Is it okay, to be angry?

I’ve always heard it preached, that anger is okay. People would quote Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not:” and say, “Look! You can be angry, as long as you aren’t sinning.” This made perfect sense to me, and I took it as truth. But in time I’ve come to find another verse not far away, it says:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” Ephesians 4:31

Wait.

So isn’t that a contradiction? One verse tells us to be angry and not sin, and the other tells us to put our anger away? How can this be?

On another note, multiple verses tell us to be “slow to anger.” So anger is permissible, but only if you are not quick to anger?

With all of these thoughts, let us turn to our ultimate example- Christ.

It may surprise you that Jesus was angry upon multiple accounts. One time is mentioned in Mark 3. Jesus is about to heal the a man in the synagogue. He challenges the Pharisees ideas and they do not reply. In that moment, He was very angry. It says that he looked around at them in anger. Then, he healed the man.

Notice Jesus didn’t become violent, He didn’t act out in anger. He kept to His purpose. He continued His ministry. He continued to love. And from everything we read in that passage,

He moved on.

I think the answer to the anger question is simple.

In our anger, we should not sin. So that means we don’t lose control. But more than this, we don’t lose our focus. Not sinning in anger is more than just not yelling at someone, or not punching them in the face. No. It’s much more. In order for us to have anger in it’s proper place, we must be able to

Be angry, and still love

Be angry, and still prefer others above ourselves

Be angry, and still have Christ as our supreme focus, delight, and desire.

I have come to this conclusion, which I ask you to consider carefully before you accept. If our anger detracts, deters, or detours us from any objective- it is sin. If we flicker in our devotion to God. If we glance away from His plan for our lives. If we use it as an momentary occasion for pride, it is sin. If we feel anger as a reaction to an affront against us, instead of being angry for the sake of God’s honor, it is sin.

I do not know what kind of anger you have known, but my anger is most assuredly always an occasion of pride. It is always a moment of “How dare they ____ to me.” My anger is always in defense of what I think I “deserve.” True humility and love teaches me that I deserve nothing. And I need no defense.

I truly believe, if we are angry, it should be on behalf of God, and not ourselves.

If you have known this righteous anger, then I salute you, but there is still another aspect to consider. Ephesians 4:31 says, we must put our anger away. No matter how righteous your anger is, it will not be righteous for long, if you allow it to stay. The children of God must not live in a spirit of anger. We must not let it dwell in our hearts. Read the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . .

Do these all coexist with a heart full of anger, I think not. Let us be like our glorious Creator, of which it has been said,

“The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to angerand abounding in mercy.”

Psalm 103:8

 

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Who is neighbor?

People who rise to success seem to have a similar trait in common. They didn’t give up. You’ve heard this time and time again, over and over. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” The little engine that could and others . . . Our culture, as many others, are inundated with stories, myths, and fables of those who refused to give up.

Giving up is a result of discouragement, sometimes discouragement comes because we don’t believe that our objective is possible, sometimes it’s because we feel like a failure, and the more effort we put into a thing, the more like a failure we will feel. So in the end, it’s easier to just give up and stop putting in effort. But let me pause for a minute, and switch ideas- I promise I’ll come back.

In Luke 10, we find a fascinating and slightly ironic story of Jesus educating a lawyer on the law. The lawyer starts out with asking about the commandment to love God with all of your ability, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus answers his question that if he does only that, he will be saved. The lawyer then counters,

“Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answers with the story of the good samaritain. If you’ve never read it, I invite you to read it now. (Luke 10:30-36) At the end of the story, Jesus asks, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

Did you notice the difference?

The Lawyer wanted to know who should I love according to the law. “Who is my neighbor?”

Christ answered and asked, “Who was the neighbor?”

The lawyer wanted to know what was required of him. What should I do? What is my duty?

Jesus answers by demonstrating, it’s not about what you’ve done, or what you do- but who you are?

The fascinating principle here, is that even though the law says “love your neighbor” according to Christ, we should understand that to mean, Be someones neighbor. Be a person who loves.

