Are You Angry?

Almost everyone seems to be angry theses days.  Many are angry about how the pandemic has been handled — some think we should have more restrictions, others think we need less. Rioters are angry with the police and the government.  There are racial and political tensions.  Family members unfriend one another on Facebook because they don’t agree on certain issues.  Even church denominations are splitting and suing one another.  What’s the world coming to?

Maybe you are angry as well, and you may even have good reasons for the way you feel.  However, the Bible has quite a bit to say about anger, and here are a few examples:

“…. let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”  James 1:19-20

 

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”  Proverbs 29:11

 

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself;  it tends only to evil.”  Psalm 37:8

In plain words, anger makes us foolish, and leads us into other sins.  When we allow free rein to our anger, we damage ourselves and others.  It tempts us to become unkind, disrespectful and even violent.  It stirs up trouble and disrupts peace.

So, if you’re angry, take a breath.  Stay calm. Practice patience.  Think things over.  Don’t respond quickly.  Don’t dwell on the disagreement.  Pray for insight.  Respect the views of others, even if you believe they are wrong.  Anger does not promote righteous behavior, and it separates us from God and our fellow men.

“Be angry and do not sin;  do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  Ephesians 4:26-27

For more on the topic of anger see these posts:

A Fruit We All Need — Self Control

Unoffendable

When There is No Clarity Exercise Charity

 

In the Business of Saving Lives

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been watching a medical drama series, Code Black.  It centers on the lives of the people working in a very busy, urban emergency room.  In the final episode, one of the key characters, a doctor, says, “I’m in the business of saving lives.”  Then she adds that actually, all of us are, and she’s right.

That’s especially true for Christians.  The book of James says:

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back,  remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  James 5:19-20

Right now, due to the pandemic, we’re very focused on saving physical lives.  We’re willing to wear masks, practice social distancing, reschedule meetings (and even worship services) to Zoom or Facebook, put up plexiglass barriers and more, because we want to keep people safe.  We’re worried about not only our own health and the health of our loved ones, but the health of complete strangers.  That’s laudable, but wouldn’t it be nice if we were as concerned about the spiritual health of others?  Shouldn’t we all be in the business of saving lives, not just for today, but for eternity?

We’ve posted a lot this month about the uncertainty of life, and the need for faith.  None of us knows when our physical life will end. Yet people in our own communities and neighborhoods are in danger of eternal death — are we willing to tell them about Jesus to prevent this?

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”  Romans 10:14

While we still have breath, it’s not too late.  Be in the business of saving lives.

True Religion

I just finished a memoir written by Elizabeth Smart.  In case you don’t remember, she is the young Mormon girl who was abducted and held for nine months before being rescued.  I’m not going to review the book here, but some of Elizabeth’s experiences are worth thinking about.  Periodically her captor took her into Salt Lake City with him — a place where she was known and people were looking for her.  Yet, since she and her companions were dirty, looked weird (wearing long robes and veils) and appeared to be homeless they were avoided and ignored.  She was too frightened by the threats of her abductor to speak with anyone or try to escape.  She felt invisible.  It made me sad to realize how most of us, every day, ignore the needy and helpless around us.  Yet, in the book of James we are told:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  James 1:27

In other words, true religion is not just about going to church every Sunday and refraining from sin;  it’s about identifying with and helping the most vulnerable people in our society.  For a review of a book on this topic, see this post:

Vulnerable by Raleigh Sadler– Book Review

In this book, Raleigh Sadler will open your eyes to the many helpless people we walk by without a thought.

Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

In addition, Elizabeth Smart enumerated times when she felt grateful, even during those nine dreadful months.  The things that made her happy were so simple — a motorist giving them a lift after miles of walking in the hot sun;  someone stopping at MacDonald’s to pick up hamburgers for them;  a free community Thanksgiving feast, when she got to eat all she wanted after weeks of hunger.  In other words, things that all of us could do or help to do.  It wouldn’t cost much or take much time.  Yet we tell ourselves we are too busy, or that those homeless folks are lazy and undeserving of our help.

Now, I know we can’t do everything for everyone.  I know that helping at the mission once in a while, or handing out a blessing bag or buying some sandwiches is only putting a bandage on a much bigger problem.  I’m just saying, think about what these little things might mean to one person.  They meant something to Elizabeth.

 

 

Confess to One Another

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

If there is one thing I have learned from our Fanning the Flame process of church revitalization, it is the importance of prayer.  Prayer permeated the life of the early Christians (read the book of Acts to picture what this looked like) and it should be the foundation for every Christian congregation today.  We must pray for our church leaders, and guidance to be led to the people and ministries God has planned for us.  Most of all, we must pray for one another and, according to the verses from James, we should confess to one another and request prayerful intercession.

This is hard for most of us.  It’s easy enough to confess in a general way, in the church service.  You can do this without even thinking about the actual sins you’ve committed;  and even if you do think them, nobody else has to know, right?  However, the apostle James seems to be telling saying that I should actually tell another person the nasty things I’ve done (or maybe just thought) — and admit that I need prayer and healing.  Pretty scary.  Confessing to someone else, even a sister or brother in Christ, puts me in a vulnerable position.  It means not only knowing that I’m a sinner, but admitting it to another person.  What if they think less of me?  What if they blab about it to somebody else?  What if it means I actually have to take a real, close look at those sins myself?

