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

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

Diversity in unity, found in Christ

Throughout our times we find much division. Just as any time in history the world is divided by all sorts of conflicts. Years ago, most of the world was divided by geography. People identified with the land they were born with. As time as gone on, we now identify more with religion, political ideas, food diets, health regiments, phone brands, hobbies and sports. Some of these divisions are petty and light-hearted, some run very deep and are the most malignant of divisions.

In Christ, we are one. Those who are Christians can gather with no sort of divisions between them. True, practicing Christians who love one another have no such wars or fightings among themselves. This really struck me when I was reading Galatians. In Galatians 2, Paul is speaking about false doctrine. He was preaching against some heresy that was in the church, specifically the preaching of following the old Jewish law.

In verse 3, he says, “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:”

Paul was a Jewish  man and a Pharisee at that. He was the Jewish religious elite. He also was a Roman citizen. And he was preaching and traveling with Titus- who was Greek.

This wasn’t something that was necessarily spoken about, or mentioned a lot. In fact, it seemed perfectly natural, his only mentioning of it was because it was important to the conversation. Otherwise, it didn’t need to be mentioned. Christ had unified them, there was no need for discussion about their backgrounds or culture or race.

This is Christianity, this is true Christianity. Christ said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

It doesn’t mention nationality, it doesn’t mention race, it doesn’t mention politics. It just says “have love one to another”

If you have added anything else, you’re doing it wrong.

 

When your friends arent there for you

I happens. You may be going through the worst time in your life, and your best friend doesn’t seem to care. They skip out on lunch, forget plans, never notice how down you are . . . They’re absorbed in themselves and they forget to care for you. In those moments, your response matters greatly. You can wallow in self pity and weakness, or you can rise above.

Jesus had his friends fail Him at the worst time in His life. And yet He still loved them. We found the account in Luke 22. Jesus is submitting His will to the Fathers. He is about to go to the cross to be crucified, and He is in great agony. He tells the disciples.

“And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”

Did you notice how Jesus was concerned about them? He didn’t say “pray with me for moral support” No, He told them to pray for their own sakes. Even at the most agonizing part of His life, He was still caring for them.

In the next verses we see how much agony Christ was in. It says, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” His body was under so much stress and torment from the inner turmoil He faced that His body was mixing blood with His sweat. Within the next few moments, He came back to the disciples.

“And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,” They were sleeping for sorrow. Their own sorrow. They weren’t concerned about Him necessarily. The word sorrow could be translated exhaustion. They were tired, so they were sleeping. They had not a care that Christ was under so much pressure.

Christ’s response?

“Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”

He was still concerned about them. He never faltered in His selflessness. He wanted them to live a life free of sin and failure to temptation. He loved them.

I don’t know how I would have reacted in such a situation. I probably would have felt hurt, betrayed, uncared for, or unloved. I might have become angry, or started and argument. But Christ? He was loving them. He had forgotten about Himself and His needs. He was completely fulfilled by the Father, ready to pour out Himself and love those around Him.

Is that how you are when friends betray you or disregard your struggles. I would ask you to pray and ask God to help you become a better friend. Ask Him to teach you how to love others even it would seem that you are the one who needs the most help or support. Don’t be a martyr, or be afraid to ask for companionship when you need it, but don’t allow other’s actions to bring you to selfishness.

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

And also much cattle

I don’t know about you, but other than wishing my dog would be in heaven, I always imagined that the animals were pretty unimportant. Yes, you can call me heartless, but I always seemed to think that since the animals didn’t have souls (or so I think) that they were just as unimportant as the rocks or anything else in the landscape.

The Bible teaches us differently. On several occasions, God mentions the idea that He values animals.

One classic example is Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” God speaks of sparrows, an animal that we do not regard worth much at all, and God says that He notices every time one dies. The King of the universe notices when a bird dies. That’s powerful.

Another time, God is speaking to Jonah about Nineveh. He says, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”

God doesn’t want to destroy 120,000 people if He doesn’t want to. And did you catch the last part- almost like it was thrown in at the end? He didn’t want to destroy the cattle. God cared about the herds of cattle as well as the people.

In proverbs 12, we find, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” I think in this verse we find the summary and the application of this thought. As a god-fearing person, we should treat animals with respect.

Yes, God created them for us to use and enjoy, but we should not use our authority and dominance for cruelty. Christians should be at the forefront of many causes for treating animals with respect. I’m not speaking of refraining from eating meat, which was allowed and commanded in many places(1, 2, 3, 4), but there is a decency with recognizing that animals do have worth. And not just to us, but to God as well.

Animals should be treated with kindness. It’s one way we show our respect for God and His creation.

I challenge you, take a moment to consider if there are ways you can honor God more but treating the lives of His creatures with more kindness or respect.

What if you lost a finger?

Around 8 months ago, I stepped on a scale and my jaw dropped. I was like, I do not weigh ___. I do not. I was horrified. I knew I was not healthy, but it had been so gradual, that I never noticed how terrible it was.

Something finally clicked inside of me and I decided that this was not ok. Determination or desperation grasped me and without knowing how, I knew I would find a way to become healthy. Eventually, I found a plan and I stuck with it. Over the next months I consistently restricted my diet and exercised without wavering, and I lost over 50 pounds. I’m not telling you this so you can be impressed, but because I want to share an idea with you.

