How To Beat The Big One

 conversation

A couple years ago I was having some slight burning in my chest when I’d jog.

So I went to my doctor, who scheduled a stress test which revealed I had a blockage in my heart. Went to Pittsburgh, got a stent, spent one night in the hospital, and was back home. A few weeks later, my doctor shook my hand. “We beat the big one,” he said, pumping my hand as if I’d just won a marathon. “It was so good that you came in as soon as you felt that burning. When that particular artery is blocked in most people and they have a heart attack, they die 90% of the time. It is so good that you came in quickly. We beat the big one!”

The secret to “beating the big one” was dealing with it while it was a “small one.” This applies to lots of problems in life. If we deal with them quickly, while they are small, we can often solve them quickly and easily. If we don’t, they can become bigger problems that cost us time and money. If we deal with that leak in the roof when it’s a few drips it will be better than letting it go until our ceiling caves in from water damage.

This principle applies to anger and conflicts as well.

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

One of the best vows my wife and I made on our wedding day was that by God’s grace we would not let the sun go down on our anger.

As one person said to my wife and me early on, keep short accounts. And by God’s grace, that is what we have always tried to do. It wasn’t always easy to keep this vow, especially in the first couple years of our marriage. There were times we’d be up really late trying to resolve a conflict. I even remember a few times when I said, “Kristi, It’s really late and I have to go to work tomorrow. Maybe I’m wrong and just not seeing it, but I’m committed to you and committed to working this out. So we will definitely work on this tomorrow.” And by God’s grace we always did.

When we let the sun go down on our anger – when we don’t try to resolve conflicts quickly – our anger festers. It simmers. It grows. We give the devil an opportunity. He adds his lying thoughts and tempts us in other directions. Our offense turns to bitterness and resentment. The devil loves it when we give each other the cold shoulder for days at a time. He loves unresolved conflicts in marriages and families and churches. He loves to divide and conquer.

Over the years I’ve found it best to deal with conflicts as quickly as possible. To go to someone as soon as I become aware they are offended with me, or as soon as I am tempted to be angry with them. The same day if I can. Sometimes there’s simply been a misunderstanding that can be quickly resolved. Other times it’s been something that required multiple conversations. But tackling conflicts quickly has spared me lots of temptation and grief.

There’s a spectrum from “love covers a multitude of sins” to “if your brother sins against you go to him.” Some sins we can simply forgive and overlook – cover in love. But other sins need to be tackled together. But whether you can deal with it simply and quickly – “Father, I forgive them, they didn’t realize what they were doing” and forget it – or it’s a sin that needs discussion, don’t let it fester.

Is there someone you are offended at? Or someone you know is angry with you? Go to them. Or pick up the phone and give them a call. Maybe you need to ask their forgiveness. Maybe you’re the one with the log in his eye. Maybe you misunderstood them. Maybe they didn’t intend to hurt you. It might simply be a communication problem. Or maybe you need to get together for a more serious conversation. But keep short accounts.

Deal with your anger while it’s simply a burning in your chest. Don’t neglect it until it becomes a full blown heart attack.

That’s how you beat the big one.

Fretting And Fearful For Our Nation? Here’s Some Good Advice…

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Do you fret over the state of this nation? Get angry about Obamacare? Get worked up watching Fox News? Are you fearful about the way things are going with our government?

If so, Psalm 37 has some good instruction for you. For all of us. Psalm 37 tells us the wicked and the righteous live in society together. The psalm says the wicked hate the righteous, plot against them, gnash their teeth at them, and draw their swords and bend their bows to bring the righteous down. The wicked pursue the abundance of the world and enrich themselves by borrowing and not paying back. They unjustly accuse the righteous. The wicked gain power and “spread out” by ruthlessness and aggression.

The righteous are tempted to fret because of the wicked, or to respond to them with anger and aggression. To fight fire with fire. But God gives the righteous instructions which we are wise to heed when tempted to anger at the unrighteous, especially when we are affected by their sin.

