The Echo Of Jesus’ Love Through History

Who we are echoes throughout eternity. Our next breath is just the beginning of the next moment; the beginning of another chance to be who we choose to be. Do we consider how who we are affects the people around us? How often do we contemplate how much of an influence we for others? 

Often, I forget the expression of living as if today is my last day. I forget that at any moment, my heart could stop beating. We’re spoiled. See, our hearts beat involuntarily—we don’t have to worry about the process, or set an alarm to keep the rhythm going. Many times, we choose to live as if we know tomorrow will come, despite our lack of omniscience. We know not what the next minute will hold, and many of us already have our lives planned up to the second for the next week. Do we leave margins open for life to happen during the “in-betweens” of our plans? 

Surely, we cannot plan our next breath, but we can hope for it. We can hope we won’t have to fight for our lives if oxygen doesn’t make its way up through our lungs. In this same way, we can hope our best friend will still be alive tomorrow. We can hope our job is still on the market in the morning. We can hope for so many things… but how much hope do we place in things we’re sure we know, compared to the hope we place in our faith?

As Jesus is my Savior, I believe He controls the oxygen in my lungs. I have hope that He will give me another, and another, and another… because He loves me. And when He decides not to give me another, I have faith that His love for me has taken me away from this place to be with Him where He is. And for every pain in-between those two breaths, I have faith Jesus has a reason for those. Jesus allows pain to give us opportunities to draw near to Him. Some pain feels traumatic and severe; the worse pain we experience, the closer to Christ we can become.

If you get to know me, you’ll notice my smile, my genuine curiosity, and the way it’s hard to make me angry. I don’t get angry over silly things, but it upsets me when you’re driving skills give me the impression that my life is in danger. I’m the kind of man who would rather be reading in quiet or walking on the shore than at a bar or club. The reason I am the way I am is because I treasure simplicity; I admire patience, understanding, and empathy from others. These qualities are qualities I’ve tried my best to adapt to the best of my ability because I think their roles in human life are eternal, and worth echoing throughout history. Truly, I believe these qualities have echoed through history, otherwise they would be faded in definition and mythic in reference. But they aren’t. These characteristics are cherished, refined, and established as precious and rare—because the quality of such characteristics as these are to the human design as gold is to currency. If we want to understand what is worth echoing, we can look at history to see what has prevailed and what has phased out. Certainly, the reason behind the prevalence of evil is that with regards to the sin nature of humankind, evil trumps peace when ego trumps humility.  

How often do we try to make a difference in the world? How often is the difference we’re making worth an eternal echo through history? What guidelines must be adhered to in order that the qualities we emanate are of the highest degree? If we look carefully, there is but one category which must be placed above the rest, and that is love. But not just any love—the love of Jesus.

If what we’re doing, saying, and displaying to others isn’t out of love, then what is it worth? What does love look like? Picture a person crying and another embracing them. Picture young men opening the doors for the elderly without having to be asked to. Imagine church members giving of their time to improve their community in ways that won’t put their name on any billboard or check. Think of the people who spend hours at hospice or geriatric care centers where older people who have lost everyone are desperate for connection and company. Think of little children supporting their friend who didn’t make the sports team they tried out for. Support, connection, trust, empathy: LOVE. Love in the name of Jesus. 

See, we can love and say it’s because we just have good intentions, but then we must define the source of “good”. And if we cannot, then how can we claim to know what kind of intentions we have? Truly, if we aren’t loving in the name Christ, we are loving conditionally, because there is no foundation for altruism that derives from the self. 

If we want to send echoes into history, we must send eternal ripples of love, or the ripples we send will not reach farther than our minds or our egos. Ask how that stranger who looks sad is doing, and offer to pray for them. Open the door for someone even if it takes a few seconds longer than usual for them to get to the door–just to send them the message that they were noticed and validated. Some people are so used to the prideful side of others that these kinds of loving actions will be an absolute shock and a pleasant surprise. For others, with the very pride which the former expect, they will take your act of love for granted, thinking you’re a fool for waiting, rolling their eyes as they take the door from you without so much as a scoff or a muffled “thanks” under the scoff of their exhale. It doesn’t matter, love them anyways. The point is to show others not that you’re a doormat or that you have no confidence, but that you’re humble beyond words. Humility expresses love in ways pride never will.

