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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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

 

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.

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

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.

Is your life a highway?

Traveling isn’t always pleasant. People get cranky, they get cramped, tired, and all the while you don’t want to stop because it’s going to make your trip longer. The greatest impediment to travel of course is not even tiredness, but road conditions. Construction, tiny winding roads that must be taken cautiously, and of course dirt and gravel roads.

I want you to think of the largest roadtrip you’ve ever been on. How long did it take? 6 hours, 18 hours, 40? I’m going to venture to say you probably used a highway or a parkway. You were probably using a smooth paved road that had been engineered to optimum highway speed and safety. The way had been prepared for you.

But what if it hadn’t?

What if you were on a dirt or gravel road? Or even a road filled with potholes?

How long would your trip have taken?

To give you some perspective: In the 1700s travel between New York and Boston took approximately 6 days. Around 1830, road conditions had improved to the point that the trip could be made in a day and a half.

Today, with modern transportation and roads, that same trip can be made in under 4 hours.

4 hours vs 6 days!

That’s a big difference!

I think such an illustration brings so much meaning to the verse in Proverbs where it is said, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

In all your ways, keep God in your knowledge, and He will direct your paths. When we look at that word for direct, it literally means to make straight, to make level, to make smooth.

If you keep God in your knowledge, He will make the road of your life smooth.

I don’t know what God has planned for your life, and I don’t know where He will lead you. But I  do know it will all be easier if you allow Him to make your life’s road smooth. If you acknowledge Him.

Back in the 1700s it took 6 days to get from New York to Boston AND THERE WAS A ROAD! it just wasn’t smooth. Now it takes 4 hours.

The Christian life can be a highway- but only if you allow it to be. The Christian life can be something that is accelerated, smooth, and fast paced. But you have to acknowledge God. You have to seek His will. You have to follow after His direction. In ALL your ways.

Won’t you?

“Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.” – Psalm 5:8