Does the World Really Need Jesus?

It sounds like a religious cliche. A cop-out. A nice sounding phrase thrown out by pious Christians who don’t know what else to say.

The world needs Jesus.

What difference can Jesus make?

Our world is broken…angry…divided…crying out for justice…looking for answers…longing for change…struggling to find peace.

The world needs Jesus.

We run to political solutions…new policies…more reforms…better laws.

We run to economic solutions…better jobs…more opportunities…new hiring practices.

Good things. Needed changes. But something is still missing.

Something has to change the human heart.

The world needs Jesus.

The world may mock. It sounds silly. How can a religious individual 2000 years ago have any bearing on the complicated, divided, politicized, polarized situation in our nation today?

Yet Jesus entered such a world 2000 years ago. A world perhaps more complicated, divided, politicized and polarized than our own.

The human heart hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. The problems of the ancient world still plague our modern one today.

The world needs Jesus.

It is the message of Jesus that confronts us with four undeniable realities…four truths…that provide the answer to the problems that we encounter today…and that connect us together even in our differences.

We are all made in the image of God.

We all bear infinite value…divine worth…unspeakable glory…because we are made in the image of God.

His creation. His handiwork. His design.

Every person…every color…every tribe…every tongue…every ethnicity…every nation.

And [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth… (Acts 17:26a).

All of us…made from one blood…with one blood…bleeding the same blood.

There should be no racist thought in the heart of any one who truly knows the God of creation.

We are all sinners. 

We all bear the image of God…but one marred…distorted…corrupted…even denied and rejected.

We all have infinite dignity…and internal depravity.

Self-centered. Self-gratifying. Self-justifying. Self-righteous. Self-hating.

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22b-23).

Where do hatred, slander, resentment, racism, conflict, cruelty, abandonment, betrayal, arrogance, hubris, immorality, malice, strife, division, and destruction come from?

They flow out of a heart distorted…turned self-ward…fighting for our own way…unwilling to yield…rebelling against God.

There is no room for pride or superiority in any person.

We are all dysfunctional…all broken…all victims…all victimizers.

To break the world cleanly into victims and violators ignores the depths of each person’s participation in cultural sin. There simply are no innocents. (Miroslav Volf)

We all need grace.

We have all played a part in the depravity of this world. We are all complicit. We have all hurt others by our attitudes…our words…our actions…our inactions.

We are all guilty.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

The cross of Christ speaks to us all.

God’s justice and His grace met on a Roman cross…borne by the King of the Jews…given as a sacrifice for us all.

It is the cross that confronts our sin and demonstrates God’s love.

It is the cross that rains down justice and offers a flood of grace.

At the cross, God did something unthinkable…unfathomable…the Just One bore our injustice in order to freely offer us His mercy.

When we acknowledge our own sin…bend our own will…and humbly kneel at the foot of the cross…we find life…discover love…and receive a new heart.

It is the cross that melts our cold hearts…softens our hardened hearts…breaks the will of our stubborn hearts…replaces the fear and hatred of my angry heart with love.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

It is only in receiving forgiveness that we can extend forgiveness.

It is only in receiving forgiveness that we can truly pursue justice.

Every act of forgiveness enthrones justice; it draws attention to its violation precisely by offering to forego its claims. Moreover, forgiveness provides the framework in which the quest for properly understood justice can be fruitfully pursued. …Only those who are forgiven and who are willing to forgive will be capable of relentlessly pursuing justice without falling into the temptation to pervert it into injustice. (Miroslav Volf)

We all need hope.

We long for peace…we long for justice…we long for love.

We long for a world where the daily news does not highlight sin, war, racial division, relational conflict, death, destruction.

We long for a world made right.

Every injustice reversed.

Every wrong redeemed.

Every relationship restored.

Every part of creation renewed.

We do not have the power to bring in such a world.

Yes, we should work toward this end…we should strive to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

It is because we live in a world designed for justice…destined for justice…that we should desire justice in the here and now…and work for it, knowing that our labor is not in vain.

But on our own we simply cannot make it happen.

We need someone with power over sin…power over sickness…power over disease…power over the destructive forces of this world…power over death.

Power to transform our selfish hearts.

We need someone who sees the whole picture…the beginning and the end…who can rule justly because He sees clearly…who can rule graciously because He loves unconditionally…who can rule eternally because He lives forever.

This is why we need Jesus.

This is why He came.

