This Idea Radically Changed How I View The World

As you grow in your faith, you’ll occasionally come across of a piece of theology or an idea or a perspective that changes everything.

One of the biggest ideas that changed everything for me is Common Grace.

This specific term comes from the Reformed school of thought, but don’t head for the hills if you’re not a 5 point Calvinist (I am not either). The idea is shared by many circles. In fact, this logic is often celebrated by even the staunchest Arminian.

Common Grace is a deep issue, though, with many possible implications depending on how it’s interpreted and how far it’s taken. Much of the reading online comes from Reformed commentators and writers so it can be taken to a place you might or might not agree with, but the essence of this idea is agreed upon by the majority of Christians. It is quite apparent in scripture, after all. I hope to expand upon Common Grace in future posts, but I’d like to introduce it here.

What’s the big idea? 

At its core, Common Grace refers to the gifts (and therefore grace) God bestows that are common to all people. This is drastically different from saving grace; these common gifts are given to all, not only those that have accepted salvation.

Most Christians agree that God reveals himself in the expanse and awful power of nature. A roaring waterfall, the vibrant color of fall leaves, and the serene rainbow that emerges after a thunderstorm are signs God shows to all people.

But He has given us much more than nature itself. Life could be devoid of color, music, taste, and fun. If you watch the movie The Giver you’ll see this presented and see how possible it is. None of what makes life enjoyable is necessary. But God showed grace to all people in creating those things.

Think about just a few of the things you experience with your senses.

God didn’t have to create sugar cane, cumen, rosemary, pepper, salt, cacao, or coffee beans. Food and drink could merely be fuel, lacking taste or texture of any kind.

God didn’t have to create pine, cedar, lavender, grass, smoke, rain, lime, cheese, leather, flowers, or apples to have a distinct scent. If taste is unnecessary, so is smell.

God didn’t have to create octaves, thirds, major, minor, rhythm, pitch, or even sound itself. We could communicate by means that aren’t auditory.

God didn’t have to create red, blue, maroon, periwinkle, cobalt, orange, azure, yellow, sea foam green, cyan, aquamarine, magenta, beige, black, gray, or navy. There’s no need for color or texture.

But God created these things.

Why? The omnipotent Creator didn’t need these things. Why create so much extra stuff that is completely unnecessary to life?  It’s simple.

God created these things for us.

Everything you’ve every tasted, heard, seen, smelled, felt, or experienced has been created by God for you.

How beautiful is that?

This radically changed how I viewed the world. The world God created isn’t some decrepit vacuum that only holds the sinners to be harvested. It’s a gift. It’s good in and of itself because it’s been given value by its Creator. My Creator.

This really changes the Christian vs. worldly dichotomy that was the dogma for approaching culture for decades. Christians should engage and create culture, not separate themselves from it to create a watered down version of their own.

Rap music, a filet mignon, football, cap toe derbies, train-side graffiti, a Ferrari, ice sculptures, knit ties, barbecued ribs, Footloose, motorsports, bluegrass, succulent gardens, Interstellar, strawberry smoothies, and a child’s finger painting are enjoyable because God allows them to be.

Just as the Bible has authority because God authored it, so Creation has value because God created it. And these things do have a real value as Creation, but their ultimate reason for existence is to point to our Creator.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Open your eyes to see all Creation as valuable. Realize that everything you use and/or experience is good, because its Creator gives it value. Be thankful for everything you eat, see, smell, touch, and partake of; it’s a gift God has made common to all.

Street Vendor Gospel

I just got back from a family trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a wonderful city and my family and I always have a great time when we go. I highly recommend visiting Vegas if you have the opportunity.

The issue of a Christian family in big, bad Sin City is a different post for a different time. Instead, I’d rather speak to something I remember from my previous visit to Vegas.

Our last trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago. I was around 10 or 11, but I don’t remember much from the trip. However, there is one specific memory that still sticks out from our walk on Fremont Street.

fremont_street
Fremont Street Las Vegas, NV. (vegasexperience.com)

I remember my family and I walking down Fremont Street and
it
was
amazing
.

