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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Be afflicted, and mourn

What comes to mind when you think of humility? Think of the actions or lifestyle of a humble person.

Is it graceful? Is it poised? Does it exhibit class and refinery?

I believe most of us would say yes to all those questions. Humility is the epitome of etiquette and grace, charm and affableness. Humility- putting others above oneself- is at the very core of politeness. People who exhibit humility are in every way leading the world in manners and conduct.

Humility is respectable.

Humility is graceful.

Humility is poised.

Humility is also commanded by God. In James we are told, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10

Such a wonderful promise. Just before this promise we find another such comforting verse. It says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8

This verse really describes what is necessary in our lives. Drawing nigh to God, and cleansing and purifying ourselves. In between these verses is a verse that I often notice as overlooked.

It doesn’t sound pleasant, and it’s not such a wonderful comforting idea. But it is absolutely essential to understanding humility.

It says, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”

Take a moment and read that verse a second time.

Does that sound like the victorious Christian life? It may not, but it definitely is.

It probably doesn’t sound like a chapter of our lives we want put on display. Being afflicted, mourning, weeping- these are all things that are nothing close to pleasant. We would’t show that side of us to the public, we wouldn’t feel so happy about posting about that on social media.

 

In essence, the path to humility is frought with unpleasantness. It is far from picture perfect moments. It is a stranger to comforts and pleasant feelings. The path to humility is affliction (hard toil), is is weeping, and it is mourning.

The Bible tells us to Humble ourselves in sight of God.

We put that on plaques and signs in our home. Do we read it with joy and forget what it means? Humbling yourself in the sight of God is not something you can do without being changed. It requires surrendering your pleasant and happy thoughts, and getting down to see the filth that you really are.

Giving up your dignity.

Weeping over your sin.

It is for the moment grievous, but for all eternity is is supreme joy.

God says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

If you are willing to mourn over your sin, and be afflicted over it; God will raise you up.

Won’t you humble yourself today?

Wake up and pray!

“FAILURE TO FOLLOW SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS!!!”

The Chief Petty officer screamed at a cadet. I was glad I wasn’t him. This was the third time he was repeating that phrase. Someone in the company had messed up something excruciatingly simple. I was so glad it wasn’t me. I remember hearing that phrase all through the military youth boot camp I was a part of. Over and over they repeated it. It stuck with me- to this day. How simple our lives would be if we followed the simple instructions we are given.

Have you ever been told to do a specific thing- and then you do the opposite?

Your teacher: “Make sure you study hard.”  You: *Don’t study*

Your boss: “Don’t be late to this meeting”     You: *Come late*

Dentist: “Brush your teeth!”  You: *don’t brush*

Being human can be difficult. But we don’t have to make it more difficult. A lot of times we know exactly what we need to be doing- and we don’t do it. This leads to all sorts of issues we never had to face otherwise. We knew what was needed. Why didn’t we just do it?

In Matthew 26 we find just such an occasion. Jesus tells His disciples to watch and pray. And that word watch, means to stay awake and to be awake. So he literally says to them, “Stay awake and pray with me.”

The reason?

So they wouldn’t fall into temptation.

If you know the story of the disciples in Gethsemane, you know they all fell asleep- more than once. Jesus came back to find them sleeping – three different times. Later on, when the temptation came, they all fell. They ran away from Jesus like scared rabbits. They denied Him and were in fear for their lives, instead of standing in faith.

All because they didn’t follow simple instructions.

A lot of our lives are like this. How much temptation of lust, pride, fear, and selfishness could we avoid if we simply would remain spiritually awake and pray. I mean, when’s the last time you struggled with self control immediately after genuinely praying and studying God’s word? It’s kinda hard right?

Isn’t it interesting how the Christian life is so simple. Pray. Humble yourself. Ask God to teach you. Pray some more. Meditate on God’s word. Study the scriptures. Encourage one another.

Nothing is that hard. Nothing requires exhaustive study and contemplation.

And yet, like the disciples, we struggle.

I challenge you, whatever simple things you are failing to do. Find them, and do them.

Watch and pray.

Stay awake and pray.

Don’t let your life take whatever course is comfortable.

Stand up. Stay awake. Pray.

You will avoid so many struggles, if you do.

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.

A Christian in motion . . .

If you roll a ball on the floor, it will eventually stop. If you take your foot of the pedal while you’re on the highway, your car will slow down. If you grab your sled in the winter and go speeding down that snow covered hill, when you reach the bottom, you will stop.

It seems like nature is fighting against you with friction. If you try to move in a direction, friction makes it difficult, and eventually makes you stop.

It is interesting to note, that our spiritual lives are not this way. In our spiritual lives there is no standing still, and there is no friction. We are constantly moving, towards serving God or towards serving sin.

There is no in between, there is no fence, and contrary to what many might say, there is no gray area. There is service to the King, and there is rebellion.

If we move towards sin, it pulls us in. I once heard it said that sin keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs more than you want to pay. If you serve sin, you relinquish control over your life. Liars find themselves in perpetual lies. Thieves rarely decide they’ve had enough. And anyone who has had an addiction knows that the hold of sin and destructive behavior is very strong. Once you take a step towards sin, you’ve signed a blank check, an open contract with the terms and conditions not filled in.

If you move towards Christ, it is the same. Obedience in one area leads to obedience in many. Once you surrender, you cannot help but be transformed. A true honest following of God will lead to ultimate transformation and blessing. God even helps you! In James, we are told, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”

Did you catch that?

If you move towards God- He moves towards you. God will accelerate your intimacy and growth with Him when you initiate. In a sense, A christian in motion (towards God) will result in God in motion. (towards them) Isn’t that fascinating?

We learn also in the Scriptures, “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal 6:8

The harvest is always bigger than the seed that is sown. And so it is with our actions.

Our actions may be small, but they can have enormous consequences- for good or ill.

So I ask you, Won’t you take some steps toward God today?

He is waiting, He loves you, He wants to make it easy.

And He promises to step toward you, if you do.

What does the Lord require?

I want you to imagine that you have a significant other that you’re telling how much you love them, and imagine you haven’t gone on a date with them for a few months, you barely call them- only when you need something, and you never do anything they ask you to do.

How long would that last?

How long would you stay if you were treated this way?

Probably not long for either question.

Love requires and demands evidence in every relationship. Words are not enough. Expensive gifts are not enough. Public declarations are not enough. It requires our heart.

It’s the same with God. He wants our hearts.

Psalm 51:16 says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Matthew 5:18 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

God wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to care. He wants us to keep His love and commandments on our mind. It’s not enough for us to say we love Him. It’s not enough for us to give to the church. We have to mean it. Nothing in this world can substitute our wholehearted commitment to Him.

Commitment means obedience, commitment means prayer, commitment means thought put into your relationship.

You may have that special someone. And you may not be able to spend time with them right now. You may not be able to give them expensive gifts. You may not be able to take them on dates. But if they know that they have your heart (your commitment)- your relationship will last.

With God, you may not have many talents to give Him, you may not have the years to give Him just as a younger person could, and you may not have any special skills to offer.

God only wants your heart. He wants your love, your commitment, and your full obedience and reverence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, that you can give. That, you can always give.

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5