Archive for December, 2010

A Collection of Quotes on Anger

What follows is a collection of quotes on this subject. They are not meant to sequentially walk through the subject or to comprehensively cover the subject. Their purpose is merely to expose you to a variety of thoughts and perspectives by Christian men and women.

“The very fact that [God gets angry] tells us that anger can be utterly right, good, appropriate, beautiful, the only fair response to something evil, and the loving response on behalf of evil’s victims (p. 1)… The Bible makes it clear that anger is not a ‘thing.’ It is a moral act of the whole person, not a ‘substance’ or a ‘something’ inside you (p. 2)” David Powlison in Anger: Escaping the Maze

“Anger is easier to describe than to define (p. 14)… Our anger is our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil (p. 15)… Let’s begin with a humbling observation: most human anger is sinful (p. 27)… The problem lies not in wanting something but in wanting it too badly (p. 51)… James’s answer for angry hearts is not ‘how-to’ but ‘Whom-to’: we must go to God himself (p. 64)… To receive God’s forgiving grace, you must own your anger. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble [James 4:6]. We must not blame our past or present circumstances (p. 70)… True strength in God’s eyes means victory over one’s temper more than ones’ enemies (p. 85).” Robert Jones in Uprooting Anger

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is probably the most fun. To lick your wounds, smack your lips over grievances long past, roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontation still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” Frederick Buechner in Better Families monthly newsletter.

“Patience is the evidence of an inner strength. Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependant on external supports—like schedules that go just right and circumstances that support their fragile hearts (p. 173)…God undertakes vengeance against sin not only by means of hell, but also by means of the cross.  All sin will be avenged—severely and thoroughly and justly.  Either in hell, or at the cross (p. 268).” John Piper in Future Grace

 

“Talk is not cheap because interpretation is not cheap. The way we interpret life determines how we will respond to it (p. 15)…  What is wrong is not just vocabulary and tone of voice, but a way of looking at life that does not agree with what God says is right and true (p. 22)… We confess that our communication struggle is not primarily a struggle of technique, but a struggle of the heart. Our war of words is not with the other people; it is a battle within (p. 30)… John 6 points us to the core issue of our words: Our words are shaped by the dream that resides in our hearts. They are determined by the bread we are seeking (p. 101)… Truth that is not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it becomes distorted by human impatience, bitterness, and anger (p. 228).” Paul David Tripp in War of Words

 

“If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love (p. 32).”  Amy Carmichael in If

“Pride is a mental attitude based upon faulty assumptions about ourselves. The pride that breeds anger usually takes the form of frustration (p. 105)… We are very quick to justify our anger because we think it produces results… We must understand that no matter what evidence we see of anger’s effectiveness, it is a lie… We need to see it for the terrorist it really is and despise it as God really does (p. 107).” Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

God’s Words for Our Gratitude: Psalm 116

Case Study: Those who know Becky today have a hard time imagining her full story of growing up in a home with no father, three siblings, and a mother who had to work two jobs to make ends meet. As a middle child, she was not the leader or the baby; she was either alone or in the way.

She spent most of her school age years trying to get attention. She would do whatever it took. As a young girl she would make good grades because the teachers would praise her. Later she would take whatever dare came along so that people would watch her. As she became older and dating was “the thing” she would do whatever it took to get and keep a boyfriend.

Eventually, she began to feel as used as she really was. She realized that no one truly cared about her, they just enjoyed being entertained by her. The thought that no one would care if she died was too much to bear, so she began to dive harder into the drugs she had already experimented with.

Becky began attending a church because they gave aid with food and clothes. Several of the women there remembered her name, asked her favorite color, and would put back clothes in her size especially if they were green. With time Becky finally understood the grace these ladies told her about and accepted Christ as her Savior. The change was dramatic.

Becky hungered to be discipled. As she learned more of God’s love, Becky found the courage and reason to finish her GED, go to Tech school, met a Christian man, married, and now has three children of her own. While she still feels out of place around people with “nice things,” she is a leader in her church and one of the most enjoyable people you’d ever care to meet.

There is a deep, abiding gratitude that marks almost everything she does. Her enjoyment of life is contagious. When she prays Becky truly talks to her Heavenly Father and her conversations are saturated with thanksgiving. One day as she read Psalm 116, she said she found “her chapter” and loves to pray it back to her Savior.

Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 116. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • What would you want to ask Becky about how God has transformed her difficult upbringing and regret over painful choices?
  • How does learning of the love of God make wise/righteous living seem more “reasonable”?
  • What role did the ladies at the local church’s mercy ministry play in Becky’s life transformation?