So let us return to our thought of the path to success. Life isn’t about how much you do, or what you can accomplish. It’s not about finding the absolute borderline of your “duty” and going no farther.

Life is about who you become at the end of it.

The secret to success isn’t about doing something and succeeding at it. It’s about being a person who perseveres until they achieve success. Once we have that in mind, failure does not come as often. If you redefine success in this way, it is hard to become discouraged. If you can look in the mirror and know who you are, that you are a person who is better than they were before, then you are a success.

We can’t control the results of our good work, but we can control our determination to continue good work.

Just like that lawyer learned, life isn’t about fulfilling a specific requirements but about becoming a person who fulfills them by nature. Success isn’t mustering up the courage to keep going as much as it being a person who simply lives a life of perseverance because that is who they are.

Is your hand still in your dish?

Laying in bed, I didn’t want to get up. The sun shone in through my widow, beckoning me to enjoy its warmth outside. And the thought of being outside seemed wonderful, but I didn’t want to get up, get dressed, or do anything before I absolutely had to.

Fast forward an hour or two, I was frantically rushing out of bed, into my work clothes and out the door without barely a thought towards my lack of breakfast. I had wasted my morning because I did not desire to put forth any effort or work into it.

Have you ever behaved this way?

If so, you and I are not alone.

In Proverbs 26:15 we find an example of laziness which sums up the essence of such behavior. “The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth.”

Think about being so lazy, that you don’t want to give the effort to feed yourself. You might think, “I could never be so lazy!”

But could you?

This is a metaphor for how laziness keeps us from doing the very things which would bring us pleasure, fulfillment, and more out of life.

Do you avoid organizing your living quarters because it would take so much effort?

Do you slack on preparing meals for yourself until the last minute?

Do you skip tasks you know need to get done because you don’t feel like it?

Do you dress yourself out of your hamper instead of your closet or bureau?

Perhaps many of these examples do not apply to you, but do you have unfinished tasks that you are avoiding? Things you know you could do to improve your life, but are slack to do because of the effort.

Imagine if every task you thought of doing had been done. Your work space was organized, your yard was clean, your morning routine was always completed. Think of that book you might have finished, the time you would have to put effort into fulfilling recreation, instead of simply scrolling on your phone, that side business you could have made, those hobbies you could have pursued, that world class vacation you could have take from the proceeds of your book and side business.

Chances are, not all of these are relevant to you. But take a moment and think of where your laziness has brought you. The stress of being late to work. Spending extra money to make up for your lack of time. Those treasured memories of doing absolutely nothing and procrastinating.

Laziness is not your friend.

I challenge you, discipline yourself to improve your life in every area that you can. Banish laziness from your life. Don’t refuse to put forth the effort to nourish yourself spiritually, mentally, or physically. Laziness is knowing exactly what you should be doing, but refusing to be profitable by doing it, for the reason of nothing but your own desire for self gratification.

It’s time we put such a wicked behavior to rest. It’s time we live for God and life for His purpose. We cannot be lazy for God’s glory.  So let us lay it aside.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

 

Spiritual amputees

In all our lives we can feel weak. We can feel emotionally or spiritually disabled. The sin that we’ve been born with has caused us to loose a part of ourselves. We are all, in a sense, spiritual amputees. We cannot love. We cannot have faith. We cannot do good.

Romans tells us, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

“They are together become unprofitable”

Basically everyone on this earth is useless.

But we don’t all feel that way do we? The rich man feels that he is better than the poor man. The strong man feels  he is better than the weakling. The ruler feels he is better than the commoner. In our own little world, we give glory to those who we see as wise or strong. We erect these measures of status and profitability for our own comparisons among each other. We become disillusioned and blinded to the true measure and standard of God’s power and worthiness.

God doesn’t want to leave us in this false world of fake and useless status, so He shakes things up a bit.

In Corinthians we find, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

God basically reveals himself by taking those considered weak, and making them strong. He takes the poor man, and uses him to show up the rich man.