This is Who He is.

This is who we need to be.

This is who I need to be.

This is who you need to be.

And this is why I can say…

With utmost confidence…and hope…

The world needs Jesus.

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Five Undeniable Lessons from the Coronavirus

The coronavirus has impacted us all.

Yet we all have different opinions about its origin, nature, danger, mortality rate, treatment, and prevention…along with a whole host of concerns, questions, suspicions, and criticisms of our government’s response to it.

Unique times.

Uncertain times.

Unprecedented times.

Unnerving times.

In the midst of this pandemic, I think there are at least five undeniable lessons that we can learn.

1. Our nation is seriously divided. Well, we already knew that but this virus has certainly highlighted it. We are so divided that not even a potentially deadly virus, that can infect both Democrats and Republicans, can bridge the gap. We are much more divided politically than we are religiously, racially, or educationally. Bottom line…Republicans can’t stand Democrats…and Democrats can’t stand Republicans. And both sides vehemently…and confidently…blame the other for the problems in our nation.

I remember the days after 9/11 in America. Even though there were strong political divisions in our nation back then, there still seemed to be some level of shared values…shared life…shared loyalty to our nation. This crisis has not yielded the same common ground…the same common good…the same common grace toward one another.

2.  We don’t trust our government or the media. The partisan divide has created a deep sense of suspicion, cynicism, and mistrust. If you are conservative, you watch FoxNews and distrust everything Nancy Pelosi, and every other Democrat, says. If you are liberal, you watch CNN and distrust everything Donald Trump, and every other Republican, says. Thus, we generally live in our own “echo chamber,” only listening to and befriending those who think like us.

The pervasive availability of alternate news sources only amplifies the problem. Now, anyone with an opinion, a mic, a camera, and some claim to credibility can demand just as much attention as a major news source. The democratization of information creates more fragmentation as no one trusts anyone who doesn’t already confirm what they already suspect.

3. We live in a dangerous world. Regardless of our opinions and divisions, there is one thing that is still true…we are all mortal humans living in a dangerous world. We can fight against each other all we want but it doesn’t change the fact that we have bigger problems and greater enemies in this world. We are all vulnerable to weakness, sickness, disease, disaster, injury, infection, aging, and death. Something as small as a virus… unseen, uncontrolled, unconcerned…can invade our bodies, ravage our strength, and take our lives. We are not as strong as we think we are…and our world is not as safe as we want it to be.

4.  We need a hope bigger than ourselves. In the midst of difficult times…whether it be from the pandemic itself or the negative effects that result from it…we long for good news. Unfortunately, the news media doesn’t offer much hope…and politicians, no matter what position or party they belong to, can only offer temporary solutions. If our hope for the future extends only to the next paycheck or the next election or the next medical breakthrough…then we don’t have much hope.

True hope must extend past the sorrows, injustices, and tragedies of this world. True hope must be higher…greater…stronger…than death. If this life is all there is…if this world has no purpose or meaning…if death is truly the end…and the universe is doomed to destruction…then how can we say that we have real hope? We are deluded…deceived…and desperate to hold onto our illusions.

BUT…if there is a God who created us…who loves us…who entered our world…who died for us…who conquered our enemies…who rose from the dead…who offers us eternal life…who promises to make every wrong right…to turn every sorrow into meaning…to restore all creation to paradise…then we have real hope.

5.  The message of Jesus Christ is reaching more people around the world than ever before. If you are a Christian in America, then it is easy to think that the message of Christ is sort of “stuck in neutral.” This global shutdown has even made some people think that “churches are closed” and that the gospel is being restricted by the government.

Here is the reality…the church is not closed because it is a people not a building…and the gospel cannot be restricted by the government because it is a spiritual message that spreads heart to heart, person to person, family to family, house to house. The church can be persecuted…even mocked and attacked…but it ultimately cannot be stopped. Because Jesus Christ has promised to build His church…and if the gates of hell can’t stop it then certainly no human government can. Proof? The fastest growing Christian movements in the world today are in China and Iran…and the church continues to grow exponentially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Even in America, the shutdown of church buildings has resulted in the message of the gospel going out further and reaching more people than ever before through the power of the internet. How people respond is up to them…but the message is spreading.

So, believer, take courage.

God is sovereign.

Christ is risen.

And the Spirit is at work all around the world.