Read Psalm 116 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 116 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Becky to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Becky would want to pray many times as she celebrated her heart of gratitude before the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 116

1. Lord, You heard the cries of my heart before I knew who to address them to. When no one knew me well enough to recognize my voice on the phone, You heard my pleas for love.

2. Lord, because you cared enough to listen, I will always enjoy our conversations. I never knew what it was to have someone to count on before You. I had always wanted a best friend, or even just a friend. Jesus You are my friend for a life time.

3. I was in a dark, dark place. As I searched for love, I placed myself in so many situations that could have been fatal or permanently changed my life. But I was so fearful and hurting I just did not care.

4. Once I realized You were there to call to (and would listen to someone like me), I cried, “God, cleanse my soul, make it whole! Lord, deliver me from this brokenness.”

5. You are so good! Your kindness amazes me! Our God is the One who loves the yet unloved.

6. I did not have a clue and yet You protected me from myself for years. When I got the point I would quit performing to earn “love” (I hate to call it that now), You entered my life and saved me.

7. That was the first time I knew what rest really was. I didn’t have to do anything to make the good feeling last. You were not flirting with me to pleasure Yourself. You loved loving me. I had never known that. I would return to Your presence thousands upon thousands of time for that refreshment of my soul.

8. You saved my soul from death (both Hell and the living death in which I swam). You saved my eyes from tears (there are no more hopeless tears for me). You saved my feet from stumbling (my old destructive ways no longer seem “worth it” to me).

9. I just want to sing, “I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive!” as I walk with You. I used to feel as if I absorbed death in my every interaction; even my pleasure and laughter were dark. You saved me into a community of life-giving people. Common conversation and joking breathes life.

10. When I first started telling You (and the ladies at the church) about my life, I wanted to believe You cared. I think I really did believe that is why I was so scared to talk. I didn’t want to be wrong, hurt, and abandoned again.

11. I kept saying to myself, “Every person I know is a liar and a user. Why should You (or they) be any different?”

12. I didn’t know what I had to offer that You (or they) could possibly want. I had no asset, service, or pleasure to give. The whole thing seemed “to good to be true” so I cautiously kept looking for the catch.

13. But that is the content of the Gospel. We have nothing to offer. We are to only call on the name of the Lord. It was easy enough that this high school drop out, semi-homeless drugee could do it.

14. All You ask of me is to enjoy the community of my fellow believers. I will gladly pay that price. I would have paid all the money I had to be a part of a loving community. All You asked of me was what I ever truly wanted.

15. I remember the night it struck me that someone will care when I die. I always thought I would fade out of existence unnoticed. You care for Your children and welcome them into Your presence when we die. I don’t know how to express how that makes me feel.

16. Lord, I am Yours. You have freed me and I belong to You. I trust You and I wouldn’t even know what that words means (much less what the experience feels like) if it were not for Your grace.

17. “Thank You” will be the first words out of my mouth each time I pray. May it never be mistaken for a rote, habitual way of starting to pray. “Thank You” will forever be the cry of my heart!

18. You have given me a family (both a husband/children and a church). I will give testimony to your goodness and faithfulness to them as long as I live.

19. I long to be known everywhere and by everyone as “the lady who thanks her God.” You are my everything! Praise You!

Passages for Further Study: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:6-7, 3:16, 4:2-4; Revelation 7:9-12

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 116, examined how Becky might rewrite it for her situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How would you describe the major changes that God has brought in your life since your conversion?
  • What needs to change in your perspective to make gratitude the natural overflow of your heart rather than something you try to express more often?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 116?
  • For what instances of God’s deliverance do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 116 to express gratitude to God?

A Moral Civil War

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think it is a war between independent powers. It thinks that it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel (p. 43).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

What do you see when you walk out your front door? What do you hear when you watch a debate on television? What do you feel when your conscience prompts you that something was not handled correctly? How we interpret those moments is profoundly important.

C.S. Lewis is reminding us that we are not neutral observers, but inhabitants of a world in civil war who must pledge allegiance to one side or the other. Too often because of the ease of our day-to-day living we think we can just “root” for the right team and be OK. We go to church each Sunday to “check the score” and show our team spirit, but that is about all. We are not unlike the person who watches Sports Center in the morning and wears the team colors on Saturday.

That lifestyle radically misinterprets who we are and where we live. We are soldiers in a war, not fans watching a game. Either we are advancing the cause or we are allowing the cause of the Enemy to be advanced. This is even more true because we are living in “Enemy occupied territory” as Lewis says. If we were “back home” on neutral soil, we could just do our job and let things be normal.