Here’s what God tells us to do. Instead of fuming over the government, or anxious about our company or aggressive toward our neighbor, God says:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! (1)

Three times in the Psalm God says, “Fret not.” Don’t be fearful. Don’t get anxious. Instead he tells us to:

Trust in the Lord and do good
Cultivate faithfulness to God
Delight yourself in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him
Refrain from anger and wrath
Turn from evil and do good
Wait for the Lord and keep his way

God says if we do these things, he’ll give us all we need. The righteous will inherit the land. The wicked will be cut off, and the meek will inherit the earth. He promises this numerous times in the Psalm.

God says if we fret and fume over the unrighteous it will only lead us into sin and evil ourselves. If we trust God and delight ourselves in him, he will give us contentment and supply all our needs.

In essence, here’s what Psalm 37 says: The wicked focus on this world and aggressively go after all they can get of it by hook or crook, and it seems like they prosper. The righteous focus on God, who satisfies them with himself. The wicked, who pursue the world, eventually not only lose the world, but their souls as well. The righteous gain God who provides enough of the world to meet their needs and eventually they inherit the new heaven and new earth which God will someday create.

So don’t fret. If watching political news programs gets you agitated, or you’re tempted to anger at your rising taxes, read Psalm 37. Keep reading it. It’s rich and comforting and will help you trust the Lord.

The Root Of My Anger

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A loud thump, followed by laughter and more loud thumps, reverberated from upstairs.

I ran upstairs to discover my boys having a battle and throwing things at each other. “I thought I told you to get ready for bed!” I scolded, as they stifled laughter. It was like the scene in “What About Bob” when Leo Marvin catches his patient Bob Wiley and his son Siggy jumping on the beds and shouts, “All’s I want is some peace and quiet!” Giggling, Bob says, “Okay, I’ll be quiet,” and Siggy says, “And I’ll be peace!”

I was fuming like Leo Marvin. “You guys are making me mad.” “But you’ve said no one else can make you mad,” one replied. I hate it when my kids quote me. For I’ve always told them that when we get angry it’s our own sin.

It sure doesn’t feel that way though. It feels like other people or things are the cause. That driver who pulled out in front of me. My teen who smarted off to me. The boss who asks too much of me. It feels like things outside us cause our anger. Scripture says we should look within:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:1-2).

Here’s the root of our anger: We want something and can’t get it, so we fight and quarrel.

So here’s a million-dollar question that helps expose that root: What do I want right now that I’m not getting?

When we discover our idolatrous craving, then we can repent and seek grace to change.

I once read about a pastor who was looking forward to some quiet relaxation when he got home. His wife, who’d been with their small children all day, desired some adult conversation that evening. Their cravings came into conflict and they began fighting for their desires until they both became angry. What caused their anger? Each wanted something and wasn’t getting it.

Once driving a stretch in Pittsburgh I hit every red light and started getting irritated (angry). By God’s grace I asked myself what I wanted and wasn’t getting. I realized that what I wanted was for every red light to turn green the moment I approached – I wanted all creation to serve me. I wanted to be God. I wasn’t getting what I wanted so I got angry.

So the next time you get angry, ask yourself the million-dollar question. Excuse me, I have to run upstairs – I just heard a loud thump.

Originally published June 23, 2008

Photo by Mirsasha

You CAN Rein In That Rage

If you struggle with anger, there’s hope for you – believers in Jesus Christ can change!

My last 3 posts have been on being slow to anger.  Anger is explosive and feels uncontrollable.  But we can be slow to anger.  God says we can rule our spirit:

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

Before Jesus saves us, we’re all slaves of sin. Controlled and dominated by sin, we cannot escape its enslaving power. But Jesus breaks sin’s enslaving power, and gives us the Holy Spirit who fills us with the very strength of God to overcome kill anger and rule that wild stallion of our spirit. And as we walk with Jesus, day after day, and year after year we grow in self-control. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice how many of the fruits of the Spirit would be the opposite of being quick to anger – love, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.