I was surrounded by vibrant lights and sounds. People speaking different languages were passing me by. Vendors selling everything from phone cases to watches were calling out to me and my family as we walked down the street. It was so exciting. This had to be past 9 p.m., which was super late for me as a 10 year old. I was living it up in the big city.

I soon noticed a man that was a little different from the rest. He was accosting every passerby, but wasn’t getting much of a response from anyone. He wasn’t coarse or rude, just loud and impersonal.

A sign was draped over his shoulders and his megaphone was piercing clearly through the roar of Fremont Street.

This guy’s sign focused more on Hell and eternity, rather than calling out sins, but you get the idea. We’ve all seen these people before. Despite all of his effort, this man didn’t draw anything more than a few disgusted looks and rolled eyes.

Our megaphoned crusader was attempting to tell people about the Gospel.  This 10 year old theological titan (ha.) didn’t hear any gross missteps or errors. None of his views seemed to be way out there…

But the Gospel wasn’t penetrating to a single heart. He was seen and heard by hundreds but didn’t reach anyone. What was the problem?

He was viewed as another vendor on the street. 

This guy with a sign and a megaphone didn’t seem to be making any friends, much less winning lives for Christ.

I felt terrible for this guy. I felt like he had missed something. The way to reach lives for Christ is through relationships, not shouting at them as they pass by. Jesus himself ate, drank, and partied with people so he could talk with them, not at them.

This street vendor presentation of the Gospel was cold and impersonal, which was exactly opposite of the strategy Jesus employed. Jesus met in people’s homes, went to their feasts, and met their children as he was reaching them.

Why though? Jesus already knew their hearts because he was sovereign God. He didn’t have to visit with them, or take the time to build a relationship. But he did. So what does that tell us?

Personal relationships are vital to sharing the Gospel.

If we are aiming to be disciples of Jesus that means interfacing with people the way that he did. Jesus did speak to thousands at a time, but he also took time with individuals.

Jesus built these relationships everywhere he went.  Just think back to a few people he met in his ministry.

Jesus met his first 4 disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John at their workplace (Matt. 4:18-22).

He also went to people’s homes, like he did with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus met with people alone, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42).

He also met people in crowded places, like the lame man near the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15).

People have to know we truly care for them, or our pleas for salvation will only seem like another sales pitch. We have to learn a heart before winning it to Christ. So the obvious needs to be pointed out.

Strategies aimed at reaching everybody are sometimes great ways to reach nobody.

Huge campaigns and movements are definitely powerful tools, but arguably the best way for real, lasting growth of the Church is through personal relationships. The first century Church exploded because of their intentionality in relationships.

How does that look for us in 2015, though?

Take someone to lunch. Invite them to your home. Go with them to the doctor. Join them in their hobbies. Grab coffee before work. Take them to a movie. Go to their child’s ballgame. Spending quality time with someone nurtures a relationship that can easily turn into a witness of its own.

We are called to love people, and to love them well. Our message of love and acceptance has so much more authority when people experience it first hand in the way we treat them.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Intentionally build relationships with your eyes looking towards eternity. Love people in the way Christ did—personally. Beware of the Street Vendor Gospel. It can easily come across as casting stones, rather than sowing seeds.

 

Atheistic Worship

This post is directed at atheistic worship. Atheistic worship might seem kind of impossible though, how can you worship something you don’t believe in?

Do you just get together with a bunch of other non-believers and gather to non-worship? No, of course not. That’s like asking non-smokers if they get together and non-smoke.

But we still press those who do not share our faith, and rightly so. We sharpen our apologetic swords and rush into the non-believers’ camp on the battlefield of belief.  We have many tools in our arsenal, and we wield each with precision.

How can they not see God? How can you look at Niagra Falls or even the sky and not admit to God? How did life come from non-life without someone to direct it? Why would the early church have endured persecution and executions for a Man that wasn’t what He said He was?