We can afford to show more humility and to speak from deeper authenticity. We can afford to call our friend who we know had an interview and ask how they’re dealing with it. We can afford to pray for our friends when they’re down, or to celebrate with them during a victory. All of this is Christ-like love. Christ-like love echoes a million times into eternity, and the ripples do not slow or stop because Jesus blesses them as they flow. He blesses us for our faith in Him, and He blesses those whom we extend ourselves to in His name. We only extend a fraction of who we are; yet His power expands the ripple a million times over, because He is love. 

Think about these words, and consider the way you put love on display for others. Is it obvious, subtle, unconditional, unexpected, thoughtful, spontaneous, care-free, empathetic—is it authentic? If you’re unsure of your motives, ask yourself what you’ll gain from the experience, and if the answer is joy from another person receiving happiness, even in a small way–I would say go for it. And if anyone approaches you or responds to your love by asking why you do what you do, give Jesus all the credit–but explain it in a way that makes sense to you. The more genuine you are in what you do and say, the more others will be ever so curious about “this Jesus, guy.” 

If you don’t have Jesus, then perhaps someone will do this for you. If you disbelieve in Jesus as Lord, but you experience the love of others in His name–does that not make you curious about the way faith in Christ inspires them towards authentic altruism? I hope you will be inspired by others’ choices to love you without reason beyond Jesus. Jesus’ love is eternal, and it echoes still today. If there’s anything worth echoing, it’s the ripples of love, joy, and hope that comes with knowing Jesus in our hearts, and sharing what that means to us. May you be blessed as you are overcome with His love for you. In Jesus name!

Echo

The Blessing Of the Samaritan In Every Day Life

Genuine, compassionate, kind, thoughtful, pensive, slow-to-speak, quick-to-listen, intuitive, spiritual, loving people– truly inspire me. Can you call to mind the face of the person who that is for you?

I have met these kinds of people before, but they always seems to come in passing–they’re heading that way and I’m heading this way, but for that bittersweet moment we criss-cross, and I experience a personality unlike any other. I must draw you a picture, because this is something you need to see.

Not all people learn to truly, genuinely care. They may say they do, and for specific areas of their life, they do care. But there are some people–we’ll call them samaritans–whose delicate manner in caring for others is done in the same vein as the manner they eat the food that tastes pleasing to them: They simply enjoy it.

Now, don’t confuse the idea of someone “enjoying the experience of caring” with someone who acts as a doormat for attention-seeking individuals without boundaries or respect for others’ feelings and well-being. The samaritans I’m talking about have boundaries, and plenty of self-respect, but they know how to counter someone’s disrespect with concern and compassion. Does this concept surprise you, or even confuse you? Let me draw more of the picture.

Another appreciative quality of the samaritan is their ability to connect with an individual so effortlessly. Eye contact comes so naturally to these kinds of people that we don’t even always realize how their eyes are inviting ours into the conversation. In contrast, there are the people whose eye contact can be interpreted as intrusive or disconcerting. Their eye contact is constant and unmoving; hardly leaving our eyes and barely blinking– if at all. This lack of eye movement altogether, after a minute or two straight, can begin to feel uncomfortable–as if that person is thinking of something else other than what the we’re actually talking about–or leading us to believe the intention behind their listening is different than their concern for us and what we’re saying. The samaritan’s eyes, however, are comforting, gentle, and at ease; relaxed, and very attentive in just the right proportions. In all respects, their eyes–and, therefore, their spirit (our eyes are the key to our soul, no joke)–are present. As we speak, they respond in such a way that feels validating. There is compassion in their eyes, gentleness in their disposition, and space where–for others–there is usually judgment, or a lack of concern or attentiveness. Unmistakably, time rests in a peaceful buoyancy with samaritans; emotions are allowed, welcomed, shared, and ultimately embraced— the very air around them is so weightless and simultaneously full of grace–feeling loved is difficult to ignore, and impossible to resist.

I can recall feeling angry while being heard by a samaritan who simply listened with pursed eyes, following my anger with empathy. By the end, they were nodding in silent agreement with what I’d explained, their eyes slowly blinking and peering into mine with concern and frustration for my situation. This exchange was so emotionally satisfying that I didn’t really care about the frustration of my story anymore, because this person had undermined the anger itself by embracing my hurt and pain with me. I felt validated, like someone was with me in my space of need. They didn’t even have to say anything, and they didn’t give me advice– they simply let me be. That is the underlying gift of wisdom by a samaritan: Their very sagacity in knowing how to listen, when to offer helpful insight, and discerning the difference.