We CAN control ourselves. We CAN be slow to anger. We do NOT HAVE to give in to rage or resentment even when someone wrongs us. When we’re tempted to explode we can come to the throne of grace and ask our great high priest for grace and help. If you do this, then you will find that the Lord not only empowers you to not get angry, but he will give you grace to love those who sin against you. I’m not saying it’s easy, but Jesus can give us all we need to rule our spirit.

This is good news, for being slow to anger leads to victories in our lives.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty – this means if you are slow to anger you are better than a mighty warrior – if you rule your spirit you are better than he who takes a city – you’re better than a king or a general who leads a great army to conquer a city. In other words, you will have victories in your life. You will lead a spiritually victorious life. You will overcome many things that trip others up. You will conquer all the snares and pitfalls that anger leads to.

It’s better to rule your spirit than to be General Patton, or Alexander the Great. Do you want to have VICTORIES with your wife? VICTORIES with your roommate? VICTORIES with your children? VICTORIES with your professors in class? Be slow to anger. RULE YOUR SPIRIT!

When I was in college my parents gave me some great advice. NEVER smart off to a professor, no matter what that prof says to you. And I had an opportunity one day in my freshman design class as art major. The assignment was to do a 3-d paper project. I did a large 3-d housefly. I have to admit, it wasn’t that good. My prof, who was not known for being tactful, muttered something as he walked past my desk.  I said, “Excuse me? I didn’t hear what you said.” So he said for the whole class to hear, “I said, ‘Do you have a match?’ because you should burn that thing.” I was shocked, humiliated. I felt the anger flush in my face. I might have said something like, “Well, I’ve seen your stuff and I’d say you should pick up a few matches yourself.” But I didn’t say anything. If I had, I’m sure the prof would have flunked me. As it turned out, I redid my project and later he wound up liking me and I got an A in the class.

Jesus is our ultimate example:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:18-23)

Peter says, slaves, when you’re treated unjustly and suffer for doing good, the temptation is to become angry, to revile and threaten. But Jesus, who did nothing but good, was tried unjustly, beaten, mocked, scourged, and nailed to a cross. Yet he didn’t revile in return or threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. That’s the key when we’re sinned against – to keep entrusting ourselves to him who judges justly.

Entrust yourself to God, leave judgment to him, rein in that rage and resentment and be slow to anger.

How To Wreck Your Life

Last week I posted on why we should be slow to anger. We should be slow to anger because God himself is slow to anger, because we are imperfect judges and sinners, and anger won’t produce righteousness. But there are more reasons we should be slow to anger. For example, anger promotes all kinds of wickedness.

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Folly in Proverbs is not just silliness or foolishness as we usually think of it. In Proverbs folly equals wickedness. Evil. So read PR 14:29 like this:

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts wickedness. He who has a hasty temper promotes evil.

Do you want to produce a lot of evil, wickedness and sin in your life? Do you want to wreck your life? Then have a quick temper. Have a hasty temper. Be quick to get angry. The Bible guarantees it.

Even the American Psychological Association, which does not claim to be Christian, says this:

“Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong….excessive anger can cause problems. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes associated with anger make it difficult to think straight and harm your physical and mental health.”

Catch that? “Difficult to think straight. Harm your physical and mental health.” When you’re angry you don’t think straight. You’re unreasonable. You do stupid, horrible things.  Anger leads to wife beating, child abuse, murder, divorce, saying damaging things to your children. Saying cruel, God-dishonoring things to your Dad and Mom. Anger leads to sin. Anger exalts wickedness. Anger promotes evil.

The first murder was a result of anger.

and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:4-8)

Anger leads to trouble, trouble, trouble:

A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again. (Proverbs 19:19)

If you are given to anger you will pay the penalty. It will affect your life. And it will keep happening again and again. Your penalty might be losing your wife – I know at least 2 men whose anger played a major part in ruining their marriages. Your anger may cut off from your children. You may lose your job. You may wind up in jail. But you will keep paying penalties all your life if you are given to anger.