This is not a time to be fearful, suspicious, cynical, angry, or discouraged. It is a time to look outward…for the opportunities are everywhere…and to look upward…because our redemption is drawing near.

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30 Things I Have Learned in 30 Years of Ministry

This month marks my 30th year in full-time ministry as a pastor. Wow…I am getting old!

In May 1990, I moved to New Orleans, LA as a naive, ultra-idealistic, fearful yet slightly over-confident Bible college graduate ready to embark on my first full-time ministry position as youth pastor at Berean Bible Church.

Thirty years later, I am pastoring Community Bible Church in Baton Rouge, LA…about an hour from New Orleans…less naive, much more realistic, a little less fearful yet very aware of my weaknesses, inadequacies, and limitations as a pastor.

As I reflect back on thirty years of ministry, I wrote down thirty things that I have learned along the way. There is no particular order to this list. I simply started writing until I hit #30.

  1. Be careful of someone who is too eager to tell you their side of the story. Someone told me to be careful of the first person who comes into your office for counseling when you start a new ministry position. This has proven to be true. When someone is way too eager to make sure you know their side of the story, then they are most likely hiding something and want to get you quickly on their side before all the facts can be known (Proverbs 18:17).
  2. Take a day off…and turn off your phone. Ministry has a way of consuming all of your time and mental energy. Make sure to take a day off…and to stay away from the phone and emails.
  3. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. A wise old friend told me this when I began ministry in New Jersey. He was oh so right. To be an effective teacher, you need to be a loving pastor first.
  4. God will break you to use you. The pattern in Scripture is clear. Before God could use Joseph, He had to break him. Before God could use Moses, He had to break him. Before God could use Peter, He had to break him. Until our self-sufficiency and pride are gone, we will not depend on God’s Spirit. God uses broken vessels for His glory. When we are weak, then we are strong.
  5. Teach with your life more than your words. I used to think that people would remember all the great lessons I taught and sermons I preached. Instead I found out that most people can’t remember what you taught…but they remember how you lived.
  6. Guard your heart and your eyes. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts with all vigilance because out of it flows everything else that we do. And in 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells young Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching.” We fail and we fall when allow little sins to creep into our heart and then start covering them up.
  7. Be vulnerable. None of us are fully formed in Christ. None of us have “arrived.” All of us need grace. And it is the security of grace that allows us to be honest with ourselves and vulnerable with others. The opposite of vulnerability is superficiality. God won’t work deep in our hearts when we insist on putting on a veneer of fake spirituality.
  8. You can’t change anyone. When I began ministry, I thought I could change the world. Over time, I realized it was hard enough to change myself…and impossible to change others. The best we can do for others is love them, pray for them, and point them to Jesus. We are care givers but only He is the cure giver.
  9. Be compassionate…everyone you meet is fighting their own battle. Life is hard and everyone has fears that they hide, sins that they battle, and wounds that they are trying to heal. Even behind anger is a heart that is fearful or wounded in some way. So look past the outward masks and personas and ask God for wisdom to see another’s heart.
  10. Fight for joy. Joy has always been the barometer in my life. When my life and ministry lack joy, then I know something has gotten off track in my mind or my heart. Joy is the “serious business of heaven.” It is our strength. It is the fruit of the Spirit. It is the will of God for us. It is our birthright as believers. Let us fight each day to be thankful and joyful in Christ. Like the psalm writers, sometimes you just have to praise your way out of the pit.
  11. Reserve mornings for God. Life has a way of hitting you early in the morning. Every day I am tempted to jump right into the responsibilities that overload my calendar. Instead I am learning the secret of giving the “firstfruits” of the day to God. Reserve the first minutes or hours of each day for Him…read, meditate, pray, exercise, worship…and then let the rest of the day fall as it may.
  12. Seek understanding before reaching a conclusion. Many times I have reacted wrongly or judged someone prematurely because I failed to take time to listen before I reached a conclusion. James’ advice would save a whole lot of heartache if we followed it daily: Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).
  13. Love people where they are…not where you want them to be. It is too easy to get frustrated with other people…particularly in areas of life where we are strong and don’t seem to struggle. But God calls us to love people where they are…and even to be willing to stoop down and wash their feet. After all, that’s what He did for us.
  14. Strengthen your marriage. The strength of my marriage will impact the long-term strength of my ministry. My first priority as a pastor is to love my wife and lead my family well. For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:5)