He takes a bunch of lowly fishermen, and transforms them into apostles who revolutionize the demographics and belief systems of the entire world. He chooses Gideon, who was lowly in status, to lead an army of very few to defeat a massive army. He takes a life as common and lowly as yours or mine and uses it to make a difference for His glory.

So next time you feel as if you have nothing to offer God. Or that you don’t measure up. Or that you don’t have the tools to succeed. Realize that might just be what God is looking for. God can use anyone. He can use the strongest person in the room. But He seeks out the weakest. He chooses the foolish. He plans to use the ones no one would ever expect, to do the things they could never do on their own. And why? So the world can know all the things they value and esteem worthy of praise are worth nothing. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable. Everyone is useless without Him. There is not exception. There is no comparison worth making between us.

“That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29

 

Don’t look down!

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.I think a lot of times we take a passive and defensive approach when we fight temptation. This powerful draw or pull we experience towards the carnal and wicked desires of our flesh is something we must “not give into” instead of something we must overcome.

Temptation is a powerful foe. And it is a powerful force. But the approach of “to not give in” leaves us with very little to do but to concentrate on both our potential and desire for sin, and ourselves. Ironically focusing on both of these can actually lead us to fall to temptation.

The word of God illustrates temptation and sin in many ways. One of them is the idea of falling. The first sin ever committed is known as the “fall of man.” And we say it all the time. Falling into sin. Falling to temptation.  Now think about falling. It’s allowing gravity to have it’s way. That force is always pulling on us, but we don’t fall all the time. We fall when we become unbalanced. But more importantly, we fall when we cease to stand.

I’ve never started my day thinking, “I hope I don’t trip on the stairs today.” or “I hope I don’t loose my balance when I’m walking.” And I doubt you often think such thoughts either.

No, we simply think about all the things we have to do. We have tasks of varying importance and responsibilities to fulfill. We’re not focused on the idea of failure, we’re focused on the idea of success.

Why is it then, that in our Christian life, we can become so focused on “not messing up.” I know for myself, I can become easily involved in that defensive approach to life. I don’t want to give into eating that cookie, or having that lustful thought. I don’t want to give into covetousness, or allow pride in my life.

The Bible tells us again and again to resist temptation. Resist the devil. Fight against sin. And we must do all of that. But we must remember that our Christian walk is more than just learning to say no to things. The focus is so much higher and the purpose is so much richer.

Colossians 3 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Did you notice to focus of this verse? Seeking what is above. Our key to defeating temptation is not wrapped up in saying “no” to wickedness as much as it involves saying “yes” to righteousness.

Saying no to that cookie will only get you so far. Contrast it with being wrapped up in healthy meal planning and intentional nutrition.

Saying no to lustful thoughts will only help so much. Contrast it with purposing to meditate on God’s Word and direct your thoughts towards honoring God.

The illustrations can go on and on.

When we continue reading in Colossians 3 we see several verses which touch on leaving behind and taking off sinful lifestyles, but the vast majority of verses following continue to focus on righteous and holy living. I would submit to you that this is the balance that our lives require.

Realizing how Christ has called us to focus on things above. Putting off what is filthy. And putting on the righteousness He has prepared and provided for us.

You don’t shout, “Don’t fall” to a tightrope walker, and you don’t say, “Don’t miss” to your buddy trying to shoot a basket. Don’t tell yourself- “Don’t sin!” in your Christian walk.

When you’re up high and in danger of falling, you don’t look down, because focusing on failure will make it harder to succeed. Don’t make such a fatal mistake in your Christian walk. Don’t focus on the temptation you must overcome or the sin you must avoid. Focus on the King of rightesousness who provides a way of escape, the One who died to make you a new creature, and the wonderful life of purpose He has planned for you.

The God of water, and the God of wine

Christians seem to typically fall into two extremes when it comes to understanding God’s provision in our lives. Blessings, pleasure, and enjoyment are all sometimes difficult to fathom in their relation to God’s plan.

Many earlier Christians and several today seem to believe that God did not want us to enjoy ourselves. That pleasure is carnal and misery is spiritual. Monks that starve themselves, eat boring food, barely speak, and whip themselves come to mind. Self-denial with the purpose of enlightening the soul is a practice that Christians have embraced from time to time.