The number one strategy of the Enemy is to lure “the good guys” into a false sense of security in his territory. As long as they comfortably do nothing, his agenda advances. When we do this we inadvertently contribute to the Enemy’s cause. The Enemy can point to all the “good guys” who seem perfectly comfortable under his governance to legitimize his agenda.

Think of it this way. There are two ways (at least) to win a war. First, you can have superior strength and strategy. These advantages would allow you to make a direct frontal assault on your adversary and vanquish them in hand-to-hand combat. However, we know (and Satan knows) this strategy is unavailable to him. Calvary and the empty tomb were the death of that approach.

Second, you can attempt to weaken or distract your enemy in some way that brings their strength and strategy back down to your level. We see this in the cute high school sports videos on youtube when the weaker team does something silly (backflips or barking like a dog) to distract their opponent from scoring the winning points.

That is the only approach available to Satan. He has lost when we fight in Christ’s strength and victory. The only “effective” approach is to distract; make Christians feel “at home” in a place that is not their home so they will invest themselves in what is not God’s kingdom.

When we succumb to this strategy we begin to fight about things that don’t matter, worry about things that won’t last, and collect things that enslave us. We begin to do the Enemy’s work for him, because we have forgotten where we are living.

Reflections on a Messy House

As I type this my home looks like a box farm. In between the evenly spaced rows of boxes are bag weeds and toys weeds sprouting across the floor. It is a chaos that I do not enjoy. But as I have faced it, I have been surprised at how little (relative to previous transitions) it has affected me.

In all honesty, I do not believe this is because of some spiritual growth spurt. Instead, I think it has more to do with the level of trust I have in my wife. She is amazing. I think she is the prototype Solomon used to test pilot Proverbs 31 (if he was the smartest guy ever, he could have built a time machine).

As I look at my messy home, I know my wife has a plan. I don’t pretend to fully understand all that is going on. There is an order to when things are packed and where collections of boxes are stacked. We have several stages to the move ahead of us – home to apartment to home. Some things will have to go into storage while we wait. We may pass through several seasons during that time – winter, spring, summer (we pray not fall – sell home sell!). Each season has its own needs.

Yet even as I type those things, I am not hyperventilating because I have seen my wife work through many complex domestic dilemmas during the course of our marriage. I am struck by how much stronger my faith can be in my wife than in my God.

Everything that I wrote about my home could have been said about my life. Each description of my wife could also be said of my God (and more). But with one I rest in delight and awe and the other I fret and get antsy. I trust my wife more to orchestrate the moving of our home than I do my God to orchestrate the sell of our home (for one example).

I admit that if there is a relationship I have that borders on (and sometimes crosses) the line of idolatry it is my wife (followed closely by my children). When that line is crossed I should repent of that sin as much as any other.

But that is not the first place my thoughts have gone as I have examined myself in the midst of the moving process. I see in this the blessing of having a “godly” spouse. When my spouse reflects the character of God and I share the closest of personal relationships with her, I learn what it is to trust God.

In this regard, I am discipled by relating to her character as much by living in interaction with her godly characteristics as I am by having a scripturally-informed, theologically-consistent conversation with her. I get a taste, a glimpse, a sense of what it means to follow God in the midst of uncertainty as I walk with my wife through a messy house.

I pray there are ways she could say the same of me. That there are ways in which I emulate God’s character well enough that her daily interactions with me create a living case study of what it means to have a close, daily relationship with God.

Two final thoughts on this post: first, do not let the thoughts expressed here be an excuse not to study Scripture in your pursuit of following God. A spouse is never a replacement for God (that is the essence of idolatry). Second, do look for characteristics of God in your spouse and reflect on how the traits enrich your life. Then trace them back to God and allow the blessings of marriage to enrich your walk with God.

Joseph: “Just a Man” or “A Just Man”

When I was reading through the Christmas narrative again I was struck by the phrase, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man (Matt. 1:19a, ESV emphasis added).” The wording sounded so strange to my ear, and not because I am used to hearing women bash their husbands. It sounded odd in a masculine voice.

When I hear men use those last three words they rearrange the order. Usually they are describing a situation where “the right thing” was obvious, but they didn’t do it and the refrain is, “Well, I’m just a man.” The implication is that there are certain sins for which being male is understandable (i.e., lust, pride, harshness, insensivity, etc…). Somehow maleness has been defined more by those sins than just about anything else. We’re supposed to bark as some kind of pledge of allegiance when those sins are referenced in conversation.

I believe this is more than a clever play on words. If Joseph were “just a man,” Mary would have been a single mom raising the Son of God.  All of the temptations of maleness were in Joseph as he resisted them to evidence that he was “a just man.” He would have to live the rest of his life with questions like:

  • Did Mary know another man sexually?
  • Am I a fool for believing that I should call this kid “Immanuel”?
  • What are other people saying when I’m not around because I know what’s getting back to me (Mark 6:1-6)?
  • Does Jesus look like any of the other men I’ve saw Mary talk to?
  • Am I really going to rearrange my whole life and flee to Egypt for this story?