  15. See the beauty of the church even in all of its messiness. I have been in church ministry long enough to see the “warts,” scars, and blemishes of the “bride of Christ.” We can get off track complaining, blaming, gossiping, grumbling, demeaning, dividing, wounding, and hurting others. Yet somehow God still loves us. And He teaches us how to love others, as He has loved us, by putting us in a local church with other imperfect people. What can feel ugly at times is actually the beauty of the church.
  16. Don’t let your children regret being PK’s. I remember someone telling me before the birth of my first son, “You know that pastor’s kids are always the worst ones in the church.” It was not a well-timed, encouraging statement from a fellow brother in Christ (see #15 above). But I was determined to put my family first and to make sure that my boys never lamented the fact that I was in ministry. That was a good choice.
  17. Take vacation time. It is often hard to pull away from ministry. The needs of people never go on a vacation so sometimes it is hard for pastors to take one. But I am learning more and more how vital it is to rest. We often have to “be still” in order to truly know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
  18. Take a sabbatical. In line with the above, every pastor needs an extended time of rest after many years of service. Ministry has a tendency to produce a slow drain on your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy…and without a recharge, you will eventually crash.
  19. Focus on faithfulness not success. In our image culture, it is too easy to look for success in outward factors. However, God calls us to faithfulness not success. We are called to plant and water…only He can bring the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7).
  20. Avoid comparisons. Wow, this is so much easier said than done! With the advent of instant information and communication, we are exposed to every ministry, church, and pastor around the world. It is hard not to see the outward successes of others and to feel your own inadequacy. Almost daily I have to remind myself that God has not called me to be someone else…but to be the person He has created me and redeemed me to be…and to minister faithfully within the sphere He has given me.
  21. Exercise regularly. Yes, bodily exercise only profits a little compared to godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). But it still has a profit! Our bodies are the temple of God. It is hard to minister effectively when our bodies are neglected or broken down. Taking care of our physical bodies is a spiritual discipline.
  22. Learn to breathe. Stress and anxiety are realities in ministry…or at least they have been for me! Stopping, resting, exhaling, and casting my cares upon Him have been a growing daily necessity in my ministry life.
  23. Don’t take yourself too seriously. When I am honest, I realize that most of my anxiety can be traced back to pride. I am trying to bear on my shoulders that which only God can bear. I am trying to be a “mini-messiah.” I am thinking that I have to manage and control the universe. I am doubting and usurping God’s sovereignty. Learning to laugh at yourself and your weaknesses can be a freeing exercise. Isn’t it amazing that God chooses…and prefers to work through…cracked pots? (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
  24. Keep the main thing the main thing. Just about everyone in the church has an opinion on how the church should operate…and usually they don’t hesitate to tell the pastor! If you don’t have laser focus on the gospel of Christ and on making disciples for Him, then you will easily be tossed to and fro by every opinion, fad, political issue, and church program that floods the market.
  25. Keep learning. Always be teachable…always be learning. Read books, listen to podcasts, take classes…do whatever it takes to keep growing in your faith and to keep sharpening your ax (Ecclesiastes 10:10).
  26. Serve on a team. One of things that I have learned in ministry is that I don’t want to minister alone. I am so thankful for the elders that I have served with in church ministry. I can remember each one…and each one has taught me something about myself, about the Lord, and about ministry. We were not meant to serve alone.
  27. Be a peacemaker. It is all about relationships…and relationships are downright difficult! Live long enough and you will have plenty of opportunities to be hurt, wounded, neglected, forgotten, offended, and betrayed. Since ministry is people-intensive, then the chances of being hurt as a pastor are even greater. Learn to bear with others. Learn to forgive. Learn to say you are sorry. Learn to seek reconciliation. Learn to be a peacemaker…and to be called a “son of God” (Matthew 5:9).
  28. Be a discipler. Invest in people. Be a Paul to a Timothy. Just about every young man is looking for someone to affirm them, love them, pray for them, encourage them, and help them develop into the man God created them to be.
  29. Don’t expect quick results…we are growing trees not weeds. I often wish that ministry and discipleship yielded quick, tangible results. Sometimes you see radical changes in people but more often than not people grow slowly…with lots of stumbles and falls. Our eternal God is not in a hurry…and He teaches us patience and grace through the long process of discipleship.
  30. Love God and love others! Don’t over-complicate ministry. Love is the foundation. Love is the measure. Love is the goal (1 Corinthians 13). It is in contemplating the abundant, incomprehensible love of Christ that we are filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). Saturate yourself in the grace of God every day and let His grace ooze out of your pores. That is the secret of ministry.
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Confusion & the Coronavirus

There is an interesting word in the Greek language.

