The Christian Word for Anger

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Anger is funny, funny thing.  It masks itself in many ways.  Some are more obvious (like withdrawal, sarcasm, and the like).  Others are a bit more subtle, which was revealed to me just after my Personal Retreat and during the course of The Gospel Coalition conference.

If you recall in my last piece, my twenty four hour Personal Retreat revealed that I was holding onto some anger that I didn’t realize was there.  People I needed to forgive was a priority on my list.  But the Lord wasn’t done revealing to me the ways in which anger had penetrated my life.

During the conference, I had an opportunity to sign up for bonus events being held alongside the conference.  One of which was an event put together by Serge.org, which not only had a two morning breakfast with speakers from their mentoring and leadership team but offered a one hour mentor session.  I jumped at the opportunity to speak with a veteran in the ministry field for advice/direction/suggestions for the ministry work I was involved in.

In my session with Hunter Dockery, I laid out exactly what my ministry work was about and where I saw it going.  Then I shared some obstacles I was facing in that process.  I thought that this was the place Hunter would be able to help me.  I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Hunter was less interested in the work, and more interested in me.  How was I personally being affected, how was my marriage, etc.  This was personal, and exactly what I needed to explore… I just didn’t know it.

I’m going to spend my time on this piece speaking to just one of the questions I was asked, but I’ll probably talk more about this in future blogs.

As I shared about some of my obstacles, and how I felt as if I was failing those I was serving… Hunter basically asked me how I felt about those who were impeding the work.  I said that I was frustrated, and that is when he laid it out there…

Frustrated is the Christian word for angry.

Well, crap.  If frustrated is the Christian word for angry, I may be angrier about more things than I realized.  Between my personal retreat and this moment, I was seeing things with more clarity.  I imagine it like a large room that is completely dark, without any single light source but multiple lamps scattered through the room.  The Lord was taking me one step at a time, turning on one lamp at a time.  Illuminating the room a little bit more versus flooding me with more light than my eyes could handle in one flip of a switch.

I was being put into a position where I would have to face and own these feelings, in order to correct them.  And the only one way that was going to happen, was to keep turning on more lights.

I’m thankful for my time with Hunter, not just because he helped me to see this underlying emotion but instead the greater gift came with the next question.

“When you imagine the Lord speaking directly to you, what does He say?”

I imagined a God who was frustrated with me.  Those were not my exact words to Hunter, but something that I understood later.

Well, if frustrated is the Christian word for angry… then I realized that I imagined that God was angry with me.  Let down.  Disappointed.   It was in a flash of clarity that I realized that while I believed God’s promises for others, truly and deeply… there was a part of me that saw myself still broken.  That my daily mistakes and failures were evidence that I still wasn’t living up to the par.

Hunter said words that will stick with me forever.

“You need to preach the Gospel to yourself, every morning.”

I’ve since thought about that, and made a choice that I need to shut down and replace the words that roll through my head.

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Chart based on a presentation by Lysa TerKeurst on Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 App.

  I had listened to too many lines, believe the lies, labeled myself based on what others have said or done, and it became a liability that was holding me back from living in the freedom gifted by Jesus Christ.  The Gospel wasn’t just something to share with unbelievers but something that we believers need to be reminded of constantly.  The world tries to overwhelm our senses to the point we forget the promises that God has made to us.

This is an issue that I am still working through, with the Lord’s help.  Lamps are still being turned on.  However, I find myself already more at peace as I preach the Good News to myself, every morning.

And a few times throughout the day, as needed.

Because God so loved the world (and Gena) that He sent His only Son, and whoever (this means Gena too) believes in Him will have ever lasting life.

Jesus paid the wages of (Gena’s) sin.   You (and I) are new creations in Christ, washed clean by the blood of the lamb.  Sons and Daughters (including me) that were adopted into His family, where nothing can separate (even me) from Him.

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How Does This Scripture Apply to Me? – WRONG QUESTION

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Early in my Christian walk, I read the bible to understand what Christianity was about.  I saw it as a collection of stories & history that explained how we (gentiles) came to believe in God, who Jesus was & why the crucifixion was needed, and to understand what awaits us in the future.  In time, as I would mature in my walk, I would begin to see that this was more than just a collection of information that justified or explained my faith.  It was the true Word of God, it had an enormous amount of value.  The scriptures are filled with stories of people, just like me, who failed miserably but that God could and would redeem.  It became a book of Hope for the weary, Faith for those who love Him, and Promises of an eternal heavenly future.