A few earlier Christians, and many today. Believe that God desires our pleasure almost above all else. That He will consistently provide blessings and pleasure and happiness without regard to the inconsistent obedience we may show in our lives.

Both of these are wrong. God provides for our needs because He knows our needs and He promises to fulfill them. God provides much for our pleasure because He wants to show His love for us in that way.

God provides for our needs. When Israel was in the desert, they needed water. So He provided water. He didn’t give them sparkling soda, or coconut water, or papaya juice. He didn’t give them every variety. Just what they needed. And that was okay. He didn’t have to provide anything else. His promises didn’t require anything else either. He promised a land with milk and honey, for now, they had water.

God gives us blessings and pleasures from His goodness and by his prerogative. At the wedding at Cana, they ran out of wine. Jesus Christ, God on earth, was there and noticed it. By Mary’s faith, she requested that he fulfill the need. Jesus answered by turning water into wine. The thing is, they could have drank water. Honestly. Nobody “needed” wine. God provided it anyway. God who made the beauty in the sky and the flowers of the field and the immense variety of foods to eat, wants us to enjoy ourselves – in the contest of putting Him first. He wants us to be content with water. But I would suggest that when we are, He is just waiting to give us “wine.”

God promised to provide our necessities. He is not obligated to provide our pleasures. He does both out of His loving and generous heart. And when God gives us blessings to enjoy, they are the better than anyone else could offer.

As in the wedding at Cana, not only did God provide wine to enjoy instead of water, He provided the best wine. Wine so good it impressed the ruler of the feast and he complimented the groom on saving the best wine for last.

 

God provides wonderful blessings to us when we obey Him. Let us praise Him for His goodness!

“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” – Psalm 104:14-15

God is the God of water. And He is the God of wine.

He is also the God of quail. Check back next time for a more complete understanding of how pleasures and necessities fit into God’s plan.

Nothing wavering

Faith is such a simple thing, and yet oftentimes it seems to be so difficult. Faith is something that God demands of us as His followers. He says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

In order to come to God, we need to come in faith. We need to realize that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. And in that statement comes the idea that we will seek Him diligently. If the King of all the Universe says He will reward you if you seek Him diligently, and you believe Him, how could you decide not to seek Him?

Having true faith in the reward, brings us to work for it.

Have you been seeking God lately? Have you been seeking Him diligently?

If not, you may want to check your faith. Have you spent time in the Word? Are you truly believing in His vision for your life? Do you need to pursue Him more?

I know for me, I definitely need to.  It is far too easy for me to become lax in my eagerness to seek out God.

One more part of this faith is having it without wavering. James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Here James is talking about asking God for wisdom, but the faith aspect applies to any time we ask God for something.

God tells us to ask in faith, without wavering.

Think about a person who wavers, if they are unsure of everything, or if God will answer, why would it glorify God to give them anything? When they get it, they will not glorify God or praise Him for His goodness. They will not see that the answer is from God. They will not point others to Christ.

God is jealous for the glory He deserves, and what’s more, He wants His gifts to bring us closer to Him. He wants us to come to Him without wavering. He wants us to see Him as the source of all goodness and reward. That is why He asks for faith in Him.

So I invite you, search the scriptures, build your faith, refuse to waver, and see God’s reward for diligently seeking Him.

It doesn’t matter what you need from Christ, wisdom, grace, understanding, or simply help. If you’re tired, if you’re weary, if you’re lost- go to Him.

He is the source of everything we need. Won’t you seek Him without wavering today?

Right desires, right conflict

Countless songs, articles, speeches, and books have been given about the stupidity of war. War is dumb. War is insane. War is useless. What is it good for? Our society, though it is secular, recognizes that war is often petty, useless, and completely damaging. We are quick and apt to point out the problems of wars between countries.

But what about wars between individuals?

We find ourselves in wars amongst ourselves all the time. That passive aggressive person at work you try to get back at. Road rage and wanting that parking space. Fighting with siblings, spouses, or parents. Fighting for our own selves. Warring for our pride, our wants, and our desires.