You see, I had always wanted to lose weight. For over ten years I had been saying I needed to. But I didn’t NEED to. I wasn’t desperate. I wasn’t determined. If I could lose weight, or eat cake . . . well the cake might win or it might not. And that’s how I lived. Saying I cared, but living like I didn’t.

I feel like that’s how we are often in our Christian walk. We have addictions and pet sins. And we say, “I need to stop doing x.” But we don’t feel like we NEED to. You see, we’ve become accustomed to our sinful stumbling Christian walk. Just like I had become accustomed to carrying around an extra 50+ pounds.

Changing our lifestyle would be uncomfortable. And we don’t feel the pressing urging need to change.

Christ once said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

That’s how seriously Jesus took sin. This verse is mainly speaking about salvation and coming to Christ initially, but it still carries the meaning of the seriousness of sin.

Take a moment and consider.

What are you allowing in your life that is unwholesome? What sin are you aware of, and comfortable with?

Take that sin, and picture it right now.

Would you let someone chop off one of your fingers so you could do it again?  Willingly be maimed for life:

Because you felt like gossiping about your coworker.

Because you wanted a second piece of cake.

Because you wanted to think an immoral thought.

Because you wanted to: Fill in the Blank.

Does it bring an entire new meaning to taking sin seriously?

It does to me. I would never sacrifice a piece of my body so I could eat a piece of cake, or do any of those things.

And yet we sacrifice our fellowship with God- something far more valuable than our bodies- for a moment of pleasure.

Last night I met with an old friend who noticed my transformation. I told him excitedly how I had decided one day and it all came into place. He looked away wistfully,

“I wish I could lose weight like that”

Immediately I jumped in, “You can, just do this and this!” I began to explain my journey. He shrugged his shoulders,

“Ahhh, I don’t feel like doing all that, it’s such a hassle. ”

I walked away so full of sadness. I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the times pastors have told me to do daily devotions, pray, or seek God – and I said to myself,

“I wish I could have spiritual victory, but that’s such a hassle.”

 

When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.

Jesus didn’t heal some people

I think we talk a lot about the people Jesus healed. And he healed a lot of people. But there were some He didn’t heal. Obviously some never came to Him, but some did, and he did not heal them. The Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time taking about it, but still, it is mentioned. And I think it’s important to understand.

In Luke 5, we are told, “But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”

Christ had people all around him, they were hungry to hear His words. They were anxious to be healed. They wanted His power in their lives . . .

And He left.

That doesn’t quite sound like the Jesus we all hear about.

I think we imagine Jesus healing people constantly, nonstop. Whoever came, Jesus gave them His full attention. But this was not the case. It says here, that this time, Jesus withdrew himself.

In order to understand why Christ wasn’t healing and teaching, I think we must examine what He was doing. He was going to get some private time with God. Christ needed communion with the Father.

Let me give you an observation.

If God needed some peace and quiet in prayer when he was here, you do too.

Our society is filled with workaholics, super soccer moms that never take a break, pastors working themselves to exhaustion, our way of life is business to the point we forget our purpose and our perspective.

We get so involved with our work, our ministry, our family, and the needs of others, we forget our most basic need- God.

Jesus recognized that He needed a break. He needed to recharge. He needed the fellowship of the Father.

And why?

So he could minister to those people who needed him.

He didn’t take a break for Himself. He took a break so He could give of Himself again.

Let me exhort you, you can’t give any more when you’re empty. Sometimes you need to look away from the need around you, and recognize the need within you. If you aren’t able to recharge in the presence of God, you will be burned out.

Workaholics may eventually find themselves without purpose other than work. Super moms can run so ragged they can no longer give to their family, and they find themselves feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. Pastors can lose their way, and become susceptible to spiritual attack.

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Wait on the Lord. Listen to His leading and calling. Perhaps you might need a refuge in prayer. Perhaps you might need to leave the need around you, and let God fill the need within you.

Imagine hearing truth from Hitler

What if I told you that you should be kind to other people? Would you take that as something to be listened to? Would you take it to heart?

Now imagine your most hated enemy. Or perhaps it’s someone that hates you. Think of someone you hate the most, from history or from current times. Think of Hitler, Stalin, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, a terrorist who wants to kill you. What if they were here, and they told you to be kind to other people? How would you receive it?

In John 4, a woman is confronted by a similar situation. The Jews and the Samaritans had an old hateful relationship. The Jews resented the Samaritans because they were “half-breeds” with the Assyrians. And the Samaritans hated the Jews right back. There was a lot of animosity, and they were not on speaking terms.

So in the story in John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Immediately she is on guard, and she asks him, why he is talking to her. As the conversation continues, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah and He changes the woman’s life. She in turn goes back to the town and invites all them men to meet Christ and know His transforming power.

Now I ask you, what if that woman couldn’t see past Jesus’ Jewish heritage? Where would she have gone? How would her story had ended? She opened her heart, even though Jesus was a Jew. She chose to see past the hate.

I would like to pose the idea to you, that God has many ways of teaching us. He may want to teach us through our pastor or trusted friends, or He may use someone we don’t like. Sometimes God brings people in our lives to teach us things and these people we may not especially like. I challenge you, look past the outer shell and see the person on inside. Don’t let hate, bigotry, or stereotypes determine how you treat someone or whether you listen to them.

God uses everyone, don’t ever let your views of other people limit God’s working in your life.

For the Samaritan woman, looking past her feelings about Jews totally changed her life. She had a special talk with Christ, and it left her different. Imagine how God might speak to you if you listened for His leading despite the source.