Current Events and IssuesMental Health

The Remnant #3 – April 2018

All articles written by me, W.R. Harris.

I’ve decided to release The Remnant on the 15th of each month. If you are interested in submitting an article or would like more information on The Remnant, visit “The Remnant E-Magazine” page at the top right of this website.

Church

How (Not) to Talk About Anxiety in Church

Anxiety is a sin.

If you suffer from anxiety problems and you attend church, have you heard that before? Or has someone told you that in response to your opening up about your anxiety?

It’s not necessarily that the statement isn’t true. Anxiety can be a sin. If you willfully choose to not trust God—if you’re deliberately blocking him out—yes, that’s probably sinful. But to straight up say anxiety is a sin? It’s more complicated than that.

Take depression. The depressed person may have a very strong faith in God, but they feel sad. Why? Not because they aren’t rejoicing in God’s mercy and his blessings, but because they feel sad. They can choose to praise God in the midst of it, but they can’t change the feeling of sadness that often comes with depression. For some people, it’s just there, and nothing changes that.

Or take hunger. Say someone is seeking God through fasting. He or she feels hungry, and perhaps nothing they do changes that. Are they bad at fasting? No. In fact, that’s sort of the point. You deny yourself and your cravings for a bigger craving—God. It would be silly for someone to say, “You’re still hungry. You’re obviously doing this wrong” (though I know some people would be ignorant enough to say that).

Anxiety is often the same way. You have an anxiety disorder, and it starts flaring up. No matter what you do you still feel anxious. Your palms are sweaty, your heart beats out of your chest, your mind races two thousand miles per hour. In that moment, are you sinning?

I don’t think so. God knows what’s going on. He knows you’re not deliberately choosing to disobey in any way. The feeling is there, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s not a sin.

In my opinion, it’s an opportunity. You may continue to feel anxious for a while, but will you succumb to despair and negativity or choose to seek God and do your best to fight through? The hard thing to do is seek God and fight through, however long it takes. But don’t think for a second that God doesn’t see you take on one of the hardest challenges a human can face. You’re fighting through and you still feel anxious…but, boy, you’re doing the opposite of sinning. You’re glorifying God.

So forgive those church people, well-meaning as they may be, when they tell you to just have more faith or that anxiety is a sin. They probably don’t know what it’s like, and they don’t really know what they’re talking about. Stop feeling guilty when your anxiety won’t go away. You’re doing nothing wrong. Above all else, keep fighting the good fight of faith. It’s worth it.

 

Book Review

Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World by Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi

This book was a real game changer for me.

I’ve been following Jesus for about 10 years now. I spent much of those early days at The Austin Stone Community Church—a church known nationwide. It’s a phenomenal church with phenomenal teaching. During those days I also listened to Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, and John Piper—some of the best Bible teachers in the country.

But all those years I never quite understood the kingdom of God. I had a clue, but I still thought for some reason that heaven would be an ethereal place in the clouds. I didn’t understand that God’s children will spend eternity on a new earth—a physical earth, one like ours today but with all the good magnified and all the bad completely gone.

You see, I thought God’s primary call on our lives was to evangelize and make disciples. That’s what The Austin Stone, the other powerhouse megachurches, and the cream-of-the-crop preachers seemed to advocate. Preach the gospel, make disciples, preach the gospel, make disciples, preach the gospel, make disciples. Their emphasis on those things isn’t necessarily bad. Those are two of the biggest calls on a Christian’s life. But what does Jesus tell the disciples to seek first? “Seek first the kingdom of God” – Matthew 6:33.

God’s purpose, as Wakabayashi explains, is to bring his reign to earth: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – Matthew 6:10. Creation—all of it, not just humans—is broken because of the Fall. When Christ came, he brought God’s kingdom to earth, though only partly. He showed us what God’s kingdom looks like by healing the sick and disabled, raising the dead, and forgiving sins. He established a period in which his people can live with the power of the kingdom and bring the kingdom to earth—though not in its entirety. As my current pastors say, we live in the “right now and not yet.”

As Wakabayashi argues in the book, our job as Christians is primarily to bring God’s kingdom to earth. That includes evangelism and discipleship, but it is more than that. It is all of creation being made right. And one day, God will come back to finish the job and make everything right.

This book was a paradigm shift for me. I honestly think every Christian should read it. American evangelicalism has gotten so caught up in trendy evangelism and disciple-making that we’ve forgotten why we do it. And, as the book argues, perhaps focusing on the kingdom instead of individual salvation will cure our self-centered Christianity.