After time spend concentrating on the utilization of those gifts with people, and desiring to better themselves in this regard– listening transcends the problem of being viewed as an obligation or difficult science, and becomes a gift to be shared, cherished, and used with the people we love, care for, and want to be experience life with. The inability to truly listen–to truly share ourselves vulnerably without judgment or further prolonging the feeling of loneliness when, for example, someone responds to a traumatizing story with the “fix”, rather than giving the speaker the precious gift of the quiet solace of presence they actually need instead— is a detrimental problem and schism in human relationships today, and it needs to be addressed with full awareness of its punitive repercussions.

Every person knows what it feels like to not be heard when they vent, how it feels to be ignored or overlooked when in emotional pain, and every person certainly knows what it feels like to believe no one really cares. But a person with the ability to extend themselves in such a way that provides the space for this desired emotional acceptance– this is truly a gift, indeed; that someone would be caring and involved enough in the relationships in their lives to take a deep, introspective look at the way others feel around them when they listen, and to understand–deeply–the way their words have an impact, not only within the context of just one conversation, but within the inflection and motivation behind the words themselves–in any conversation. People who can do this and have devoted quality time to developing this aptitude have acquired more than just skill; they have acquired the ability to be a living vessel of God. Does that last phrase pull your attention away and shock you? Does it seem too much?

God is love, and to be able to provide the space for another person to feel loved by just listening, with only the motivation to give that person that experience in your presence–how is that not being a bridge to God, Himself? You are shining a light directly to Him by doing what He would do. God desires to love us, and in His love for us, the parts of us that are misplaced or distorted and confused become easier to see, and in that process of being exposed to ourselves from God, we can see how the pieces we’ve misplaced through rebellion and selfishness can be put back correctly in their rightful places. God provides that path, and when a person is able to provide the space where God can be seen and felt (although a person isn’t required for this–a person’s personal relationship with Jesus is just as effective), those paths are made very clear. Because of this–specifically–a samaritan’s ability to listen truly exults the love and power of God’s presence in human life.

Why am I sharing this with you? We need more samaritans–it’s simple. And, to be a bit frank, I miss the time spent around people who aren’t in a rush, as if my feelings are less important than the racing speed of the clock. Some people never learn to slow down and live in the moment, and it’s these very people who inspire this post—because we don’t need any of that. We need people who are willing to be still, even momentarily, to give us a moment of their time. Are there times when we simply cannot stop for anything due to inconvenience or responsibility? Of course. But I’m talking about people who begin daydreaming during a conversation, or who are always running around to a destination that doesn’t require their presence with as much emergence as they portend. Stillness speaks; like the spacial quiet during my time with the samaritan when I was angry. Why are people in such dire need to move, to think, to speak, and to act– why not be in need to be still and listen, or just to be? This is a samaritan, and it can be anyone.

It’s more than just the ability to listen, of course. Anyone can learn to listen, but the measure of a samaritan is the depth of their character and the truth of their intention. Without character and intention carefully motivated, a person is far from being a vessel for God. The world needs as much light as it can get to show us back to who we truly are, and God uses us (those who have accepted His love through Christ) to be that example to others who need it. Where are they? Can they be you? Of course. In fact, I hope it is. This world needs samaritans—those who are willing to be what no one else is trying to be. But, who is their motivation?

My hope is that it is God, because every human must have one (samaritan) to be one, and it all starts with the Samaritan who loved us enough to come down here and fix our problem (of sin) for us in the flesh. It’s Him who we strive to emulate by following His Golden Rule, which is and always have been to love (Him with all of our mind, all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our strength, others as ourselves, and ourselves as God loves us). Are we loving others when we listen? Are we showing others who God is when we let others be themselves, or do we try to fix them when they don’t ask for help? Sometimes, our greatest hope is found in the silence of wisdom. And sometimes that silence can be found with someone providing the space for God to be found. Is that you? Is that who you’d like to be?

Look around you at this world and decide for yourself what you believe it needs. More samaritans, or more people trying to fix everything? Where pragmatism is appreciated, sometimes it is unnecessary. What is always necessary is that we learn to slow down, to listen, and to love. Who are you being for others? Is that the best you can be? God loved us through Christ, and now we are to love others through Christ in us. How are you loving others, and how can you love more?

