Stop Being Angry: What Purpose Does It Serve?

God’s Word is clear that mankind should be slow to anger and quicker to listen to others and to love one another. Why, then, is God’s anger okay? We see that His anger is based on His righteousness, whereas our anger is based on our sinfulness — our pride, selfishness, and greed. Relying on His grace, we can show His love to a broken world.

“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.” Psalm 37:8 (NLT)

“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-temperated exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29 (NASB)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (ESV)

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)

WHAT GOOD PURPOSE DOES ANGER SERVE? The Bible is filled with admonition against human anger, while it promotes God’s righteous wrath.

So, what’s the difference? Why is it okay for Almighty God to be angry, but not us? Perhaps the key is not who is getting angry but why the person is angry.

Let’s take a look at God’s anger.

Theologian J.I. Packer says that God’s anger, as described in His Word, “is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, God's Righteous Angermorally ignoble thing” that often marks human anger but “a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.”

God hates human sin. He gave us His commandments to steer us in the right direction. The first four tell us to love and honor God; the remainder tell us to love and honor one another. He gets angry — and rightly so — when we fail to do that. Continue reading “Stop Being Angry: What Purpose Does It Serve?”

The Christian’s Response to Politics

Some religious leaders caution Christians against publicizing political views, fearing discord that could split the flock, while others challenge believers to engage in all areas of public life, including running for office. What is clear is that in all matters of our earthly lives—including the political—God’s people are called to seek His guidance and direction and then speak the Word of God boldly.

Psalms 146:3-5 (NLT): “Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those … whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV): “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Acts 1:8 (GW) [Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me … to the ends of the earth.”

THE U.S. POLITICAL FABRIC IS TORN.

The last several decades have seen a wedge form within the body, separating families, friends, neighbors, and communities. On one side are those pushing for more government regulation of our personal lives, while their opponents push against more government, saying less government promotes a vibrant private sector.

Overlapping this battle is the divisive “culture war,” pitting secular voices  calling for “progressive” values against Christian voices defending biblical values.

Where Are Christian Voices?In both arenas — the role of government and the cultural war — there is no middle ground. If one is not “right,” then one is “wrong” — not partly right or mostly right, but completely wrong.

Both major political parties have seen an “ethnic cleansing” of sorts, where those left-of-center have migrated to one party and those right-of-center have moved to the other party.

The result of this realignment is a political middle nearly extinct, and, with it, any chance for either side to find compromise or common ground.

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WHAT SHOULD BE THE CHRISTIAN VOICE?

The Christian is called to observe two truths.

One is to follow biblical teaching; that is, to listen for God’s voice and obey His commands where He has made them clear (Lev. 22:31; Matt. 28:20; John 15:14).

The other is to follow the Lord’s mandate to love God and to love our fellow man. Jesus said we are to forgive our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

The Lord was also clear that He created civil government to maintain order and domestic peace, to punish wrongdoers, and to keep us safe from our enemies (1 Pet. 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1). He even calls us to pray for our political leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-3).Girl in Field - Christian Voices

In the most famous exchange on secular observance, Jesus told his questioners to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:7).

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TRUE, WE ARE REMINDED in Scripture that the Lord Jesus will return to earth — the Second Coming — when He will gather the believers to Him and usher in a lengthy earthly reign, possibly for a thousand years — before providing the Paradise He promised that far exceeds the Garden of Eden (Rev. 21, 22).

Until then, we are called to witness in the way we act and speak that gives the glory to God (1 Peter 2:12).

So, is there a Christian List of Political Positions that we could refer to that will tell us the biblical stand on the day’s affairs?

It might be easier to point to Scripture in defense of marriage between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6) than it is to discern a Christian position on, say, the ideal tax rate (Matt. 17:27).

But looking for “right” positions on earthly concerns doesn’t feel at all biblical, especially in light of the apostle Paul’s statement that “our citizenship is in heaven,” and we are waiting for the Lord’s return (Phil. 3:20).

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WHEN JESUS DIED FOR OUR SINS on the Cross, He also rose from the dead to create His church (Matt. 16:18), which He would soon commission his followers to build (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

The apostle Paul was clear that the Lord’s church should follow “one Lord” (Eph. 4:3-5), so there’s very little room for discord or fractious debate within the circle of believers. That is not to say there isn’t room for disagreement. That is entirely a different matter, as long as the issue is not a clear biblical mandate.