And so on and so on for endless conversations. We leave the battle drained and frustrated. We win a few, but the majority don’t budge an inch. How can they not respond?  We question the non-believers, but often share their same attitude.

Hold the phones, Josiah. I’m a child of the King. I’m redeemed. I believe. I had a response.

That you did, and I commend you for it.

But you still might be sharing the atheists’ attitude.  Allow me to present you with a question, much like the ones we throw at non-believers.

How can we experience God’s infinite grace and not respond in worship? 

If you ask any semi-mature Christian they’ll gladly tell you that God’s grace has saved them from Hell. Their sin was placed on Christ’s shoulders, and God’s wrath that was deserved of them was then poured out on Jesus, the spotless Lamb. They’ll say Christ’s resurrection 3 days later allows them to live a full life here on Earth, but more importantly it allows them to have an eternal life, an everlasting life.

That’s heavy. My cross, my lashes, my nails, my crucifixion, my sin was imputed on God’s sinless Son. The only thing I have to do is accept this gift of salvation in faith.

That should evoke an overwhelming response, right? That’s a pretty big deal.

And we do have an overwhelming response initially, to accept salvation, but then our fire slowly dwindles.  

We sing the same songs, listen to the same sermons, gather with the same believers that we did when we were passionate, but it’s different now.

We don’t feel any different week to week. We don’t look forward to church like we used to. We no longer have that sweet hour of prayer; we’re doing good to fake 10 minutes now. We don’t sing like we used to. We don’t feel The Spirit’s presence like we used to. We’re just going through the motions now.

We’re faced with the evidence of God’s grace and mercy everywhere, everyday. But then we don’t respond. Just like the atheists we so often criticize.

That is atheistic worship. The atheist is faced with evidence of God and lacks a response. We do the same exact thing in being faced with the evidence of God in our lives and exercising a shallow worship devoid of passion.

So I want to challenge you, Church. Rekindle the fire you first felt at your conversion. Fall in love with Christ all over again. Remind yourself of your sinful condition and Christ’s unrelenting love for you in spite of it. And then respond.

Don’t have empty, atheistic worship.

Country Music Christianity

Before the title makes you think I’m opposed to country music, don’t get that idea. I like old, real, pining country. The new stuff feels like pop with an accent, but that’s a different post for a different day.
I’m not raising objections to country music here.

I do have an issue with Country Music Christianity, though. What is that? Well I’m glad I asked myself.

Country music loves to mention prayers, God’s blessings, God’s providence in watching over our soldiers, and a myriad of other things. The idea of God is speckled throughout the lines. He’s never the focus, just a supplement.

But the hypocrisy, often within the same verse, is what really gets me. It simply reflects the mindset of millions who claim to be Christian. God’s blessings and the importance of prayer are beautiful, but how can you truly grasp those if you’re living in sin and praising that sinful lifestyle? If you’re getting in bar fights, raising hell on the town, and cheating on your wife, how can you experience the bounty of God’s plan for your life?

Country music lyrics tend to compartmentalize God, only acknowledging Him when asking the blessing, talking about the troops, or when He needs to take the wheel. We turn God into a genie in a bottle. Many of us recognize how wrong this is, but still buy into this mindset because it’s comfortable

We like that kind of God. I know I do. 

I like God to be there with my family in the hospital, but I don’t want Him there in my dorm on a Saturday night. I like God to listen when I’m asking for an answer on an exam, but He can’t listen to the jokes I make when I’m with my friends.

I like a medicine cabinet God. One that I can turn to when things aren’t ideal, yet one that I put away when everything’s going smoothly. I don’t wanna overdose and be one of those crazy people, after all.