I urge you to think of this and apply it to your life. Keep in mind the changes you are making to others’ lives with your own. I pray that you become aware of this truth, and that you make Godly changes in your every day interactions, one conversation and one relationship at a time. Let God work through you. There are other samaritans on the way for you as well, God is making sure of it. Be blessed, readers!

Original

Divine Love and Infatuation: The Trap We Live In

Romantic human love, when stretched thin by misuse and deification, acts like an obsession and lives like sin.

What do I mean by “misuse and deification”? Please allow me to break this down.

Most of all of us share a common desire to eventually be in a romantic human relationship. But surprisingly, at the end of the day, far fewer people desire a spiritual relationship with God— the Creator of possibility and the Giver of space for human relationships to be initiated.

Our most recent generations are being raised in homes with either a father or mother missing (usually a father), and that leaves children scrambling and fighting to feel loved— both in their broken home, and in the world. When they don’t find what they seek from their broken home, they will undoubtedly seek it from outside the home.

Where do they go? you ask.

Well, I can tell you the majority of times, they don’t go somewhere seeking closure, wisdom, or answers from a loving God. And from the viewpoint of a child, why would they? What children on their own accord are mature enough to desire such a thing as a relationship with God, or the experience of healthy spirituality? That would be more commonly instigated in a healthy home where a mother and father represent spiritual figures in which the children are inspired and taught what it means for a husband to love his wife, and for a wife to respect her husband; for the husband to lead his family and his wife to be submissive. That happens in a healthy Christian home. In non-theistic homes, and/0r in homes where there is one biological parent missing—(or both, in the case that children are not adopted by a mature, loving, selfless couple)—the natural, healthy portrayal of a husband and wife (loving leadership and submissiveness) is lost— as well as the sufficient expression of love each child desires and needs in order to grow and develop in healthy, natural ways; “healthy and natural”– meaning– they learn and accept that they are in fact loved and that life is a good thing to look forward to each day, not some dark cloud to dread.

Long enough after this life phase has been exhausted– in both adolescence and early adulthood when one or both parents are missing– children have learned not only what it means to rebel, but also the ignorance of the importance of setting boundaries between themselves and the world; the allocation and wise use of intuition and discernment in certain life situations (finding a job, communicating effectively with your spouse, discovering a new/better living situation, etc.), as well as the desultory use of little or no stricture on where to find the answer to whether or not they are–or even can be–loved sufficiently**. They are zealous, but careless, in their ability to find what they need; desperately searching with the right intention, but hopelessly unaware that what they’re actually looking into are skewed distortions of acceptance and love in the forms of promiscuous sex, drugs, alcohol/partying, overspending/overeating, and even gangs/occults.

**(On my note on stricture with regards to finding the answer to love, I am describing the dangerous, misguided choice of any individual to join an occult or gang rather than that of something like a church community, or other social organization founded by trusted individuals with the genuine intent to provide space for validation, love, support, and the extension of a listening ear, as well as the arrangement of events with the sole purpose focused on providing entertainment and time for human connection–particularly for people living in unhealthy homes. Whereas gangs force you to prove yourself with violence, lies, betrayal, and secrecy; church communities make time and room for connection by providing the space conducive for authenticity without judgment or censure; allowing you– in fact, preferring that you–be your most sincere version of yourself for the purpose or having a place to feel safe and accepted without having to prove anything first.)

During my seven year stint as an atheist in my teens and early twenties, my god was love (conditional, expectant love– not centered or based on altruism or selflessness, of course). My response to life and its agonies (divorce of my parents, a dramatic change in home life, transition from elementary to middle school, death of family members, and more–all in less than one year) was to search for love in a place more believable and convincing. Girls seemed to hold up a sign that rang a louder truth to me than religion, and so I retreated to them. At that time, to me, having a girlfriend meant you were “somebody” and special, and that was exactly what I felt like I wasn’t, so I went searching for a girl to become my girlfriend to solve my problem. That was basically my life pursuit. In class I would daydream a lot, not really focusing on academics. I would work hard enough to pass, but I didn’t care about school; I cared far more about being loved in a way that wasn’t sufficient for me at home.

So my question returns to me: Where did I go?