I recently heard a podcast about a man who took his broken iPhone to an Apple store and was told he’d have to wait to hours to get it fixed. He waited 90 minutes, and when he asked again, the concierge said it would be another 2 hours, then said, “If you had an appointment this wouldn’t have happened. That’s what appointments are for. You make an appointment you get seen.” The guy storms out, goes home, and is steaming mad, then posts an angry threat on Facebook about walking into the Apple store on 5th Avenue with a gun and shooting “one of those smug, fruity little concierges.” An hour later, there’s a rap on his door and when he opens it, there’s a swat team there. He gets arrested, taken to the station, charged with making terroristic threats, and winds up going to court half a dozen times.

Anger always makes things worse:

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. (Proverbs 15:18)

Do you want a lot of strife in your life? Be a hot-tempered man or woman. Do you want more peace in your relationships? Do you want contention to quiet down in your life? Then be slow to anger.

Who Died And Made Me Judge?

The Bible says should be slow to anger (Pr 14:39; 16:32; James 1:19).

In my last post I said the first reason is because God himself is slow to anger (PS 103:8). He is gracious, merciful and forbearing with us, so we should be so with others.

The second reason we should be slow to anger is because we are imperfect judges.

Much of the time anger involves making a judgment: What that person did to me was wrong and I have a right to be angry about it. Yet only God is capable of perfectly righteous anger, because God is the perfectly righteous judge.

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. (Psalm 7:11)

Only God knows all things that go into a judgment: the motives of men’s hearts, all the factors that went into a sin, the exact degree of anger and the exact punishment each sin deserves. We, on the other hand, are very imperfect judges. We don’t know why people do something or all they’ve been through that affects their actions. We constantly interpret and make judgments, but those judgments could be wrong. That’s why we should be slow to anger.

Years ago my wife Kristi got really sick and was unable to do anything, including housework, and a lot fell on me. I struggled with resentment, which is a form of anger, because I misjudged her. I didn’t say anything, but I thought she wasn’t really that sick, she wasn’t trying hard enough, or maybe she was sick to some degree but was just milking it. I know, I’m horrible. It’s amazing she has stayed married to me. I made a judgment – I thought Kristi was doing something wrong to ME. But I couldn’t know how sick she was. And I couldn’t know her heart. I was an incredibly ignorant and sinful judge. We should be slow to anger because we are imperfect judges.

The third reason we should be slow to anger is because we are all sinners.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2:1)

We all blow it every day many times. If you lay on your horn in rage because someone pulls out in front of you – have you never pulled in front of someone? Are you a perfect driver? You get angry because your wife misplaced your car keys? Have you never misplaced anything? I used to always accuse Kristi of losing the keys. Then I’d find them in my coat pocket. Now when I can’t find the keys, and I find them in my coat pocket I say, “Kristi, why did you hide the keys in my coat pocket? We should be slow to anger because we too are sinners.

The fourth reason we should be slow to anger is because man’s anger will not produce the righteousness of God.

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)

James tells us we should be QUICK to hear: quick to listen, quick to try to understand, quick to hear another’s point of view. We should be quick to listen to someone’s input for us. Quick to want to see our sin and change. But we should be SLOW to speak, AND SLOW to anger at someone else’s behavior. Why?  “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

We want people to treat us with righteousness. We want our children to do the right thing, to act righteously. But anger won’t make anyone do the right thing. The anger of man does NOT produce the righteousness of God. I once heard someone say that if we yell at our kids to intimidate them they may obey outwardly, but it will only make them into little Pharisees. The pharisees did the right thing on the outside, but didn’t love God in their hearts. Our children may obey out of the fear of man, but it won’t cause them to obey out of love for God. The anger of man DOES NOT produce the righteousness of God.

Excuse me, I have to go find my keys.  I wonder where Kristi hid them…

 

Be Sloooooooooooow To Anger

Ever seen a child have a temper tantrum?