I’m afraid that many of those professing to be Christians fall into this mindset. Many live this way for years being comfortable, but not changed. This comfortable Country Music Christianity gives people just enough God to deceive them. I overheard a guy in my cafeteria put it candidly:

“I think there’s some good ole boys that know the Lord, and then I think there are some that think they do.” – Guy in my college cafeteria 

These people love the medicine cabinet God that helps when they’re down or need something, but is absent when they are in living in sin and rebellion. Even those who don’t live this way continually put God in a box in certain times in their lives. I know I do.

The problem is that God is much more than that. I’ll never comprehend the plans He has for me and my life. He shouldn’t just be sprinkled throughout my life like a country song, but my life should pour out a chorus of praise and surrender.

He should be a fire that consumes every aspect of my food, drink, language, jokes, relationships, sexuality, attitudes, finances, school, my life.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Avoid compartmentalizing God, allowing Him to consume you will transform your life in ways that a half-surrendered heart never could.

“But God” by Isaac Adams (CROSS 2015)

Here’s a quick spoken word. Coming off of the spirit of Easter, it’s encouraging to feel God’s omnipotence. It’s a reminder of man’s total dependence on God, and it’s presented wonderfully.

I saw this while watching CROSS 2015. The CROSS conference is a missions conference aimed at contacting unreached people groups. Isaac Adams paints a beautiful picture of God’s power throughout the Bible and in missions.

I encourage you to check it out, and share.

Stress Part 3: What To Do When We Stress

And so we come to the 3rd and final part of our examination of stress.

In Part 1 we introduced our passage, defined stress, and also distinguished between good (eustress) and bad (distress) stress. In part 2 we looked at why a Christian stresses. We reminded ourselves that we are strangers in a fallen world that’ll experience troubles, but our heavenly home makes every bump along the way worth it. We also discovered that we succum to stress when we lose sight of the goal. Our focus should be set on leading others to Christ, not the temporary difficulties we face. 

Let’s recall our passage in Philippians chapter 4:

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 
  2. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
  3. do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 
  4. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

We see now why we should not stress, but the fact is that we will still feel overwhelmed at times. What then? The Spirit knew we would feel this way, and gave Paul the remedy he writes for us.

So what do we do when we stress?
We pray. That sounds like a Sunday school answer but it’s the solution Paul gives in verse 6. We pray asking God to handle it and calm us. I’m reminded of the old hymn, What A Friend We Have In Jesus:

“O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!” 

God is transcendent above all of Creation, yet He is concerned with every detail of our lives. The same hands that scooped out oceans and carved out mountains are the same hands that hold you and me. This God that holds the heavens between His fingers and measures the oceans with the lines of His hands cares for you and me (Isaiah 40:12). This same great, awesome, magnificent, all-powerful God knows the hairs on my head. The Creator wants an intimate relationship with me. Isn’t that amazing? He cares when I’m stressed and distraught. He wants me to draw near to Him. That’s precisely what prayer is.

Paul also gives a stipulation in this remedy that we often miss. With thanksgiving. If we are sincere in our desire to embrace the Father, we will be thankful. We will see His grace and providence in every inch of our lives and be overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness.

So I want to encourage you, Church. When you’re torn in different directions by sinful worry and stress, remember to keep your home and your goal in perspective.

Realize you’ve won eternity thanks to Christ! You’re not of this world; your home is above. In the scope of eternity, what’s your little problem?

Remember to focus on Christ. Use the Advocate (Holy Spirit) and the assurance He brings to anchor yourself in reasonableness. It can solidfy your witness.

Pray. Pray. Pray. God cares. He wants to hear you. Be thankful that the creator of the universe listens to you and wants a relationship.

Thank you very much for reading, I pray you gained something from these posts.

Stress Part 2: Why Do We Stress When We Have A Savior?

Welcome to Part 2 of our look at stress. In Part 1 we introduced our passage, defined stress, and also distinguished between good (eustress) and bad (distress) stress. We’re focusing on the bad stress, since it’s the detrimental kind that hinders us.
Paul speaks to distress and anxiety in Philippians 4:4-7:

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 
  2. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
  3. do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 
  4. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

We then ended by questioning our stress. Why does a Christian stress? Why do you stress?
I stressed over a busy Friday. I was frantically balancing responsibilities and it wore me down. I was overwhelmed.