My life as an atheist looking to girls to answer, complete, and solve my deepest longest for a relationship (the kind that didn’t even involve them, nonetheless) was thoroughly disheartening, disappointing, emasculating, and exhausting. One after one I would try to find a girl who could complete me, but rarely would a girl give me more than a conversation. There was a romantic relationship, yes–I did eventually achieve my status of being “somebody and special”–but even when I experienced such a shoddy reward tantamount to a desperation not even related to females— I could feel something was missing. There was constantly something my girlfriend wasn’t giving me that I wanted more of than anything, and she never provided it. Little did I understand for many years to come that no woman ever could have provided it. This absence inside made me angry and sad; disappointed and discouraged. And during the time I was in that space of desperate needs gone ultimately unsatisfied, I obstinately refused to consider faith, religion, or spiritual activity— any seemingly irrelevant, threatening**, or radical notion of a God written to me from the pages of some two-thousand year old book.

(**You may be wondering why I used the word “threatening” when describing the notion of God. Well, let me explain that. To a stubborn atheist like myself at that time, God was the epitome of arguments against a non-theist like me. Not only was He the argument against my disbeliefs, but He was ultimately the answer I was unwilling to accept to every question I wasn’t brave enough to ask. He was the one threat between me and reason, cornering me between choosing purpose and fate: Without Him, I had no purpose– and while I didn’t believe in Him, I denied the notion of fate (which denies free will, and there was no way I was giving that up), which forced me into the most minuscule space between my doubts, questions, and the edge of an answerless cliff called atheism.)

Truth is, readers, I was treating conditional love from a girl as an idol by worshipping lust and infatuation as my gods

If there are any readers out there like me who tried–or is trying still–to replace the love God has for you with the love of another human, hear me now: You will never be satisfied with human love, and you will never find what you’re looking for until you surrender to God. That isn’t the way God created us, and when we try to deviate from our natural design (the design which God created us to naturally function; to need Him), we fall short, feel disappointed, and are always left unfulfilled. This never fails. People have gone to no end trying to replace the pain left in the void that is God’s missing presence (“missing” in the sense that we refuse to acknowledge the Truth that He is there), many times going to extremes of the renunciation of desire itself in order to rescind our belief in the need for anything besides our own presence (our inner connection to all parts of ourselves), which is what Buddhism preaches. But this will not replace God’s love; this will only prolong the distortion that we don’t need anyone’s love because love is itself a connection–a desire–and the belief of Buddhists is that all desire leads to suffering (which leads back to the argument of why suffering exists—something I’ve touched on a lot in previous posts, here, here, and here).

I may dig deeper into Buddhism in another post perhaps, but for now I am only using that for an example as to how so many people will go to any extreme necessary to deny the existence of God in order to live life evading the original hurt from the need they didn’t have met while still developing as a child. When a need goes unmet for an extended period of time as a child, that child may grow up to deify–to worship and treat as a god–lust, sex, and infatuation. These are the closest to human connection we get without actually attempting to be authentic in the process, while subjecting ourselves to the unguided, aimless belief that we don’t need a relationship with the Creator of relationships.

Without an honest, genuine, open relationship with Christ in our hearts, we misuse romantic love by deifying the feeling itself, replacing the relationship we seek with lust, rather than treating love as the result of something greater than the conditional, lustful love that we as humans idolize– misusing love as the answer to a deeper-rooted void.

Our void is our denial of the purpose of humanity beyond Earth; not that we don’t have a purpose, but that we refuse to acknowledge the depth of the purpose of our existence, the complex intricacies of our creation, and the Truth–the evidence–that humanity is capable and worth so much more than settling for lust. We were not born to solve each other’s problems in the sense that we become each other’s answers; we were born to discover how deeply we need God, and to use each other as a bridge to return to our relationship with the Creator of relationships. Without our relationship to God, relationships themselves would be pointless and directionless, and they would certainly not point us back to God–and therefore there would be no point to relationships, and that truth in itself would most likely undermine and uproot the very existence of any relationship. Is there any confusion then, why there are relationships; why our story as a human species on Earth does involve that Truth? If we refuse to acknowledge the must-be-acknowledged truth: That human relationships would be pointless and therefore non-existent if they were not meant to point back to the most important relationship (God)–then our denial points to a part of ourselves that has not yet found an answer. And I encourage you to do that today: Find your answer. If our relationship with God is not the most important relationship–and the key purpose to why there are relationships–then why do we have any? What does relationship point to for you, if not God? What does the result end with?