Yeah, Joseph had a dream with an angel talking to him, but how many spiritual highs have you had and how long did they last when doubts crept back in. Most of the days with Jesus growing up (after the wise men and shepherds) had to be pretty ordinary (nothing was recorded until Jesus got lost in the temple). When things get “normal” is when faith gets hard.

Mary knew she hadn’t been with another man. The miracle was undeniable in her mind without the need for “faith” in a virgin birth. But I cannot imagine it was so for Joseph. This is where the danger of the “just a man” phrase comes in. If Joseph listened to most men (even Christian men) talk about how to deal with temptations that infringe upon their masculinity, I fear we would have a radically different Christmas narrative.

This is not to imply that men should do with Joseph what Catholics do with Mary. That would only negate the point being made here. The point is that Joseph was a man (masculine without any of the benefits of deity like his Son) who valued being just more than being macho or respected.

While I know that it is chronologically and theologically incorrect, it is worth pondering whether Jesus was emulating Joseph when He made the decisions described in Philippians 2:5-11. Joseph was a humble man who took the form of a servant, setting aside his reputation. As we study the Christmas narrative it might be appropriate to allow God to exalt Joseph (like those biblical examples in Hebrews 11) in our eyes as an example of the kind of faith we should display.

Praise God that Joseph was willing to be “a just man” instead of “just a man”!

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.

God’s Words for Our Anxiety: Psalm 112

Case Study: Alan has always been a little up tight. While he has never had a panic attack or called in sick to work because of his anxiety, Alan doesn’t really know what peace is. The things that really eat at Alan’s thought life are financial stability and social rejection.

Alan has a modest to above average job and his wife works. They chose to only have two children because Alan was fearful about providing for more than two (his wife was fine with that). His family lives well within their means, avoids debt, and saves aggressively for retirement. But Alan still has this nagging doubt about whether they are doing “enough.”

His wife only gets upset when Alan questions her after a shopping trip and when he resists planning family vacations. She knows he is sincerely fearful about money, but it does begin to feel controlling after a while. She keeps reminding him not to live so much for the future that he misses the present.

Alan’s friends are slightly less understanding. They have a good time with Alan’s fears. There are perpetual jabs about all the things he does to “save a dime.” It is obvious how much he wants to be accepted and the way this magnifies the impact of their jokes is obvious to everyone.

While no emergency has popped us, Alan is beginning to feel emotionally exhausted. His wife and doctor have brought up depression several times, but Alan knows he is just mentally spent from wrestling with his anxiety. Over the last several months Alan has become increasingly aware of how his fear of rejection has caused him to isolate himself and his fear regarding money has sapped any joy in generosity (even gifts to his family).

Alan doesn’t enjoy life right now. He feels like he is doing everything “by the book” in managing his life and living to please everyone else, but he is growing jealous of the world. As he sits alone at the computer checking the financial accounts after his family goes to sleep, Alan prays to God for help.

Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 112. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How would you answer Alan’s frustration as he explained he was just trying to do things the right way and please those he cared about?
  • What would you say in response to Alan’s wife’s and doctor’s concern regarding depression?
  • How should Alan and his wife address their differences in financial philosophy?
  • How would you advise Alan to cultivate and find greater joy in being generous?

Read Psalm 112 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 112 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Alan to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Alan would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his anxiety to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 112

1. The Lord be praised… I know that’s how I should start a prayer. It’s true but… The people who really do fear the Lord (more than rejection or retirement) really are blessed. Living simply to please the Lord in daily decisions and enjoying it, would be a dream life. Why do I make it harder than that for myself?

2. My kids would benefit immensely if we made the decision to please the Lord more than as a reaction to my fears. Lord, I hear my kids bounce between echoing my fears and mocking them. Neither response is training them in the “fear and instruction of You.” I could give them the whole world but if I help them forfeit their soul to security and acceptance, I will have destroyed them.

3. Lord, you are my security. I know that even when I ignore it. Everything minus you is nothing and I always feel like I have nothing because I am always focused on everything. You have provided for us and yet I feel the need to control, hence doubt eats my peace. The only wealth that lasts is a godly character; that is the currency of eternity.

4. I have always felt dark because of where I have been putting my trust. Lord you are gracious, merciful, and righteous. Those are the qualities of trustworthiness. Money is void character because it has no life. Why was I trying to trust something dead? Can death give life?