But in the span of eternity, my little Friday was a fraction of the vapor that is my life. I’ve been given an eternity in paradise with my Savior. So why did I still get overcome with stress and worry?

1.We’re Strangers in This Fallen World

Stevin Curtis Chapman has a wonderful song called Long Way Home. He speaks to the struggle we face in this world, and how we’re just passing through. It really changes the whole perspective when focus on our real life staring after this one. It brings to mind this verse:

33. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Christ has overcome my stressful Friday, your financial hardships, your broken relationships, your sorrows, your heartbreak, the world. We have His blessed assurance and a peace that surpasses all understanding (verse 7). We can remain grounded because our Savior purchased our salvation and gave us a heavenly home. Thanks to Christ’s resurrection, our real life begins after this one ends.

The eternity in Heaven praising our savior is the perfect, complete reward. Paradise is a beautiful place where there’s no tears or heartache. We should be longing to get there! If we have this reward, every little bump on the journey there is negligible. Paul says in another letter that even death has lost its sting. Nothing that happens on Earth can deter us from our home. We can find comfort in what’s coming before us!

But it’s very important here that we make sure we’re practical. Paul draws attention to this in verse 5 where he speaks to our reasonableness:
5. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Philippians 4:5)
We should not be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good. Rather, our blessed assurance and peace from God mentioned in verse 7 should anchor us in this life, to press towards our real home.

This fallen creation still ultimately points to its Creator, despite our misuse of every aspect of it. As Chrsitians we’re called to redeem creation. This saving grace of Christ and intimate relationship with God have serious implications for all areas of our life on Earth. Even the stressful ones. We can handle our stressful finances, relationships, responsibilities, obligations, and pressures in ways that glorify Christ and grow His kingdom.

Yes, stress and hardships are eminent. We will feel defeated. We will feel that all is lost. But our heavenly home awaits us, and we’re called to bring as many with us as we can. Press towards the mark of the high calling!

2. We Lose Sight of our Goal

If we shift the paradigm to realizing that we’re only passing through, we should be heavenly minded. That’s quite easy to say, but it’s easy to be overwhelmed by our life on Earth. Now this is a real physical place, and most of the time our stressors are reasonable.
Finances are necessary to life, relationships are our family, friends, and how we witness and lead others to Christ, work is how provide for our families. There are all valid endeavors that need to be attended to.

The problem is when these things tear at us and cripple us.

Paul’s use of this Greek word conveys our stress better than our English. He uses the word “merimnáō” which properly translates to being drawn in opposite directions or divided into parts. The context here suggests that Paul was harnessing its figurative interpretation: “to go to pieces” due to being pulled apart. Paul said like the force exerted by sinful anxiety that tears us into pieces.

And that’s exactly how it feels, doesn’t it? It feels like you’re being torn in a hundred different directions. It can feel like the life you’ve built is crumbling. You only see a thousand bricks instead of the building Christ can build from it.

This happens when we give the carnal issues more attention than we give Christ. We lose our focus on Christ. We see this here as Paul in verse 4 tells us to rejoice. He even tells us twice.
4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
If we’re rejoicing in the Lord we’ll have Him on our minds and hearts, thus minimizing the temporary hiccups we’ll have in our life of praise.  We have to adjust to the bigger picture and its painter. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, the troubles of this life pale in comparison to His grace and beauty. Our focus should be on Christ and the guidance of the Spirit, not the flesh.

6. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 ESV)

That’s easy to say and read, but it’s a little different applying it. When rent’s due and the bills come up and the fridge is empty and your mother is sick and your brakes go out and your world is crumbling down around you the last thing you wanna do is lead others Christ. I realize that’s my whole reason for being on Earth and all, but I’ve got to handle my business first before I have an awkward, uncomfortable conversation with someone.