Readers, this comes down to a Truth that I had to discover for myself after a stint as a non-believer. If you are a non-believer, I have been where you are. I also know now there is more to life and faith than I believed there was while I was an atheist. That needs to be evidence for you that there is more to this life and relationships than sex and lust. Those are just temporary fixes for the moment; transient releases of dopamine in your body and brain that will in just a matter of time elude you once more. You don’t need sex (yup–I said it). You need God. And as much as it sounds like I’m telling you this as if I am the master of this subject, where I’m really talking from is the standpoint that I have been to the lowest of lows emotionally–to the point of trying to end my life–because I have tried to see life without God— and it’s morbid, dark, and broken. I have tried having relationships with human beings without God, and they’re empty. If you don’t agree, I strongly believe you’re hiding something from yourself. But don’t let me speak for you! Feel free to comment below. This post is for you, to encourage you to understand there is importance in the relationship with God because it fulfills the rest of life as well. Without it, there is no valid reason for anything.

Why live that way?

If you are misusing human love to try to sort out the emptiness of a faithless life, please consider my words. Jesus loves you! We could never do anything to earn it–He gave us His love freely. This is the kind of love you will never find from any human being— not ever. It’s impossible; we were made from God, therefore only God has the capacity to do in full what humans can only do partially. A car is a creation of man (inspired by God, however). So a car may work properly for a while, but not the way it does in a man’s head. A man can continue building new parts and innovate ideas for better car parts to work more effectively, but the car is never going to have the capacity that is in the imagination of any man. Likewise, God created human to need us: Cars would never work on their own– and even if humans figured out a way to make that happen, the device or machinery necessary to implement such goal would be temporary (ultimately, even if in the course of many years–the car would still break down). Again–likewise–life on Earth is temporary. Even relationships can be fleeting. They only point to Christ (cars point to their maker), they are not meant to replace Him.

Think about about and let it sink in.

You are loved by the God of Creation and the Creator of relationships. You need not wait for some person to make you feel like a king or queen; let God love you and fill you up to the full with a love beyond understanding. Allow that love to seep into your soul and resonate with the way you wish things would truly be: That your desires are truly relevant, they matter, and you don’t need to cut emotions out of your life to be fulfilled. Just soften your heart and allow Jesus to enter. His love is the answer to every emptiness and hurt. All suffering falls away like shackles from your wrist when you dig into your heart, realizing and accepting that Someone so omnipotent loved you enough to create a universe for you, send His son to die for you, and raised again to ensure your future with Him. You are loved by a Being very powerful, very mighty, and very humble and loving. There is no God greater!

Be blessed today, readers! You are loved!!

Together

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

 

Being The Miracle To Others That God Is To Us All

Loving yourself is not selfish. Authentically loving yourself requires as much humility as the willingness to see yourself the way God sees you, as well as the awareness of what that kind of Godly love represents—and its Source.

Much of the world tends to lean in the opposite direction, capitalizing on the notion that loving yourself should be the most important above everything else— in the same mentality as those who are under the illusion that binge-eating is a viable anecdote for emotional pain: they have neither the humility nor the intuition to realize the void they’re trying to fill is not actually physical— nor the discernment of what is healthy, and what isn’t.

Let me ask you, readers–what about the notion of loving others makes any difference to you? Many times we find ourselves loving someone who seems unable to reciprocate for some reason. Some people are simply too selfish or too disappointed in themselves to receive anyone else’s love for them. In a world where love can seem scarce, obscured, protected, and withdrawn; where love is underrated and confused with infatuation— Jesus’ unconditional love for you is the only reason you exist. Therefore, when we are able to receive Jesus’ love, the overwhelming truth of that reality stirs in us the ability to love others through Christ. God’s love, the greatest gift of all—engenders radical joy because the one thing we actually need in life, we are given freely; without consequence, loan, or “I owe you.” That is the nature of being in relationship with Jesus Christ.

For the believer, Jesus is the “living water” from which we will never thirst again. Now, that is a metaphor here on Earth–true–but do you understand the meaning behind it? Jesus is saying that being in relationship with Him will satisfy you to the point where you will be overflowing–meaning— you will have more than enough to be okay with yourself and give to others. Give what? Love.

