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Archive for October, 2021

Would it surprise you to know that anger is mentioned 455 times in the Old Testament? It is true! And 375 of those times refer to God’s anger. Several times in the Old Testament the phrase appears, “the anger of the Lord….” The holy anger of God is part of His judgment against sin. This is what we see illustrated in the anger Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple. It was God’s will that the temple be a house of prayer, but it had been turned it into a den of thieves where commercialism took precedence over prayer.

The Bible often speaks of anger “being kindled.” This seems to indicate that anger can be compared to fire. Sometimes a person’s anger smolders, and this we call malice; the same anger can burst forth and destroy, and this we call wrath. It is difficult for humans to practice a truly holy anger or righteous indignation because our emotions are tainted by the fact that we are sinners. We generally want things our way, not God’s way. We do not have the same knowledge that God has in all matters.

In the New Testament, six different words are used for anger. The one most quoted by Christians is probably Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” The word in this verse that refers to anger is accompanied by irritation, exasperation and embitterment. It can be easily expressed in your attitude, speech and behavior. It leads to a spirit of resentment and revenge which seeks to get back at another person.

“Anyone can become angry,” wrote Aristotle, “but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.” Aristotle’s statement does not conflict at all with the New Testament principle that there is a right kind of anger – to be angry at sin but to demonstrate love toward people.

Dr. S.I. McMillen’s book, None of These Diseases, tells the story of Dale Carnegie’s visit to Yellowstone National Park. While observing the grizzly bears feeding, a guide told him that the grizzly bear could whip any animal in the West except for the buffalo and the Kodiak bear. That night as the people sat watching a grizzly eat, they noticed that there was only one animal that he would allow to eat with him – a skunk. He could have beaten the skunk in any fight very quickly. But he didn’t attack the skunk. Why? He knew the skunk had a secret weapon.

Many of us have not learned what both Aristotle and the bear knew: express anger wisely. We spend long days and longer nights dwelling on our resentments and even plotting ways to strike back, to our own detriment. To be dominated by anger is like taking a dose of poison and waiting for the person who is the object of our rage to die. There is a price to pay for the wrong kind of anger. It not only can lead to severed relationships with God and other people, but can also cause strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, hypertension, colitis, ulcers and other health problems.

Frederick Buechner, in Wishful Thinking, Transformed by Thorns, gives one of the finest definitions of anger outside the New Testament: “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

Resolve to be filled with love and wisdom, giving serious thought to the situation when you are prone to be controlled by anger. The emptier the pot, the quicker it will boil – watch your temper!

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“Lord, give me patience . . . and I need it now . . . if not sooner!” Have you ever prayed that prayer? Or needed to? Patience – like love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the traits of a person who has a godly character. It closely resembles joy and peace in its effect upon our lives. The English word “patience” actually stands for several different Greek words in the New Testament.

The unknown author of the following brief poem was probably a woman whose husband was not known for being patient:

            “Patience is a virtue,

            Possess it if you can.

            Found seldom in a woman,

            And never in a man.”

One aspect of patience involves enduring abuse. The biblical response to suffering at the hands of others is called “long-suffering” in the King James Version. It describes the ability to suffer a long time under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter. Mistreatment by others can include ridicule, scorn, insults and undeserved rebukes, as well as outright persecution. God calls upon every Christian to react to these things with long-suffering. Without God’s help, this is somewhere between very difficult and impossible.

How can Christians react to abuse with long-suffering? First, we must look at the way Jesus responded to mistreatment. When insults were hurled at Him, He did not retaliate. To develop patience when we are mistreated, we should entrust ourselves to God’s justice and commit ourselves to His faithfulness. God will deal not only in justice (and we pray, in mercy) with our tormentor, but also by being faithful to us.

Thus, to respond to provocation with patience is to emulate God Himself. God describes Himself as “slow to anger . . . forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). The key to having patience when mistreatment by others causes us suffering is to seek to develop in our own lives God’s trait of being “slow to anger.” We begin by confessing our impatience to God in prayer. We must also not be discouraged when we fail. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us: “No matter how often an honest man fails, he always gets up again . . .

One of the times when most of us find it easy to become impatient is when we are confronted with the faults and failures of others. It may be a driver in front of us driving far too slowly, or a friend who is late to an appointment or a neighbor who is inconsiderate in a particular way. Impatience with the shortcomings of others often has its roots in pride. John Sanderson observes, “Hardly a day passes but one hears sneering remarks about the stupidity, the awkwardness and the ineptitude of others.” Such remarks stem from a feeling that those who say them believe they are smarter or more capable than those with whom they are impatient.

The Bible associates forbearance or tolerance with love, the unity of the believers and the forgiveness of Christ (see Ephesians 4:2-3). Apostle Paul reminds us that we are to bear with one another to preserve the “unity of the Spirit,” and that “the members of the body of Christ belong to each other” (Romans 12:5). The fruit of patience in all its aspects – long-suffering, forbearance, endurance and perseverance – is the result of genuine devotion to God.