When I compare my struggles to the cross, it can’t help but seem pointless. Christ has overcome this world and my little problems, and I have a home prepared for me in Heaven. Christ has overcome death, both the physical and spiritual. He’s calling me to be His messenger, and to bring others home. That has to be my focus, not stressing over the temporary complications of this life. Leading others to the salvation of Christ is the goal, and I cannot lose sight of it.

So why do we stress when we have a Savior?
Simple. Our perspective is wrong. We lose sight of our home and our mission. We are strangers in this fallen world that will face inevitable troubles, but our eternity in Heaven with our savior makes every one of those issues irrelevant.  On my journey to Heaven, I’m called to bring others with me. Leading others to Christ is the goal that outshines every possible problem I could ever have on Earth.

So I want to encourage you, Church. When you’re torn in different directions by sinful worry and stress, remember to keep your home and your goal in perspective.

Thank you for reading! I pray you’ll join me for part 3 where we’ll see how we should respond to stress.

Stress Part 1: Introducing Stress

I’m starting a 3 part series on stress, focusing on Philippians 4:4-7. March will be full of midterms, trip planning, and just the day to day grind, so it’ll be demanding… There will be plenty of stressful days. These posts will come out the first three weeks in March; it seems fitting. Stress is something I’ve been studying on my own, and I pray you’ll gain something from reading!

This first part is where we’ll lay the groundwork for the latter parts. To open up, I figured I’d describe my last really hectic day that drove me to study stress:

It’s Friday. This is crunch time. I have a Chemistry exam in the morning, and then have to turn in 2 applications by 5 o’clock. The first application is a 7 page form with a 2 minute “about me” video for a huge job on campus. The second is a scholarship with a 500 word response. I’ve got these irons in the fire, cooking like marshmallows to create a s’more of success and future opportunity. Once I pull it off, it’ll be smooth sailing on the financial storm surge of college.
But it’s falling apart. I don’t have anywhere near enough time to handle all of this. This stress wears me down and I’m a little irritable.

I finally turned in my last application online at 5:03 . I’m devastated. I missed a deadline. I huff and puff and hold my face in my hands and I quickly call the office to plead for more time. I can buy them lunch or mow their lawn or anything just so long as I get this application handled.

They don’t answer the phone of course. It’s 5:05, they left early for the weekend. I’m doomed. Hours of work are burning up like marshmallow in a campfire. My sails are torn, I’m gonna sink in the monetary tide and be eaten by a 23 foot debt shark. It ain’t gonna be pretty. Thousands of dollars are being shredded before me.

I let out a haggard breath and sink into my seat in defeat.
And then I get a call!
God provided and they said it was pending review and that all was well.

I was stressed to say the least. It was a draining day.

Stress 
Stress and even anxiety are things we all face in our lives. Different amounts at different times, but we all experience these things nonetheless. Even if you humbly characterize yourself as easy going and down to earth like I do, you’ve still experienced stress. Before college it was easier to be a little more hippy dippy and just stay chill, but in college I’ve found that work piles up faster than I can shovel it. 

We’re going to look at stress through a biblical lens. We’ll look at few passages, but we’ll hone in on Philippians 4:4-7.

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 
  2. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
  3. do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 
  4. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Merriam Webster defines “anxious” as feeling afraid or nervous especially about what may happen. It’s also a state characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency.
That’s a bit wordy, but it’s pretty accurate for how we feel when we’re stressed, right? We feel like it’s all hitting the fan at once, like everything is weighing down on us, like the walls are burning down around us and we have a water gun full of gasoline. It can even feel like drowning or being eaten by shark (kind of?).

We’re all familiar with stress and anxiety, regardless of how often they overwhelm us. It’s definitely a real issue.
Stress and anxiety are closely related, so we’ll talk about them interchangeably as stress leads to anxiety and vice versa.

Is stress inherently evil?
It’s important to note that stress isn’t always bad, though. There’s “EUSTRESS“, which is good stress, and “DISTRESS“, which is bad stress.