They fall on the floor kicking and screaming and crying when they don’t get something they want. A child having a temper tantrum is actually kind of cute and funny and sort of pathetic at the same time. As we grow up we gradually learn that falling on the floor kicking and screaming won’t usually impress anyone or get us very far. But we all continue to express anger in various ways. We may curse the idiot driver who pulls right out in front of us or we yell at our children. We may get angry at our husband or wife and give them the cold shoulder. We may punch a wall or kick something or throw our hands up in the air or roll our eyes or yell, “Really? Really!”

Most of the time, anger feels like it’s caused by something outside us – like other people make us mad. Or this flat tire. All the stupid slow drivers keeping me from getting to work on time are making me angry. My boss makes me so mad. My teenager. My roommate. President Obama. The whole government. Republicans. Democrats. THEY MAKE ME so mad! We don’t usually think of anger as OUR problem. It’s SOMEBODY ELSE doing something to me. It’s something OUTSIDE of me.

Sometimes we get angry to try to make other people do the right thing. Many years ago, a dad said to me he thought a little bit of anger was good. He said, My kids should be a little bit afraid of me so they’ll obey me. We can think I must show my anger to make this person at work do what I want. If we get angry at our teenager when they sin, they won’t do it any more.

Anger usually feels like it erupts instantaneously from nowhere, like Mt. St. Helens. Yet the Bible says we should be slow to anger.

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19)

Scripture does NOT say we should never be angry. Nor does it say that all anger is wrong. God himself has righteous anger. There are times it is appropriate to be angry. If I saw a man beating a child it would be right for me to be angry at this wickedness and take action to protect the child. But when someone sins against US or our children disobey US or a co-worker insults US, or another driver cuts in front of US, we should be SLOW to anger.

The first reason we should be slow to anger is because God is slow to anger.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  (Psalm 103:8)

God would be completely just to strike us down the moment we first sin. But he is patient and forbearing, merciful and gracious. He is SLOW TO ANGER. I rebelled against him for YEARS, and he was slow to anger. Instead of casting me into hell as my sins deserved, he sent his Son Jesus to experience hell in my place when he died on the cross to pay for my sins. And even after Jesus saved me, I’ve been so slow to change and failed so many times, yet he has been so forbearing and patient with me. The Lord is merciful and gracious, SLOW to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Now if the Lord is merciful and gracious TO ME, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love TO ME, should I not be merciful and gracious to others? Should I not be slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love to others?

Lord willing, I’ll follow up with a few more posts on being slow to anger. For today, let’s thank the Lord that he is so patient, long-suffering, and slow to anger with us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being so patient with me. For bearing with me for all these years and pouring out gracious blessings when I deserved your anger. Make me more and more like you.

How To Help Someone NOT Change

Dear Stephen,

I have this person in my life – maybe it’s my spouse, maybe it’s one of my kids, maybe it’s a friend – it doesn’t really matter. They have this sinful habit that drives me absolutely bonkers. They complain a lot. Or maybe they criticize me a lot. Or maybe they argue a lot. Or they don’t express enough care toward me. Whatever it is, it drives me cuh-razy! But here’s the thing. I DON’T want them to change. I want them get hardened in their sin.

What should I do? How can I help them NOT change?

Sincerely,

Dazed & Confused

Dear Dazed & Confused (can I call you “Dazed”?),

My heart goes out to you. Your plight is a common one, and has driven many a spouse/parent/friend crazy. It’s like, WHY CAN’T THEY SEE IT?!?! Why do they keep doing the same thing over and over? It makes you want to smash your head against a semi-padded wall (a regular wall is much too hard).

So, how can you help them NOT change? How can you help them become hardened in their sins? It’s really rather easy. Two words: get angry. That’s all there is to it! If you want to help a person not change, get angry every time they sin. Blow up. Be volcanic. Explosive even. After all, it says in James 1:19-20 -

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.

Getting angry at a person never produces true righteousness. Don’t get me wrong, if you scream loud enough, and slam enough doors, you can probably achieve some behavior modification. But anger never produces any change at the heart level.

Want your kids to be good ol’ fashioned Pharisees? Blow up at them regularly. Make them feel how angry you are. Scream if you need to. Every angry outburst adds another crust to their hearts. They may change outwardly, but they’re still the same on the inside.