Cross Against Sky - Christian VoicesWe’ve seen what happens when God’s people fail to consult with God on all matters of their lives, from Adam and Eve’s decision to eat of the  forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), to Abraham and Sarah’s plan to fulfill God’s promise to give them a son (Gen. 16:1-2), to Korah’s uprising against Moses’ leadership in the wilderness (Num. 16:31-33), and that’s just the tip of the first three books in a 66-book Bible.

The prophet Jeremiah was pretty blunt, wasn’t he, when he put it this way when God’s people stopped asking Him for guidance: “For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered” (Jer. 10:21).

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WHAT IS CLEAR is that in all matters of our earthly lives, including the political realm, God’s people are called on to seek God’s guidance and direction.

The apostle James, Jesus’ half-brother, says that if anyone lacks wisdom, he or she “should ask God,” who will give it (James 1:5). He says that the wisdom God gives “is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (3:17).

The psalmist tells us (Psalms 118:8-9 CEV) that it is “better to trust the Lord for protection than to trust anyone else, including strong leaders.”

Lastly, we’re reminded in Acts 4:24-26, that God is sovereign, and He will determine the outcome of any event, whether it be a plea for direction in marriage or which job offer to accept — or what the election outcome should be.

That doesn’t mean we will understand or even like the outcome (Isa. 55:9). It does mean that God is in control.

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WHEN THE APOSTLES PETER AND JOHN were released from prison, they reported back to the early believers that the political and religious leaders of the day had ordered them to stop preaching the Good News of salvation.

God's Wisdom - Christian VoicesImmediately, the believing community raised their  arms in prayer: “Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’”

Their amazing prayer continued: “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

After they finished, the Bible says (v. 31), “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

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PRAYER: O Holy and Merciful Father, we come to you in this troubled political season in our country and seek Your guidance. We ask for wisdom on what we, as Your followers, should share with fellow believers and with a fallen world hungry for Light and Truth. In the end, Lord, we know that Your Truth will prevail and that You alone are sovereign. We seek guidance that will help us navigate the coming months in a way that brings glory to You, Lord, and healing to our community. We raise this plea in Jesus’ Name. Amen

Burning Heart or Still Small Voice?

With Jeremiah, God’s voice was like fire in his bones; with Elijah, it was a quite whisper. God thundered from a cloud when Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop, telling mankind, “Listen to him.” God speaks to us in many voices. If we don’t hear him, we’re not paying attention.

 

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. — Jeremiah 20:9 (NASB)

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. — 1 Kings 19:12 (KJV)

[A] bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NET)

GOD’S VOICE.

What does that mean to you? Does He speak to us? If so, in what way?

It’s easy to pass this question off by saying, “Well, back in the Bible days, mayVoice of Godbe He talked to man, but that was then; this is now.”

Why wouldn’t He speak to us now?

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THE BIBLE GIVES US TWO DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS of God speaking to man. The first is Jeremiah. He was called the “weeping prophet” because he was so distressed by the increasingly bad news God called him to deliver to the Jewish people because of their unfaithfulness.

But whenever he tried to silence God’s voice, the Lord became more insistent, and our reluctant prophet felt a “burning fire” in his bones.

Elijah was another prophet of very high esteem. In fact, the Jewish Passover ceremony references his predicted return — an event Christians believe was fulfilled with the testimony of John the Baptist. In this account in 1 Kings, Elijah is hiding from the Jews because he fears they will kill him as they have the other prophets.

While God spoke to Jeremiah in the fire, the Bible is clear that He did not speak to Elijah in the same manner. “The Lord was not in the fire,” Scriptures tell us. But God did speak to Elijah, “in a still small voice.”

The “still small voice” comes from the King James Version. Other translations call it a “gentle whisper” (NLT), “low whisper” (ESV), or “soft whisper” (HCSB).Man Listening to God

So, which is it: a burning fire in our bones that’s impossible to ignore or a small, soft, gentle whisper almost beyond our hearing?