Akatastasia.

It refers to a “state of disorder, disturbance, confusion.”

It comes from two Greek words…(the negative particle) and kathistimi, “to set in order.” Whereas kathistimi describes a place of order, a place where things are kept in perspective, a place where life makes sense… akathistimi describes…well…the opposite.

It is a society where nothing makes sense…where things are overblown…where disorder, chaos, and confusion reign.

Hmm…sounds like our world.

This word, akatastasia, is used in several verses in the New Testament.

“When you hear of wars and disturbances [akatastasia], do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” (Luke 21:9)

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder(2 Corinthians 12:20)

 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:16)

So what do we learn?

  • God is not the author of confusion. If confusion is around, then it is because He has been rejected, abandoned, or forgotten.
  • As the world moves further and further away from submission to God, it will be characterized by more and more confusion, disorder, conflict, and war.
  • Pride, self-centeredness, and envy breed more chaos, division, and confusion.
  • Christians can succumb to confusion…especially when they get caught up in the discord, jealousy, anger, ambition, pride, slander, and gossip of the world.

This coronavirus crisis has certainly created confusion in our world. We were already politically polarized…angry…skeptical…cynical…stuck in our echo chambers. And now this crisis has amplified that.

Quite simply, we are blasted with more information than we can possibly process. We are media addicts, inundated with facts, stats, news, views, theories, conspiracies, experts, pundits, analysts, panelists, commentaries, documentaries, and doomsday scenarios that beckon for our attention…heighten our fears…and confirm our deepest suspicions.

Tossed to and fro…blown here and there…by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).

Maybe it is time to turn off the news.

How much information do we need?

Deep down, we tend to think that knowledge is power. 

Perhaps. If you know the right things. Otherwise it is just a mass of information, tangled in our minds like an old extension cord twisted and warped with no clear ins or outs. A jumbled story with no plot, no theme, no resolution.

We are not to be naive…but we are to be wise.

We are not to close our eyes…but we are to keep them focused on the right things.

Scripture’s message has not changed.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,
dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

If you fix your eyes on the news, you will live in confusion.

If you fix your eyes on Christ, you will find peace.

Are there selfish ambitions, greed, deception, lies, hidden agendas, evil plots, conspiracies in this world? Absolutely. Should we focus on them? Absolutely not.

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, Him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He will become a sanctuary. (Isaiah 8:12-14a)

In the end, God calls the shots. He rules the universe. He pulls the strings. And He is working all things according to the counsel of His will.

And He will become our sanctuary…when we choose to dwell in Him.

The atmosphere of confusion is chaos.

The antonym to confusion is peace.

The antidote to confusion is humility.

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. BUT the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

And the answer to confusion is Christ.

There is another Greek word that is worth knowing.

Anastasis

“To stand again, to raise up, to resurrect.”

Confusion is everything stable being knocked down.

Resurrection is everything knocked down being raised up again.

God is not the author of confusion.

He is the God of resurrection.

And therefore, we can have peace.

Even in the midst of a virus crisis.

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Anger & the Coronavirus

I was working on a project. About forty minutes into it. I had expended a lot of thoughts and ideas on a computer screen.

Then the screen went blank.

My computer glitched.

When everything rebooted, all my work was gone. No autosave copy. Nothing.

I stared in disbelief.

Then I slammed my hand as hard as I could against the table.

I felt like picking up my computer and throwing it through the window.

I complained…lamented…stewed…and steamed.

I wanted to cry but felt like screaming instead.

My wife was in the other room watching my meltdown. I think I wanted her attention. Perhaps I needed her sympathy. Instead she stayed quiet…smart enough to realize that nothing she could say at this point would help.

I was having a pity-party-anger-eruption and it was best to leave me alone.

I took a walk around the block to gather my thoughts…to calm down my emotions…to exert some energy.

I hadn’t had an outburst like that in awhile.

I am usually fairly calm. It takes a lot to push my buttons. But for some reason, my fuse was short…my anger intense…my desire to hit something or throw something acute.

What was going on inside of me?

As I walked…let off some steam…and talked with God…I realized that my emotions had probably been building for awhile. Yes, losing my work was a real bummer, but my reaction went above and beyond the incident.