The “food” (or love) in this lifetime is not what goes in our stomaches, but what comes from our hearts:

(Matthew 15:17-18) “Do you not realize that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then is eliminated? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man.”

We love others with our actions and our words. What we choose to speak or do with others comes from that place where we either have Jesus in our hearts, or we don’t. If we don’t, then we are giving love of our own accord, and the love we extend of our own accord suffers from the conditional, limited influences of living in a corrupted world. But Jesus’ love never tires. He lives in us through the Holy Spirit, meaning— He communicates with us through the Holy Spirit, and we learn to listen by spending time with God; reading the Word (Bible), praying with other believers, and quieting ourselves. Without this time, we further ourselves from our ability to know Jesus’ voice from our mind’s voice, and from that of the world and all its noise.

After we spend time listening to Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit talk through us and to us, we are better able to receive the courage, inspiration, love, hope, mercy, grace, forgiveness, peace of mind, and inner balance which is only possible through our relationship with Him, as well as the ability to share these qualities and gifts with others through our words and actions.

When we choose not to spend time with Jesus, not only to do we jeopardize our own connection to the God of creation, leaving it on the back-burner as if it is less important than anything else—we also jeopardize others experiencing Jesus through us.

How can we blame God for not talking if we don’t give Him the time to speak? How can we justify giving God enough time when we spent mere seconds to minutes listening, and we spend hours on end using technology and pursuing selfish pleasures? At the end of the day, we expect God to just fit in with the rest of our lives; but God refuses to just fit in. He is either our Alpha and Omega (first and last), or He’s not. Is God patient? Yes, but that doesn’t make Him gullible. Waiting on us when we take longer to hear Him than He does to speak is different from justifying ourselves with distractions while leaving Him jealous of the attention we give our Earthly idols (hedonism, technology, drugs, alcohol, etc.).

Those of us who are starving to experience Jesus more personally are left to starve longer when we assume our most important goal is to love ourselves more than anything. No matter what religion you belong to, if you only believe in loving yourself, and you are holding out on those who need your familial love, then you are starving them of connection; you are starving them of Jesus. Jesus told us we show we are His disciples when we love others, and He didn’t forget to leave us a plethora of examples to reflect on and refer back to. His entire ministry was saturated in love. Even His anger came from love! His repudiation of the pharisees was not out of hate for them, but out of the agonizing truth that despite His love for them, they would not receive Him, believe in Him, nor recognize the ways their piousness convoluted the truth of the message of Jesus’ love, dissuading the people who sought freedom from religious piousness and stricture; liberation to love and to truly live. Jesus provided this liberation, and told us that in order to be recognized by the world as His, we must love each other (John 13:35).

Do you live your life selflessly, in pursuit of Christ’s love for you and others? If you are an unbeliever, what inspires you to love others—and what does love mean to you? What is your hope for the purpose of living tomorrow? Do you believe there is such a hope without faith?

If you are not living in the love of Christ, then your love is situational and conditional. Do you know how to love those who want to harm you, and do you understand what the importance is of doing such a thing? Jesus’ very life is the example and reason for why Christ-followers do this. If you are not following His ways, what reason do you have to try to be selfless or more loving? What does it matter to you, if not for God?

Faithlessness is a quick way to jeopardize a most satisfying life. If you think about it, consider the impact you have on others who feel the ricochet of your joylessness—directly a ramification of disbelief; but consider what that means about discovering faith in Christ. Acknowledging how deeply rooted our words are, and how our actions jeopardize others’ way of seeing Jesus through us is a truth which is equally relevant as it is pervasively ignored. We cannot commiserate and love a world without a living example of the reason why. Humanity needs a reason to be selfless, in order that we might understand the true nature of what our relationship with God could be. Jesus is that reason, and whether or not we believe in Him or follow Him, our choices will show the world, one way or another. We walk by strangers without so much as a smile without bothering to think of what it might be like where they’re going. We’re just absent-mindedly desperate to get where we’re going to appease ourselves. What example are we setting by this prideful walk of faithlessness? We desperately search for something to feel loved by, all the while assuming there is no God—dismissing the notion of one when we aren’t patient enough to develop our awareness of His voice in our hearts. Is the problem really that God doesn’t exist and is therefore silent; or is it that we don’t take the time to surrender ourselves to His infinite gift of love? We may put God on mute, but He’s still talking.

Will we learn to listen?

Jeopardize