We have this funny idea that if we can make people see how angry we really are, then they’ll change. If we can make them feel our anger, then they’ll finally get the point and change. But it doesn’t work that way. Anger actually has the opposite effect than what we intend. Anger hardens, love, peace, and gentleness soften. Anger condemns, the Holy Spirit convicts.

So fire up those anger jets! Get ready for a good screaming session. Stretch your arms in case your need to slam some doors (don’t want to pull a muscle!). If you can get good and angry, I guarantee your child/spouse/friend will never change.

Sincerely,

Stephen Altrogge

+photo by familymwr

Fight To Forgive

sword-by-derekwin

I was working construction for a bear of man I’ll call Harry.  Harry didn’t talk much to us lackeys on his crew, except to bark out our next mind-numbing, back-breaking task.

One day Harry orders me to go to an apartment unit and “run insulation,” that is, stuff panels of fiberglass insulation between the wall studs and ceiling joists, a miserable job that requires me to wear a mask, safety glasses, and long-sleeved shirt, even on the hottest day of the year, to keep fiberglass dust from filling my lungs and eyes, and covering my entire body.  Harry’s under a deadline from the job foreman, so he tells me to run the insulation as fast as I can, he doesn’t care what it looks like, just get it done quick.  So I jam it and ram it in.  In record time.  And it isn’t pretty.

Next day Harry sends for me and rips into me in front of the foreman. “I can’t believe what a sloppy job you did.  Get up there and tear it all out, and do the job right.”  The foreman isn’t happy about the apartment and I’m the fall guy.

I feel the heat rising in my cheeks.  “You told me to do it as fast as I could and you didn’t care what it looked like.”

“Shut up and get up there and do it like you were supposed to,” he snaps.

Alone in the room, I seethe as I strip out the insulation.  Clouds of fiberglass dust billow around me, like the bitter thoughts in my heart.

“Father, in Jesus’ name, I forgive him,” I pray.

But mere moments later I find myself thinking, “I can’t believe he did that to me.  I did exactly what he said then he reams me out in front of the foreman.”

I recall hearing that when God says he will remember our sins no more, he doesn’t literally forget them, but makes a conscious decision not to bring them up again.  So although I can’t help it if bitter thoughts arise, I can decide to not bring them up or dwell on them.  So I determine that every time they come knocking, I’ll pray for grace to reaffirm my forgiveness.

And they come knocking.  I’m fine for a while, then catch myself thinking, “I should have said this,” or “Maybe I’ll say this.”  Wave after wave of bitterness washes in, but I keep fighting, saying, “NO!  I will not dwell on this.  Father, in Jesus’ Name, I forgive him.”  By the end of the day the thoughts begin to subside and I start to enjoy God’s peace.

If I struggled so hard to forgive such a small offense, I can’t fathom how hard it is for you who have suffered horribly from others’ sins.  But Jesus commands us to forgive because through Christ he forgave our hell-deserving sins against him.  And when he commands he supplies grace to obey.  You may have to swing your sword for a long time, but it glorifies God to imitate the One who said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

photo by Derekwin

How To Make Little Pharisees

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A dad once told me, “I get angry with my kids so they know I’m serious.  It’s good for them to be afraid of me, at least a little bit.”

So often we resort to anger as a way to get people to do what we want.  Parents yell at their kids to try to get them to obey.  Bosses intimidate employees to motivate them.  Husbands speak harshly to their wives to try to change them.

But God’s Word says, “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).

Catch that?  Anger won’t produce righteousness – in our children or anyone else.  Anger will often produce something else, though – the fear of man.  Oh, our children may obey us out of fear.  But our anger will produce little Pharisees, who obey on the outside but not from the heart*.

God doesn’t use anger to produce his righteousness in us.  His wrath doesn’t move those in hell to love him.  God imputes to us Christ’s righteousness, then moves us to obey out of gratitude.  We love because he first loved us, not because he first intimidated us.

*I’d like to credit the person I learned this from, but I can’t recall who it was.

photo by Eric Rice