One of my favorite parts of the book is his pointing out that even radical, Jesus-loving evangelicals have unknowingly distorted the gospel. When we explain the gospel to someone, what do we focus on? Jesus dying for that one person and how that one person can get to heaven. The gospel is more than salvation for individual souls. I must admit that I had never thought of that.

The gospel is bigger than we think. It’s joining in on God’s cosmic plan to restore creation to himself. How awesome is that? He invites us to join in making all things right. There’s no greater or more wonderful cause.

The only knock I have on this book is it’s somewhat repetitive. The conclusions at the end of some chapters/sections are unnecessary. I wouldn’t cut out whole chapters because they all contribute to the book, but he repeats his ideas. I know he’s just trying to get his point across, but it’s not necessary. The book should be a little shorter than it is.

You should read it. The thesis of this book is essential. I highly recommend.

4/5 stars.

 

Other books I’ve read lately:

Radical – David Platt

In my opinion, the quality of this book varies from person to person. If you’re a new Christian, I recommend it, though I don’t agree with everything he says. If you’ve been an evangelical for several years and you’ve read 10+ books on being “on fire” for Jesus, feel free to skip.

His exhortation for the church to lead self-sacrificing lives for Christ’s sake is effective. But some of his “go to the nations or else you’re being disobedient” argument rubbed me the wrong way (along with a few other things). Platt diminishes, in my opinion, the work of Christians in the U.S., many of whom have made a tremendous impact for the kingdom. You come away from the book thinking you have to be a missionary to be obedient. That’s not true.

All in all, it’s a decent book. But I’d recommend Kingdom Come before Radical.

3.5/5 stars.

 

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

The ideas in this book are phenomenal, and Covey does a pretty good job explaining these “habits,” why they’re important, and how to implement them into your daily life. I skimmed several pages, though, because at times he says the same thing two or three different ways. I would’ve enjoyed the book more if he hadn’t done that.

There’s a book that is a summary of Seven Habits. I haven’t read it, but that seems like a better option than reading the entirety of Seven Habits. I really think everyone should read about Covey’s seven habits because they can be a game changer. But a good summary is all you need, not the whole book.

4/5 stars.

 

Culture

In One Way or Another, We Should Always Be Praying for Our Political Leaders

I’m likely going to ruffle some feathers in this article, although it’s not because I’m trying to. What I’m about to suggest is pretty docile. It’s tranquil, it’s quiet, and no one even has to know about it. But…I’m going to mention the T word, and people get riled up just at the mention of his name.

Christians are known for many things in terms of political involvement. All those things are probably running through your head right now, either positive or negative. I’d like for us to be known more for something else: praying for our political leaders.

Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Yes, all those in authority.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. What about Hitler? What about Stalin or Mao or Kim Jong Un? I’d ask you this: what do you think? Would you pray for God to give them wisdom? Or would you pray for God to change their hearts? Or would you refuse to pray for them on account of their wickedness?

If we believe prayer is powerful, I’m not sure how the last option is, well, an option. If I had been in Nazi Germany, I would’ve been begging God to change Hitler’s heart or put a stop to his reign or something along those lines. And if I lived in North Korea now, I’m not sure “Give Kim Jong Un wisdom” would be my prayer. But nevertheless, one way or another, prayer is integral in the church’s quest to stop a wicked ruler.

In America we have a better situation than the ones I just mentioned. We can ask God to give our leaders wisdom. And yes, in some cases, we should pray that someone would be removed from office. Whether we like our leaders or not, we should be praying. The Bible tells us to.

Now, again, I know what some people may be thinking. Trump’s a lunatic! I could never pray for him! Really? Jesus was scourged and nailed to a cross for you even though you’ve sinned against him countless times and you can’t pray for Trump? After what Jesus did for you, you should be able to pray for anyone. I’m not saying you have to ask God to bless him marvelously, but you can pray that he repents of his sins and comes to know God deeply. You don’t have to like him or approve of what he does to pray that.

I’m not saying you can’t protest his actions. If he’s done wrong, let him and others know. If you feel he should be impeached, you can express that. But everything should be undergirded by prayer. And so you know, I’m not a fan of Trump’s treatment of women and other things he’s said and done.

It just seems like everyone is talking, and no one is bowing their head.

 

If you are interested in submitting an article or would like more information on The Remnant, visit “The Remnant E-Magazine” page at the top right of this website.

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