Who among us does not need to be more patient? I know that I do. Patience is what gives you the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears. It is one of God’s greatest gifts because it will strengthen your spirit, sweeten your temper, stifle your anger, subdue your pride, bridle your tongue and glorify God.

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Life is full of questions. Some of them are large and others are small. Some are very important, and others are trivial. Some are passing curiosities that we ponder once and never give any more thought to, but others are important enough that they have provided the themes of our lives. These enduring questions are at the core of everything that happens to us, within us and through us. In many ways, the questions that we ask of ourselves, of others and of society have defined who we have become.

There is one question that every human being will sooner or later have to answer. I call it the Jesus question. Jesus was talking one day with His disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi when He asked them two questions. The first question was, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-20).

The second question Jesus asked was, “Who do you say that I am?” This is the Jesus question that every person will one day have to answer. I can imagine that the disciples, after all the time they had spent with Jesus, wondered why He would ask them this question. Was it a trick question? I can even imagine them playfully saying, “You take this one, Peter.” Recognizing the importance of the moment, Peter replied to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God!

If Jesus were to show up in person at your church this coming Sunday and stood in the pulpit and said, “Who do you say that I am?” what would you tell Him? Jesus is not a figment of Christian imagination. He lived in a specific place and at a specific time. He walked on the earth 2,000 years ago as you and I do today. The historical evidence of Jesus is irrefutable. Christian records and writings are more comprehensive than other ancient texts. Both Jewish and secular historians have clearly established Jesus within the framework of human history.

John 3:16, which in my mind is the greatest verse of scripture in the Bible, tells us exactly who Jesus was and is: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The truth found in this verse, often called “the gospel in a nutshell,” is supported by what Jesus claimed about Himself: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life” (John 10:27-28). Those who believe in Him are not only given a richer, fuller and more meaningful life here on the earth, but they are also guaranteed to have eternal life.

The truth in these verses demonstrates just how important it is for every person to answer life’s most important question, “Who do you say that I am?” Have you found the answer to life’s most important question?  If not, there is no better time than today to do that. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I suggest that you pray this prayer: “Loving Father, here I am. I accept Jesus Christ, your uniquely born Son, as my Savior and Lord. I trust that You have an incredible plan for my life. Transform me. Shape my life by the power of your love. I place everything I am and have on the table. Take what You want to take, and give me what You want me to have and be. Transform me into the person You originally created me to be, so I can live the life You envision for me. I hold absolutely nothing back; I am 100% available. In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.”

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Have you ever had a day when you felt like throwing in the towel? You know the kind of day I am talking about – a day when it seems that you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, a day that leaves you totally exhausted, crushed and devastated.

Even the Apostle Paul had days like that, for he wrote to the Corinthian church these words: “We do not want you to be uninformed about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, for that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

 Perhaps you have experienced that kind of weariness caused by individuals where you work, at church, in your neighborhood or even in your own family. When you are faced with opposition from others over a period of time, your defenses and resolve can disappear so totally that you believe you are left to face the onslaught alone. Paul, of course, was not the only person mentioned in the Bible who faced such an hour.

One naturally and immediately thinks of Job, the man who lost everything that was important to him in one day. He faced one devastating crisis after another. Everything that was important to him was suddenly taken from him – his family, his possessions, his wealth and even his health. He began asking the kind of questions that we find easy to ask when the bottom has dropped out from under us. In fact, Job used the word “Why?” 16 times in his conversations with God. “Why didn’t I die at birth?” “Why can’t I die now?” “Why has God allowed so many things to happen to me all at once?” In the end, however, Job’s faith came through.

David, King of Israel, was another man who faced days when it would have been easy for him to throw in the towel. His own son, Absalom, literally “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” to become king (2 Samuel 15:6). David had to evacuate his home, his throne and even the city he had built. Then a distant relative of King Saul, his predecessor, came by and proceeded to attack, curse and stone him. That was like rubbing salt into David’s wound. He was bone weary when his men arrived at their destination: “The king and all his men were worn out when they reached the Jordan and they rested” (2 Samuel 16:14).

God does not explain all suffering that we may have to face in the world, or the meaning of each crisis that occurs. What He allows us to experience is for our growth. Some days bring sunshine, and some days bring storms. Both are necessary. He knows how much pressure we can handle. He tells us that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13). But He does let us be tempted and experience pain. This helps us to grow.

So, what should we do when we are tempted to throw in the towel? May I suggest the following three things to put into practice – think of them as the Three “R”s:

REMEMBER: You are not alone, for Jesus Christ promises to be with you every mile of the way.

REST: There is no substitute for allowing your body and mind to heal. You will find it easier to rest if you will look to the One who gives you rest.            

RESOLVE: When your strength is back, as much as is possible (1) to try to resolve the differences between you and those who have opposed you or have created problems for you; and (2) knowing that God will supply the strength you need to be an overcomer, you will pick the towel up, grit your teeth in resolve and head on down the road.

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