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IN MATTHEW’S ACCOUNT of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Lord is direct in telling us to pay attention to His voice.

When Jesus took his three closest disciples up a mountain and was transfigured in heavenly aura before them, along with Elijah and Moses, the gospel writer Matthew tells us a bright cloud overshadowed the three men — Jesus and Elijah and Moses — and then, from out of the cloud, Almighty God Himself proclaimed of Jesus, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight.”

Then, unmistakably and most assuredly for us to take account of, He said, “Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NET)

There’s no ambiguity there, is there? No wiggle room, no way to spin this event into a mere suggestion or wise saying. No, this was from the Creator himself. “Listen to him — my Son.”

With this moment on the mountain, we can be sure that God still speaks to us — and that He most assuredly wants us to listen. Listen, understand, take in, and obey.

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THE LORD HAS MORE WAYS to speak to mankind in modern days. There are more sophisticated communications devices, and, through advanced transportation modes, our globe is smaller than the ancient world.

Woman Listening to GodWe have Holy Writ translated into numerous English translations, plus translations into most of the world’s languages. Bible translators say Scripture has been made available in more than 2,500 languages, with another 1,500 or so, mostly minor languages or dialects, without a translation.

Add to that the numerous videos, podcasts, online sermons and commentaries, plus  Christian fellowship, and God finds many willing avenues to talk with us.

Perhaps no method is more intense or meaningful than our quiet devotion time, where we open our hearts and minds through prayer, then spend quality time reading a current and easy-to-follow translation of the Bible, followed by meditation on what we just read, and closing prayer.

We’re reminded in the book of James, a short how-to primer written by one of Jesus’ half-brothers, that we can ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)

When Solomon asked God for wisdom, we’re told in 1 Kings 5:12 (NIV): The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him.”

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WE CAN BE SURE THAT GOD STILL SPEAKS to His people. Let’s just take two verses from the Bible — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — to make the point clear.

In Genesis 1:27 (NIV), we’re told that God created us in His image: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Then, in John 3:16 (NIV), we’re told that God loved these humans created in His image so much that, well, He was willing to let His own Son die on the Cross to pay for our sins and reconcile us to Him: “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.”Woman Hearing God

With all that was at stake, God creating us in His own image and God giving us His Son to reclaim us as His children when we went astray, how could we possibly assume that He has stopped talking to us?

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IF WE DON’T HEAR HIS VOICE, then we should ask ourselves this question: Have we stopped listening?

The psalmist answers that question this way: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV)

PRAYER: Our most heavenly Father, pour your love on us. Shower us with Your goodness, and speak to us. Whether You whisper at some times that we must pause to listen, or you set our very bones on fire with Your strong voice, show us that You haven’t stopped loving us, that You are with us, that You are calling us to follow You. Father, we ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

‘Who Do YOU Think YOU Are?’

Many of us want to obey God and do acts of service, but we’re stopped in our tracks because Satan, the great Tempter, challenges us where we’re weak. He says: Just who do you think You are? He knows our insecurities. When the Lord calls us to step out in faith, the Tempter tells us we’re not good enough. Fortunately, that’s not the story’s end. With the Holy Spirit’s counsel, we can accomplish anything (Phil. 4:13).

Matthew 4:3 (NIV): The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Matthew 4:6 (NIV) “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.”

What an amazing encounter in the desert!

Can you imagine what Jesus must have felt at that time? He was about to start his public ministry, and there was no more symbolic place to start than to be baptized in  the Jesus Baptized by JohnRiver Jordan by John, known as The Baptist. John, you will recall, was actually Jesus’ cousin, and he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that Elijah would return to herald the Messiah.

When Jesus approached the river, John, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognized him as the Messiah, even though the two had never met. John called out that this was the Messiah, the One who came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

When John baptized Jesus, an act that John performed only because Jesus commanded him to, Jesus emerged from the water, dripping wet and was greeted by the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove and the Father’s voice sounding from the heavens, that “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

In the mosaic of one’s life, being recognized as the beloved Son of God must surely rate at the top, well above making the Dean’s List, publishing a popular novel, being voted “Mom of the Year,” or batting .360 for 10 consecutive years. The top items in our personal review pale in comparison with what Jesus just experienced.

