of God’s blessing of giving life to a child?

Women and men alike will ask, “What if we can’t afford a baby?” I ask back, “What about adoption?”– “What if we can’t afford adoption?”….But you could afford to have sex, right? Why should a defenseless human be paying the price for your irresponsible hormonal decision? And you know what else? Where is your faith that God won’t provide a way for the newborn to be given a proper home in 9 months? Nowadays, in 2016–there are plenty of couples who can’t get pregnant who would travel across the world to take the one you can’t afford to give a proper, healthy upbringing. I personally know a couple who adopted a child this year, and I’m proud of them. That is better than a blade, is it not?

(For those of you who have already had an abortion and are reading this, please hear no condemnation or hate from me. I make my point about abortion to be clear about sin, and to be helpful for those who have not yet had an abortion– to encourage them to seriously reconsider such a heavy decision before carrying it out. I believe in the power of forgiveness, and that your choice to receive an abortion in the past can be made right through Christ. By asking Jesus for forgiveness, and upon accepting forgiveness from Him, I believe in peace beyond such painful choices. I do not believe you need to live the rest of your life in shame based on your past decisions; I believe in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness wholeheartedly! Be filled with forgiveness today and be raised up with His love. All is made right through Christ!)

Readers, again, the hope of Christ means we no longer have to suffer for our sins. In this life, we will have adversity; we will have trouble. But Jesus has already taken care of that. If we would accept His love now, we have something to look forward to later (that is, still living in present moment with the hope and joy what is yet to come after we die), something that will completely blow this vapor of a life away. Imagine 80 years to eternity! When you consider the comparison, imagining a place without death, pain, disease, suffering, or tears is a pretty amazing thought. And you can look forward to that, but first you must acknowledge who made it possible: Jesus. If not for Jesus, we would have nothing to look forward to at all. Not even death.

The expression from the workaholics out there, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” falls on dead ears. They live a life full of meaningless relationships and selfishness, thinking money will spell love to the ones dying for their affections right now, and then they think they’ll go to a place without pain while leaving those on Earth who needed their affirmation for their life without so much as a clue as to who they even were. How does that work, exactly? Jesus was always ready to stop and talk with people, even when He was completely exhausted. But workaholics have to work until they can’t even function enough for those they make the money for? Something tells me they don’t have faith in Christ’s ability to provide, and that is destroying their soul.

Christ wants us to lean on Him, one-hundred percent! He wouldn’t ask for such a commitment if He didn’t have something significant to offer. But He offers eternity with unconditional love– without pain! There is no fathomable experience within a lightyear of that promise on this Earth. So if He is promising that after His resurrection, there is truth to His promise. But, again, we must first acknowledge who gave us that option! Jesus did!

Be encouraged today. Whether or not you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, know that His offer is open to you, always. All you need to do is soften your heart and speak to Him honestly, and listen to what He has to say. If you can’t hear Him yourself, perhaps He’ll speak to you through another believer who God sends your way. Whatever happens, I can promise you there is nothing to be afraid of with Jesus. He always has your best intentions in mind. His roads don’t make sense lots of times at first—I’ve found myself countless times thinking, “Jesus, what are you doing??” But, in hindsight, I can see Jesus always has a plan, but it isn’t important that we know what the plan is every time we’re in it. It’s more important to Jesus that we’re obedient. He will never take us down the wrong path.

What will you do with this information? Will you try to do what I explained about softening your heart and speaking honestly to Jesus? Will you remain stubborn like I once was? You already know how the stubborn road feels and looks like– you’ve walked down that fork in the road before. Are you willing and brave enough to try something new? I would like to challenge you to try to give this a shot. The worst that can happen is… nothing happening. How bad is that? For your own sake, I would ask that you try, and see what best case scenario comes of it.

Be blessed, readers! May God lift you up and encourage you through every interaction and every circumstance you encounter today!

Recharge