Eustress (good stress) is a natural response that helps us in many ways. It helps us focus and meet deadlines. This good stress initiates actions that’d otherwise be left alone.
I’m stressing to some extent writing this post: checking my pitiful grammar, making sure it reads well, solidifying the ideas, trying to present them with concision, etc.
Eustress is helpful if you’re taking a test, for example. It helps you block out distractions and focus, work efficiently to manage your time well, and therefore make a good grade.

Good stress is a gift from God that helps us sharpen our senses and perform to the best of our ability.

But we usually think of stress negatively, don’t we? When we’re “stressed out” we’re experiencing distress.
In our testing example you’d be experiencing distress if you were frantically marking random answers, surrendering to failing the class, or crying.

Stress becomes a problem when it leads to anxiety, the very thing Paul said for us to avoid.

This Friday was the first really stressful day of the semester. I was definitely a dude in distress. I’ll have many more stressful days, and many more times I know God will show grace and providence. But I was still bogged down in the moment, and we all feel this way at times too.

We know stress is bad, but why do we do it? Why does a Christian stress?
Why do you stress? Have you ever had a breakdown due to stress? Does stress slowly wear you down? Let me know in the comments.

Look for Part 2 to be out in a week or so.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll join me for the next segment.

Dear Antiestablishment Christian,

Dear Antiestablishment Christian,

I have to preface this by stating my love for you as a brother in Christ. I have no doubts as to your salvation. I can tell you’ve built your beliefs on the solid foundation of Christ crucified. I’m overjoyed that you’re in the fellowship of His church, and will praise Him with me in Heaven for all eternity.

You are intelligent, well spoken, and grounded. I know your ideas are well researched and thought out; you’ve definitely done your homework. You speak passionately and intensely. You eloquently share your thoughts and people hear you.

But, I think you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping…

You can come across as hateful at times. I don’t think it’s on purpose either, just happens incidentally. The issues you speak on are so close to your heart that you’re moved to challenge them. This is a wonderful thing.

I understand your concerns about what the Church has become. 2,000 years of sinful people will dilute and contort any idea, especially one so bold, yet so nuanced as Christianity. I more than understand your contentions with ignorant branch of psuedo-Christianity, the shallow sect that goes to church, but is not the Church.

They turn Jesus into a political mascot riding a donkey or an elephant with an American flag in His hand. Their Jesus either passes guns out to toddlers or gifts Priuses and kale juice. They’ll come on Sunday mornings, maybe even sing a little and stay awake during the sermon, and then live out the week no different from the world around them. They politicize church affairs, picking sides and fights. They create God in their image, not recognizing that it’s the other way around.

I get that. That infuriates me too. They hurt the Gospel. Others perceive these people as the entire Church and generalize and assume that we’re all like that.

But you tend be known more for what you’re against, rather than what you’re for. This is partially due to how different your ideas are from mainstream, more fundamental Christians. I recognize that anything new will be faced with opposition, and I commend your persistence in your sharing of these controversial ideas.

The beauty of salvation is the grace that’s allowed for flexibility on some nitpicky issues. This has allowed the Gospel to be applicable in many cultures and communities throughout history. Your right to express your opinion is God given and should never be smothered.

But the way express your opinion is causing others to stumble. Not in the self examining, reflective way either. I, myself have stumbled. You’ve ticked me off. I can’t show love for the saints if I’m mad at one of them. This is my fault. Not yours.

Oftentimes your inflammatory, pointed statements and statuses alienate those who believe differently than you. That’s not how it should be. You bounce back and forth between praising an apparent abuse of grace and browbeating those who sin differently than you do. I’m sure you have patience and understanding for other Christians, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

You can come across as sassy and pious, which evokes an equal response from others. And then you tend to take the high ground, saying that you were “not mad, just having a conversation.” That’s not how it should be, brother.