Well, all of those things are possible.  But to be effective witnesses, we need to get down off the self-righteous pedestal we like to stand on when we’re presenting ourselves to the world.  After all, if we’re sinners, we’re going to sin, and if we could keep from sinning, we wouldn’t need Jesus.  The people we want to reach with the Good News should know that our story isn’t any different from theirs.

So, my advice is, find an accountability partner or group (for me this is the Via de Cristo reunion group).  Meet with them regularly. Keep everything discussed confidential.  Admit your failings (in other words, ‘fess up).  Ask for prayer.  You’ll find that their prayers for you are powerful and effective.

 

 

What is Piety?

What is piety, really?  One dictionary defines it as the quality of being religious or reverent.  My Bible dictionary calls it “holy living.”  Various Bible translations identify it with “the fear of the Lord” or “righteousness.”  It’s not a word we use much anymore.  In fact, it’s gotten a rather bad name because it’s so much easier to recognize false piety (in other words, hypocrisy) than true piety.  Often we think of  truly pious people as “goody-goodies,” prudes, or those who are “so heavenly minded, they’re of no earthly use.”  Or maybe we regard piety as an unrealistic goal for most of us — something a few great saints might possess, but not attainable for most of us.  Maybe we don’t even want to try to be pious because in our culture, it would set us apart as strange or different.

Here’s what Philip Spener, a German Lutheran theologian who has been dubbed ‘the Father of Pietism’ has to say:

“Students should unceasingly have it impressed upon them that holy life is not of less consequence than diligence and study, indeed that study without piety is worthless….whoever grows in learning and declines in morals is on the decrease rather than the increase … everything must be directed to the practice of faith and life.”

or as James, the brother of Christ puts it:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” James 2:26

Christian study, worship and fellowship should lead to a life that is increasingly pious, or holy.  Lutherans (and I’m sure lots of others) call this process sanctification, and although we’re never finished,  it’s not a pie-in-the-sky goal either.  Piety is what the Christian life is all about.  I look forward to exploring it further with our authors and readers this month.

 

 

 

A Word of Blessing

According to John Trent in his book, The Blessing, encouraging and loving words are also an important component of blessing.  The Bible speaks over and over about the importance of our words:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”  Proverbs 25:11

“if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at ships also;  though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.”  James 3:3-5

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue …” Proverbs 18:21a

The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance by [Trent, John, Smalley, Gary]

Words can help or hurt;  they can guide;  they can change the course of a life.  Yet often, we say the wrong words, or even no words to the people we love and others around us.  Why?  There are many excuses:  We’re busy, we’re tired, we don’t want them to become vain or puffed up, or they already know we appreciate and value them.

How much effort does it take to say, “Good job!”  or “I love you” or “Thank you for all that you do.”  Don’t make excuses;  speak a word of blessing to someone today.

Practicing Brotherly Love

The Bible not only tells us to continue in brotherly love, it gives us instructions on how to do that.  I’ve heard them called the “one anothers”:

  • Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you (Romans 5:17)
  • Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
  • Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
  • Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2)
  • Be kind and compassionate with one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)
  • Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

Then there are some “do nots.”

  • Don’t pass judgement on one another (Romans 14:13)
  • Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Do not slander one another (James 4:11)
  • Do not grumble against one another (James 5:9)

How do you do with this list?  If you’re like me, you fall down quite a bit.  I have to admit patience and not grumbling are areas I really need to work on;  serving and submitting deserve extra attention as well.  What about confessing sins to one another — I would really rather not go there!

It boils down to this:  brotherly love requires humility and sacrifice.  It involves imitating the one who loved us like a brother — Jesus.  He did all these things and did them perfectly.  He’s the one who teaches us to love.

Live at Peace

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Romans 12:18

Michele’s last post highlighted how difficult it is to maintain peace, especially during these turbulent times.  People are angry and unwilling to see any virtue in those with whom they disagree.

My devotional reading a few days ago was taken from Psalm 34:

“Turn away from evil and do good;  seek peace and pursue it.”

Easier said than done, right?  People make us mad.  The folks we deal with every day in our workplace, family, even church can be irritating, insensitive, rude and more. They have political views we don’t understand.  They don’t do things the way we want them done.  They don’t seem to care how their actions and words affect us.  How do we deal with this?

Well, the only person I can really control is me.  If I want to get along with others, I have to make decisions that allow me to do this. I have to pursue peace.  My devotional, and some other readings from Romans and James have a few good suggestions I’d like to share.

  • Try to understand, through prayer, the motivation of others.  I have often found, after praying for someone there are things in their life that cause them to behave the way they do.  It may not make their behavior right, but it does help me accept it without anger.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.(Romans 12:10)  Sometimes one person’s calm, respectful manner will create a change in the environment.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17)  Seeking revenge causes a bad situation to escalate.
  • Love one another with a brotherly affection (Romans 12:10).  When we love someone we are willing to make allowances for them.
  • Think before you speak (James 1:26)
  • (Most important) Always give others the benefit of the doubt.  How many relationships would be saved if we followed this simple rule?

I wish I could say I always follow my own advice.  Unfortunately like Michele and everyone else, sin is my default position.  I have my own particular buttons that when pushed result in a stubborn, angry, unforgiving response.  However, God doesn’t give me what I deserve.  He gives me grace;  that’s what I should extend to others.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15

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