He must have felt on top of the world — exhilarated, pumped, energetic, raring to go!

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IF LIFE COULD BE PIECED TOGETHER with moments like that.

In Paradise, life will, but this isn’t Paradise, and Jesus — like us in this world — would not stay in that moment.

Scripture tells us that as soon as the Christ emerged from the river, He was led by that same temptation-of-jesusHoly Spirit into the dessert to be tempted by Satan. What a graduation present! That’s far worse than being given a toy and finding out the batteries are not included. This would not be an easy temptation, either.

No, Jesus, by himself, with nowhere to lay his head, fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end, He was fatigued, famished, and parched, and the Tempter struck.

“You think YOU are the Son of God!” the Tempter shrieked. “YOU! What makes YOU think you’re so special. Wherever did You get that notion.”

When the Tempter let his taunt sink in, he followed it up with a test.

“You’re hungry with a Big H,” he said. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

There it was. If you really are who you think you are, you can do something about it. You can turn the stones into bread and gorge yourself. But — maybe you can’t do that. Maybe you really aren’t the Son of God. Then what?

Jesus did not fall for the trap. He told the devil that God’s Word was more important to him than food.

Round One: Jesus.

The devil wasn’t done. He had scored a knockout punch in the Garden of Eden when he incited Eve and then Adam to taste of the forbidden fruit. This was an important test served on a platter, and Satan wasn’t about to give up.

He took Jesus in the spirit to the top of the city and challenged him: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” He even quoted some Scripture to add salt to the wound.

Again, Jesus did not fall for the trap. He told the devil that man should worship only God, and that’s exactly what Jesus would do, regardless of being hungry or thirsty or grimy or tired. He would not betray His faith.

Round Two: Jesus.

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THERE WOULD BE A THIRD ROUND, and Jesus would win that one, too. At that point, Scripture tells us the devil fled. We can only imagine Satan was angrier than ever at the Father who had thrown him out of heaven long before.

All of that is fine, but we need to ask this: What does all of that mean for us? 

Really, Jesus was, in fact, God, so He was bound to win against Satan, wasn’t He? That doesn’t mean we can win.

Oh, but it does.

You, see, Satan will use the Cross With Backlightsame question against us.

“John, you feel led to start a citywide program to teach underprivileged children to improve their reading skills. Who do you think YOU are?”

“Mary, you think God is calling you to organize a neighborhood watch group to ensure the post-school safety of grade school children until their parents come home. Who do you think YOU are?”

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FRANKLY, I HEAR THAT SAME VOICE.

Who do you think you are that you should write a blog?

Who do you think you are that you should lead a church prayer group?

Who do you think you are that you should witness boldly for your faith?

I don’t think I’m anyone that should do any of those things. Satan knows those taunts are effective against me.

If I just leave it there, I’ll stop. I won’t do anything.

But that’s not the end of the story. Because the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to be our counselor and advisor, I don’t have to stand alone. With the help of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, that’s how I can lead a life of witness.

It isn’t by my power or by my strength or by my goodness.

With the help of Jesus Christ who gives me that strength (Phil. 4:13), I can do anything.

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BY THE WAY, SATAN. Yes, you in the ugly red suit. You with the horns. I’m talking to you.

Just who do you think YOU are!

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PRAYER: Our Lord, just as Satan tried to derail Your perfect plan to reconcile the world through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus, so he tries to derail each of us from obeying Your will for our lives. We pray that Your counselor, the Holy Spirit, will protect us from assault and keep us on the path that You’ve laid out for us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

God Tells Us: ‘Go’

The Lord requires us to “Go” and live lives reflecting his glory — his love, his mercy, his justice. We are to act in his name.


Bible Verses to Help Us Through the Week

The message of “GO” is woven throughout the Bible’s 66 books so that providing one week of  devotions will leave out important verses. You might have selected God’s command to Abram (renamed Abraham) to leave his home for Canaan or His command to Moses to confront Egypt’s pharaoh on behalf of the Jewish slaves. More important than the verses we select is how we respond to God’s command in our lives to “go.” Meditate on these verses—and your personal favorites—and spend time with God this week, asking him: “Where do You want me to go?”

Continue reading “God Tells Us: ‘Go’”