These should not be.

James 4:1 says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

War and fighting usually come from lust. They come from unholy desires. Instead of giving everything to God, we desire to hold back something for ourselves.

But how then, you might ask, should we correct evil, or fight for right? War is not always wrong when it is fought against tyranny and wrongdoing.

And yes, you are right. Corrective action is needed with people and with nations. Sometimes discussion is necessary, and sometimes violence. All of this should come from a right desire. A desire to protect the helpless. A desire to promote justice. A desire to help someone live a better life.

When your desires are right and you are seeking peace and restitution, your conflict is correct. But when it comes from a desire to promote yourself over another person or in spite of them, your conflict is petty and useless.

War over lust, pride, and egos is worthless.

Conflict with right intentions is what we must seek.

“You!” “Don’t harden your heart!”

You know the stereotypical grumpy old man. He complains. He criticizes. He backbites. He always has something negative to say or comment- and if he doesn’t- He settles the mood with a disproving grunt. Grumpy old men weren’t born grumpy. They became grumpy.

It took time. It took years probably. And it took choice.

One day at a time, a young man decided to be bitter. He decided to be unthankful. He decided to be critical.

He chose that life, one small choice at a time.

The Bible calls out to God’s people repeatedly, especially the people of Israel. “Harden not your hearts” Hebrews 3:8

We see this phrase, and similar ones repeated often.

Somehow I had always read over this without thinking. Without realizing what it was actually saying. It was a command.

“You!” “Don’t harden your heart!”

I seemed to imagine that a persons heart became hard over time by default. Like a rough life, bad background, and less than perfect upbringing caused a person to develop a hard heart.

While those may play a part, that isn’t the real cause. Individual choices make for a hard heart. That cranky complaining old woman is that way because she decided to be so. And so is that sweethearted hospitable woman you know. That sweet old man is kind because he chose kindness. And the grumpy man is grumpy only because of His choices.

We all have hard times and unfair circumstances fall on us. And some more than others. We aren’t doomed to be a product of our circumstances. We can choose to live a virtuous life, one filled with love and kindness.

When God called out to the Israelites, He was asking them not to reject His call to serve and worship Him. If you are a Christian, praise God you have answered that call. But you are not done there. God calls on us to do many things. To live selflessly. To forgive others. To give to the poor. Every command is a calling from God.

“You!”

“Don’t harden your heart!”

Lofty looks will bow down

Have you ever spent time with a person who only wants to talk about themselves. They are only interested in their own accomplishments and experiences, their own life and interests. They’re annoying to be around right? And you probably wonder how boring their life must be if all they have to talk about is themselves.

Well I have another question for you. Have you ever been that person?

You get to the end of the night and you realize you never invested in anyone. You never asked someone about their day. You didn’t care enough to try to share the conversation.

I know I have.

It’s not a good feeling when you realize how uncaring you can be. How disinterested in the lives of others you can be.

In Isaiah 2, God speaks of a time when He will reign in the earth. He makes it clear that such pride will not be tolerated.

“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.”

God’s perfect plan is that He is to be exalted. That is the only acceptable way for us to live.

But you might ask, “How could I exalt God in my conversations with other people?”

In Matthew 25:34-40 we find a fascinating glimpse into the way God will judge the world. When people are waiting to receive reward, Christ tells them, that the goodness they showed to His children He counted as goodness towards Him.

If they gave someone a glass of water- essentially they had given a glass of water to God. If they gave someone clothes, they had given Him clothes.

It’s truly a fascinating thought.

So let me pose to you the idea. If you were talking to Christ, would you monopolize the conversation? Or would you let Him speak? Would you speak only about your day and your experiences? Or would you ask Him about His?

This is in turn how we are acting when we treat His children with so little regard. Taking the time to consider God’s children and the love they might need is an integral part of considering and exalting God.

So let us strive to love others in the little things. Take the time to consider others. Think about what they might need from you more than what you want.

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Phil 2:4

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” – Matthew 25:40