5. Now generosity makes more sense. Generosity is imitation not an investment. I always doubted whether You would really give me my money back if I were generous. When I am generous You give me more of Yourself; I become more like You. That could give me the peace I have so desperately been longing for.

6. That would give me the emotional stability I have lacked. I wanted security and acceptance and got nothing. No one paid attention to anything I said, because they knew it would change with the ebb and flow of my most recent fears. If someone was upset with my frugality, I would commit to their desire. Once it came time to follow through, I would grow fearful and back out. My words weren’t worth remembering.

7. I remember how I hated the words, “Guess what?” I assumed the worst and read the worst into whatever I heard. Living only to please you would strengthen my heart. You are a fair and just God. You can be pleased in good times and bad, unlike financial markets and people.

8. I have not felt this way in years… if ever! By fearing You, my temporal fears have become irrelevant and I like it. I used to replay my friend’s taunts in my mind and feel my soul shrivel. When I know I am loved by You and embrace You as my security, I can replay their words and nothing happens. Nothing, I don’t even need a clever come back!

9. This is more blessing than I can stand. I must share something or I will burst. I laugh as I hear myself say those words. That is not me talking. That is You talking in me. You, Lord, are causing springs of Your character to erupt in my heart as I find my security in You. That is a source of peace and strength that can be sustained. Lord, help me not look to another source of security again.

10. My friends won’t know what to do with me. Now that their entertainment at my expense is gone, they’ll be angry. They’ll give me a hard time for ruining their fun. Lord, do with their desire for entertainment through derogatory humor what You did with my desire for security through money and acceptance. Liberate them from their wicked desires as You have liberated me!

Passages for Further Study: Proverbs 29:25; Matthew 6:19-34, 18:21-35

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 112, examined how Alan might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How does the source of someone’s sense of security impact their level of anxiety?
  • How did a change in perspective on his struggles change Alan’s perspective on his family and friends?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” have changed as a result of reflecting on Psalm 112?
  • For what instances of anxiety do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 112?

Evil As A Parasite

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“To be bad, [Satan] must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence, and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power; even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing (p. 43).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Parasites don’t tend to like other parasites. At least I would assume not, but I have never had a conversation with a flea or tick. A parasite requires an independent life source in order to survive. Two parasites would quickly starve to death if they tried to live off one another.

This can explain why “sweet” people often wind up with “consumer” spouses. A consumer requires a giver in order to survive. Two relational consumers could not co-exist. Honestly, they would drive each other mad (either with the connotation of anger or crazy or both).

This points out a rarely taught call upon the Christian – not to let evil live off our goodness (in Christ). We often give love the shallow definition of “being nice” to someone. To point out that someone is being a relational-consumer is deemed “not nice.” Especially because there is always a reason why this moment is different and they promise to be a giver “next time.” They may not even be self-aware that they are d

oing it. After all, that is just life for a parasite.

When we fail to heed this call we become depleted and begin to look for someone else to live off. This probably accounts for the popularity of the need-based, love-tank marriage books. Parasitic love has become so common in our culture that even our Christian marriage books now accommodate it instead of confronting it.

If we think about it, God’s creation has been falling for the lies of the Master Parasite from before time began. Satan led many angels (now demons) into his revolt to try to replace God. When we begin to think about our relationships in terms of “meeting my needs” (the focus of every parasite) rather than in mutually sharing God’s overflowing blessings, we are buying into the parasitic system. And, therefore, we should expect to be drained.

This reinforces the call to not be unequally yoked. Anyone who is not a Christian is ruled by the Master Parasite. For that matter, even many Christians are more ruled by the Master Parasite than the Master Giver (hence the most popular Christian books on marriage) and should not be dated until they evidence the character to support a healthy relationship.

It requires great confidence in God and the Gospel to live this way. It requires a willingness to prefer (and ability to discern) loneliness to counterfeit companionship. But like in any transaction, need makes fools of us all. Go to the grocery hungry and you’ll over spend.

You may be asking, “Does love keep a record of wrongs? In order to avoid a relational-consumer wouldn’t I have to keep score?” I don’t think we have to go there. The question is not based in a comparison of what we each do. The question is, “Are we each growing in a self-giving generosity?” If the answer is “no,” then we are in a relationally dangerous situation; growing more like Satan than Christ.

A Collection of Quotes on Addiction

What follows is a collection of quotes on this subject. They are not meant to sequentially walk through the subject or to comprehensively cover the subject. Their purpose is merely to expose you to a variety of thoughts and perspectives by Christian men and women.