Under the teaching of some very respected bible teachers, study authors, and church leaders… I began to read the scriptures differently.  I was taught to read the scriptures and ask “How does this apply to my life?”. Now, in some cases of scripture, that is a really easy question to answer.  The Proverbs are full of wisdom that can be applied to every day life.   But there would be times, when I would read a passage of scripture, that I was left scratching my head.  It just didn’t seem to apply.  I wasn’t like the person in the story, the situations I was dealing with in life were different than the point of the story.  I just couldn’t figure out how it applied to me, at all.  In those cases, I would cast it aside for the time being.  My reasoning was that it just didn’t apply at that moment.  But, I figured God revealed it to me because at one point it will.  I will recall reading it, and at that point in the future, I will know where I can return to find the wisdom and encouragement I need.

I am certain many of you who are reading this, are shaking your head in agreement.  But, what if I told you … we are totally wrong.  What if I said that is not the right question to be asking?  Hold on to your hats, if you are, because I am about to rock your socks.

I had an opportunity to attend an amazing conference that would forever change how I viewed the Bible.  I have never looked at a passage of scripture the same.  I study the Bible in an entirely different way.  It came from a group of very well known teachers, that a new question was posed.

You see, the scriptures are not about you and I.   The Bible is the collective story about God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

The Old Testament serves as a witness, or testimony, to how fallen God’s people are.  God gave us everything, perfect and in union with Him.  Man’s choice to go against God’s wills happened in the very beginning… when Eve and then Adam, took a bite of that forbidden fruit.  As the Old Testament unfolds, we illustration after illustration of a repetitive cycle of sin and redemption.

God sets rules.

Man breaks or can’t keep rules.

Man should be punished.

God ultimately saves them from themselves.

They thank God, renew promise to follow his rule.

They do for a while.

Then the cycle repeats itself… again and again…. and again.

Because man continually repeats this cycle, atonement has to be made for these sins.  The Gospels of the New Testament deliver to us a Savior, who will be the final lamb sacrificed for sins of a stiff necked people.  The New Testament continues, with the Good News spreading to new areas, the real life experiences believers faced, and leads us to the end… when Christ comes back for His church.

The Bible from start to finish, isn’t about you… or me… it is about Jesus Christ, our Savior.  The question we should be asking, first and foremost, when we study scripture is:

How does this passage reveal Jesus Christ to me?

Does it reveal the promise of his coming, his birth?

Does it parallel his life to death, on earth?

Does it reveal the need & promise of his sacrifice?

Does it reflect the call He puts on those who follow him?

Does it establish his person-hood, his divinity, his character, his love, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his obedience… his example?

The Bible was written about Jesus Christ, for you. For you to see that you are not alone in your failures, that just like others in the scriptures you can be redeemed.  But that comes by first KNOWING HIM, and you will get to know Him best when you look for Him in God’s word, before you look for yourself.

I am not suggesting we don’t ever ask how it applies to our life, if that were the case there would be no need for the wisdom scriptures.  I am suggesting that before we can understand the wisdom & themes of scripture (as they apply to us), we have to understand the ONE whom the wisdom originates.  We have to understand how these pieces of scripture, stories and history relate reveal Jesus, first.

I understand that for a good portion of my readers, this a “DUH” moment.  Either because you already know it, or you are simply trying to figure out how you missed it.. it should be a given.  It is very easy for human beings to get so wrapped up in themselves or the situation they are seeking guidance through the scriptures for, that they forget to start with Jesus.

This past summer, I had an opportunity to do an in depth study of the book of Nehemiah.  It was conducted by a panel of biblical scholars; who worked independently on their assigned sections of Nehemiah, while making sure they stood in agreement as team under the Word of the scriptures.

On the surface, you could easily pull out some very “me centered” themes.

* It’s a story about a man who chose to make a difference in his community.

* It’s a story about a man who brings his community back together, back to God.

* It’s a historical point of time, regarding the city of Jerusalem.

* It’s a story about what we can accomplish, when we work together, for the glory of God.

On their own, none of these things are bad.  However, they do not truly reveal the point of the book of Nehemiah.  They don’t get to the heart of the story.  They don’t get to Jesus.

If you really take time to look through the scripture in Nehemiah, you will find that is parallels the ministry & purpose of Jesus.

The city is in ruin, the people are far from God.

Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position, with the king to go to the city & restore it.

While Nehemiah is present, restoration begins.

Nehemiah sets the example & standard.

Nehemiah returns to the king, leaving the people to continue on their own.

The people fail miserably in his absence.

Nehemiah must return.

When you look at the book of Nehemiah, with intention of revealing Jesus… it’s right there, plain as day.  You just have to get yourself out of the way to see it.  This is why, we must come to the scripture first, seeking to reveal Jesus.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.  Always has been, always will be.

I challenge you to start looking for Jesus, when you study the word.  You will find him. 

In the next installment, we will address what the second question you should be asking is.