My life has been disrupted by the coronavirus and I am not happy about it.

The first few weeks were sort of novel…unique…a change of pace. I reflected on what was going on in the world…adjusted…read…contemplated.

But now the situation is getting old. I am ready to get back to “normal”…assuming that there is normal to get back to.

I have a feeling that I am not alone.

The growing protests around the country speak to the growing frustration with our situation. We are not happy…with our government…with our local leaders…with the news media…with the virus…with life in general.

Anger is a powerful emotion…and it spreads like a wildfire. First in us…and then toward others. And it leaves a scorched path in its wake.

Anger in itself is not a sin. It is often a valid and necessary reaction to injustice. Since we are created in the image of God, we seem to have a built-in detector toward injustice. When life is not fair, we notice it…we feel it…we fight against it.

But the Bible puts a time limit on our anger…even our righteous anger.

Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Anger carried over to the next day becomes pervasive…corrosive…destructive.

Even if we can justify our anger (and that usually makes it worse anyway)…we have still crossed a line when we let it simmer in our hearts.

Today’s anger ferments into tomorrow’s bitterness.

The Bible’s analysis of human anger is crystal clear:

Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. (Psalm 37:8)

A quick-tempered person does foolish things (Proverbs 14:17)

Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11)

An angry person stirs up conflict,
and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. (Proverbs 29:22)

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Bottom line: If you are looking for peace with God, peace with others, peace within your own soul…then you are not going to get there on the road of anger. It will always lead you to greater stress, more conflicts, higher blood pressure, tighter fists, tenser muscles, and poorer choices.

That’s because underneath our simmering, lingering anger are usually the roots of pride and fear.

Pride. I am not getting my way and I have a right to be angry about it.

Fear. I am losing my sense of control and I have to fight to get it back.

Anger feels powerful…but its power is deceptive. It lures us into a false sense of strength… a false sense of control… a false sense that we are improving our situation. But in the end we are only making things worse.

Ironically, anger is usually masking over a deeper sense of depression. We would rather vent than lament. We would rather grumble than grieve. We would rather explode at others than examine our own hearts.

Bottom line: Our short fuse short-circuits God’s work in our lives.

Yes, there are legitimate things to be concerned about in this whole coronavirus epidemic…cover-ups…bad decisions…stupid statements…questionable conclusions…potential governmental overreach.

But simply getting angry isn’t going to change the situation…and decisions and actions made out of anger aren’t going to be helpful in the end.

I go back to my computer glitch and accompanying meltdown.

Slamming my hand against the table didn’t solve anything. It only made my hand hurt.

Throwing my computer through the window may have brought a momentary sense of empowerment but it would have created a bigger headache when I had to clean up the mess, replace the window, buy a new computer, and explain the whole childish reaction to my family…and my shocked neighbors.

Venting, complaining, and blaming my stupid computer also didn’t do a thing for me.

But walking and talking with God…and examining what was going on in my heart…led me to re-connect with God…repent of my own childishness…and realize that there were deeper fears and sorrows in me that I needed to acknowledge and address.

I am not sure if or when life is ever going to return to normal. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if the economy will recover. I don’t know if our nation will recover. I don’t know if I get the virus if I will recover.

At the same time, I grieve the loss of corporate worship…the loss of going out to dinner with my wife…the loss of shaking hands with a friend…the loss of drinking coffee in a coffee shop…the loss of my son and future daughter-in-law having a normal wedding celebration.

These things may come back…they may still happen…and besides, there are bigger things to worry about…but they are still losses in my life right now…they still interrupt…they still disrupt…they still hurt…and it is okay to grieve.

Perhaps the reason we are so angry as a nation is because we simply don’t know how to grieve.

When Jeremiah watched his nation crumble around him and everything that was “normal” disappear…he didn’t write Outbursts or Irritations…he wrote Lamentations.

And by lamenting, he found healing…and hope.

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:19-24)

So the next time you feel like screaming at the TV…or punching a wall…or throwing your computer out the window.

Stop.

Take a deep breath.

Go for a walk.

Open your heart to God.

Release your disappointments and receive His comforts.

Release your fears and receive His peace.

Release your sorrows and receive His hope.

Release your pride and receive His grace.

Release your anger and receive His love.

He is faithful.

He will never leave you nor forsake you.

And His mercies are new every morning.

And that sure beats having to buy a new window.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 4 Comments