“No matter how they start, addictions eventually center in distress and in the self-defeating choice of an agent to relieve the distress. In fact, trying to cure distress with the same thing that causes it is typically the mechanism that closes the trap on an addict—a trap that, as just suggested, might be baited with anything from whiskey to wool (p. 131)… The exposure event is thus a severe mercy, a potent bearer of shame and grace (p. 135)… In important respects, ‘the addiction experience is the human experience,’ since we all ‘have a habit’ where sin is concerned. Addiction shows us how the habit works, where it goes, and why it persists. In fact, we might think of addiction as a lab demonstration of the great law of returns, the law of longing and acting and the forming of habits that lead to renewed longing (p. 147)… When in full cry, addiction is finally about idolatry. At last, the addict will do anything for his idol, including dying for it (p. 148).” Cornelius Plantinga, Jr in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin

“You can control things, but you cannot control God or your relationship to him. Proper worship is not only putting God where he belongs in your life but also surrendering control of your life to him. Impersonal things so easily seduce us because they put us in control, the place where every sinner wants to be. Here is one of idolatry’s great allures, yet it is at once also one of its great dangers. You and I were never meant to be in control, and when we are, we always make a mess out of things… The enslaving, addicting quality of idolatry must not be understated or ignored (p. 100)… Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our greatest problems exist somewhere outside of us (p.113).”Paul David Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God

“Sin is more than conscious choice. Like a cruel taskmaster sin victimizes and controls us (John 8:34). It captures and overtakes (Gal. 6:1 )….  In other words, sin feels exactly like a disease. It feels as if something outside ourselves has taken over. In fact, one of Scripture’s images for sin is disease (e.g., Isa. 1:5-6) (p. 33).” Edward T. Welch, Addictions a Banquet in the Grave

“Who would have thought? The treatment for addiction is to want something better than your addictions (p. 3)… You do your addiction because you like it. Maybe you want to change, but at the same time, you don’t want to change. You are caught between wanting to trust God and wanting to be God. Acknowledge this and you are walking in the right direction (p. 14)… You addiction went from being a friend to a lover to a slave-master (p. 25)… Right now [as you leave your addiction] it feels like you are giving things up. But in reality you are inheriting a new kingdom (p. 28).” Edward T. Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“All sin is ultimately irrational….. Though people persuade themselves that they have good reasons for sinning, when examined in the cold light of truth on the last day, it will be seen in every case that sin ultimately just does not make sense (p. 493)…The Bible’s depiction of the human race is that today it is actually in an abnormal condition….  In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus.  All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity (p. 518)…  Our view of the cause of sin will determine our view of the cure for sin, since the cure for sin will necessarily involve negating the cause (p. 616).” Millard Erickson in Christian Theology

“They become conscious of the fact that they have been merely fighting the symptoms of some deep-seated malady, and that they are confronted, not merely with the problem of sins, that is, of separate sinful deeds, but with the much greater and deeper problem of sin, of an evil that is inherent in human nature (p. 227, emphasis added)… Sin does not reside in any one faculty of the soul, but in the heart, which in Scriptural psychology is the central organ of the soul, out of which are the issues of life.  And from this center its influence and operations spread to the intellect, the will, the affections, in short, to the entire man, including his body (p. 233).” Louis Berkhoff in Systematic Theology

“In fact, the longer we struggle with a problem, the more likely we are to define ourselves by that problem (divorced, addicted, depressed, co-dependent, ADD). We come to believe that our problem is who we are. But while these labels may describe particular ways we struggle as sinners in a fallen world, they are not our identity! If we allow them to define us, we will live trapped within their boundaries. This is no way for a child of God to live (p. 260)!” Paul Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand

“There is a progressive character to this string of words that describes the turning away of the believer. The sinful heart, not wanting to live under the convicting light of truth, lives in the shadows and becomes weak and unbelieving. The unbelieving heart, having lost its confidence in God, has no reason to continue to persevere and begins to turn away. And the heart that has turned away, no longer sensitive to the truth of God, becomes increasingly hardened to the things of the Lord. What the passage [Heb 3:12-15] describes is a subtle acceptance of sin patterns, an acceptance that grows until it becomes a hardened turning away from the living God. What a terrifying warning (p. 144)!” Paul Tripp in War of Words

“Sin is what we do when our heart is not satisfied with God (p. 9).” John Piper in Future Grace

“Sin is not just about willfulness; that is, conscious stepping over God’s boundaries. Sin is also about blindness; that is, not seeing what needs to be seen in order to live as God has called me to live. The sinner is both willfully blind and blindly willful (p. 42).” Paul Tripp in “Strategies for Opening Blind Eyes” Journal of Biblical Counseling

“This is how idolatry grows in our hearts.  We want things and we aren’t sure God will give them to us, so we put our trust in other gods. This is THE problem of the human heart—misplaced trust. We value, love, and trust something in creation more than the Creator, and since there is nothing in creation that is intended to bear the weight of our trust, we are bound to live in fear.  All other loves must be subordinate to your love for Christ (p. 149).” Edward T. Welch in Depression A Stubborn Darkness

God’s Words for Our Parental Discouragement: Psalm 107

Case Study: Martha was an empty nest single mom who had done the best she knew how and that time/energy had allowed. She looks back now with lots of regret as all four of her children are far from God and not looking to return. When they were in her home she stressed the importance of church, she often referenced Bible passages when she disciplined them, and always she prayed for each of them daily.