Please understand I don’t want this to be hateful or judgmental, I want to encourage! This is not an open letter bashing your beliefs, just critiquing your presentation of them. I actually agree with a few of your ideas, but you’re not sharing them effectively. You have the purest intentions, but they are often polluted by your demeanor.

You’d be more effective if you’d build up the Church sometimes, rather than trying to gut it and remodel the whole thing.

There’s room for disagreements in theology of course, but it becomes an issue when it separates the church.
We will be know by our love for the saints. So let’s unite under the cross to go out and bring the lost home. Evangelism is more important than our disagreements.

Blessings and Love,

Josiah Robinson

Finding God in Water: Thank God for snow!

Living in Alabama, I don’t get to enjoy snow as much as them there Yankees up yonder do. (Alabama enough for you?)

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But I recently went on a trip with my church to Stone Mountain, Georgia to go tubing down a massive snow covered mountain. Sounds fun right?

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IMG_5219It sure was! It was 54 degrees (perfect shorts weather) and I got to fly down a mountain of snow on a tube. All while looking at Stone Mountain, with its gorgeous engraving commemorating the Confederacy’s heroes: President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. It’s a truly awesome piece of history and art!

But back to the wonderful treat of snow!

Snow is a wonderful gift that gives joy to many people! Even those who receive it each year still find joy in building a snowman with their children or launching a snowball at a friend. I thank God for snow! But more than that, I thank God for water.

Water is a beautiful gift that is a requisite for life. That’s why we’re called to be like a tree planted by the water, bursting with life (Psalms 1:3 & Jeremiah 17:8). Water gives sustenance and is vital in many of our bodies’ internal processes.

“Yeah, we get it. Water is necessary for life, Josiah. You can’t go more than 3 days without it and all. I’ve heard it before.”

But what about water itself?

Big Whoop, It’s Water...
Water is pretty vanilla, right? It’s just water. It’s free at even the most expensive restaurants. We don’t think of water as much. Think of a watered down drink…Nasty right? There’s not much special about water. It’s pretty standard, because it’s so common.

To understand and truly appreciate the blessing of water we have to get a little sciency, but I assure you it’s not too heavy. Stick around and see how we can find God’s grace in water.

The Science of Water
Water is the standard used to give us many scientific units such as the gram, calorie, and Calorie. But water is quite peculiar…

Water is very interesting to chemists, it is unlike any other substance on Earth.

IMG_5185You see when another substance like gold changes from a liquid to a solid, it condenses. This makes the solid state of gold more dense than its liquid state.
So if you had a glass of liquified gold and dropped a solid gold nugget in it the nugget would sink because it’s more dense than the liquid.

glass-of-ice-waterBut water isn’t just another substance. When water changes state from a liquid to a solid (also known as freezing) it expands, becoming less dense than liquid. This is why ice floats in a glass of water.The snow that I slid down was made up of thousands of ice crystals, which is why it’s so light and fluffy!

That’s neat, but so what?
Not only does this give a cool drink when you sip your water, but it has a serious implications for life on Earth.  We associate ice with cold winters and dreary death, but ice actually saves aquatic life and allows Earth to flourish!

If ice was more dense than water, it would sink. This means a lake would freeze from the bottom up. That’s a big deal.
If the ice formed in lakes and other bodies of water sank to the bottom, ice would trap and kill the fish every winter.
It would be impossible for these fish to live past a winter, thus eradicating many species and upsetting the delicate balance of life.

But because it floats, we get a nice ice cap on top, preserving the habitat underwater and actually sustaining life underwater.

5wh-25_1[Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
(We can also travel and ice skate on this cap, which is a nice bonus!)

I was listening in my Chemistry class and this smacked me like a train. God’s creation is woven so beautifully together it solves problems I would’ve never imagined in and of itself. I’m reminded of a verse in Colossians:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (‭Colossians‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬ ESV)

We can see our Creator’s grace and providence in every drop of water, every cube of ice and yes, every flake of snow.

I am now finding God in water everywhere, in every state.

So next time you see snow fall, or crunch some ice, think of God and His infinite grace.