Todd is the wandering soul. He doesn’t know what he believes or what he wants. Occasionally he gets excited about some new hobby, job, relationship, or faith, but it never lasts long.

Amy is the child who is mired in depression. She is the one who spoke most about missing a father figure. Divorced and with a child of her own, Amy struggles to muster the energy to get to her minimum wage job. Child support (when it comes) and occasional assistance from Martha helps her “just get by.”

Doug is the child who got into drugs. Meth is his drug of choice. He stays high, doesn’t eat, and when Martha does see him it breaks her heart. Doug is rail thin with sunken eyes that reveal a soul as empty as Doug’s life really is.

Steve is the “successful child.” Steve saw his older siblings throw their life away and vowed not to repeat their mistakes. Steve went to college, got his degree, moved to the nearest major city, got a good job, and worked his way into several promotions in his brief time there. However, his obsession with work is already putting a strain on his marriage and Martha can see how much his kids miss their father. Steve occasionally tells Martha about a few of their marital arguments, but he can’t understand why his wife is upset when he’s “doing everything right.”

Martha thought she would get to rest when the kids all moved out. But babysitting, paying off debt, and the burden she carries for her children hardly let her rest. She knows she should pray for her kids, but a cynicism is growing within her because she has prayed for years and it hasn’t done any good. In her pain, she calls out to God, “Lord, give me the words to pray.”

Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 107. Use the question to both stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • If Martha was in your small group or Sunday School class, what would be effective ways you could ministry to her?
  • How would you respond when Martha expressed guilt and/or anger about the “train up a child” verse (Prov. 22:6)?
  • How would you help Martha discern the line between enabling her children and loving her children (or her grandchildren)?
  • How could you assist Martha as she struggles to not just give up hope?

Read Psalm 107 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 107 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Martha to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Martha would need to pray many times as she was burdened for her four children..

A re-write of Psalm 107

Martha Prays for Her Family: 1. Lord, You are good. I may struggle to see it, but if Your love was not trustworthy and unending I would be hopeless.

2. You have brought me through so many things as I raised my four children on my own. When we needed food, new tires for the car, or clothes for school some how You always provided. It is so easy to forget those times of faithfulness in the midst of the current hardships.

3. Right now we are scattered and need to be brought back to You and each other… again. We have gone to wandering, depression, drugs, and the American Dream. It feels like we have been scattered to the ends of the earth.

 

Martha Prays for Todd: 4. Todd wandered into wandering. He’s not connected, addicted, or committed to anything. There is nothing that guides his decision making and allows him to get anywhere.

5. He is starving to find something that gives meaning to life and gives direction to his choices. His heart has given up, checked out.

6. May Todd call to You in his troubles and be delivered from the mess he is making of his life.

7. Bring Todd back to the narrow way that leads to life, meaning, and satisfaction. Let him know what it means to live in a community of faith that cares for one another.

8. Bring Todd to the place where he can thank You for Your steadfast love, continual presence, and ample grace. Give him a testimony of Your redemption that he can share with his friends and bring many to You.

9. Only You, Lord, can satisfy his search for meaning. His soul is hungry call him back to Yourself, the Bread of Life and Living Water.

Martha Prays for Amy: 10. Amy is in darkness and the shadow of depression is always covering her. She is a prisoner in her own sorrow, grief, self-pity, and shame. They weigh her down like shackles.

11. She listens to her pain and it drowns out any truth that comes to her ears. She refuses to hear instruction from Your Word because she believes it’s too hard, cliché, would work for someone better than her, or it just hurts too much to hope any more. If I mention the Bible, she just gets off the phone.

12. Bring her to the bottom of her pain and self-pity so she will look up to You. Remove from her life her friends who don’t want her to “do better” because then she would leave them behind. Those friends are not friends. Cause Amy to see how alone she is.

13. May Amy call to You in her troubles and be delivered from the mess she is making of his life.

14. Bring Amy out of the darkness and shadows. Break the emotional shackles that bind her.

15. When You do, let her see that it is (and only could be) You who freed her with your steadfast love, continual presence and ample grace. Give her a testimony of Your redemption that she can share with her friends and bring many to You.

16. For you are The Great Despair Buster. Y

ou are Hope! Life! and Peace! You are the Light that penetrates the darkness.

Martha Prays for Doug: 17. Doug is a fool because of his addiction and meth is his cruel master that causes his many pains.

18. He looks awful. He won’t eat. He’d rather be high, starve himself to death, and meet the destiny that awaits him.

19. May Doug call to You in his troubles and be delivered from the mess he is making of his life.

20. Send someone to Doug to speak truth to him that will penetrate his denial and lack of care. Wake him from his addiction and deliver Doug from the inevitable destruction it will bring.

21. When You do, let Doug see that Your steadfast love is stronger than the bonds of addiction; that Your continual presence is more comforting than the escape drugs provide; that Your ample grace is able to penetrate and remove the sting of guilt he fears when he gets sober. Give him a testimony of Your redemption that he can share with his friends and bring many to You.

22. When Doug returns to You let him be as generous with life for Your glory as he was frivolous with his life for the temporary pleasure of drugs. Let him put the contrasts into words that he can share and point many to Your superior joy!

Martha Prays for Steve: 23. Steve has left for a better life. He is doing good business in the city. Steve is prospering in his job and getting the promotions he deserves.

24. Steve heeded the call of Your Word to work hard. He is reaping the benefits of following Your principles; by them You are raising him up.

25. Your Word is true and works whether those who are following it have genuinely surrendered their life to You or not.

26. But without You at the center of his life Steve cannot handle the success he has achieved. The more he has, does, and is, the more he gets in over his head. I can see when he realizes it; fear grips him. He is scared to death to be “a failure” like the rest of us.

27. He frantically pours himself back into his job, because he knows how to succeed there. But when his wife isn’t happy, the kids don’t appreciate him, and he has no peace, he doesn’t know what else to do.

28. May Steve call to You in his troubles and be delivered from the mess he is making of his life.

29. Let Steve see that You are the Peace that can calm the storm of his fear of failure. Let him come to grips that the Gospel calms the waves of a performance-driven, bottom-line existence.

30. Teach Steve to be content with a simpler life of worshipping You and loving his family. Bring him to that life You made him to live and for which he longs but cannot put into words.

31. When you do, let Steve see that “success” is merely resting in your steadfast love, continual presence, and ample grace. Out of that life-altering redefinition of success give him a testimony of Your redemption that he can share with his friends and bring many to You.

32. Since You have raised him up to a position of influence, let him use that influence to call Your people back to “success” as You define it. They will listen to him because they admire him. May many people see that what You have to offer is better than what the world has to offer because of the change you bring in Steve’s life.

Martha Prays through New Wisdom: 33. Lord, You turn success into failure (Steve); comfort into pain (Doug); suffering into misery (Amy); and meaning into folly (Todd).

34. All this you do because we seek to live independent from You. Nothing we want is what we think it will be without You.

35. Lord, it is also true that You turn failure into success with Your grace; pain into comfort and misery into bearable suffering with Your presence; and folly into meaning with Your balance of truth and love.

36. You are inviting Todd, Doug, Amy, and Steve to come dwell with You when they will repent and acknowledge it is You they have been looking for all their lives.

37. When they surrender to You, I know they will begin to live differently. As they surrender to You more and more they will sow wisdom and reap blessings by the truth of Your Word and the grace of Your care.

38. Everything I want to give them is in You. My fretting for them and enabling of them is as foolish and broken as their sins. Only you can bless them as I try to bless them. Remind me that I cannot care for them better than You currently are.

39. It pains me to pray that they will be broken more so that they can be made whole by You. I know You often work to change our hearts through suffering.

40. Like a proud prince must be reminded he is only human, You have to show them their “wisdom” is empty. They must taste of fear of being completely lost and without hope before they will call to You to find them.

41. But I also know that You, Lord, raise people out of that kind of despair and pain when they quit trying to do it for themselves. You are the Good Shepherd who will go looking for Your one lost sheep (or my four).

42. I see that now, and for now, my fear is less. Thank you for returning to me the joy of Your salvation. I can be quiet in Your presence again.

43. I know I will battle the foolish doubt of You again, but return me to You in prayer for these things again and again. It is only your steadfast love, continual presence, and ample grace that can comfort this mother’s heart.

Passages for Further Study: Judges (for an account of God dealing with His children as they wandered and returned many times); Matthew 23:37-39; 3 John 4

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 107, examined how Martha might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • What do you learn from the repeated themes that arise in each sinful situation the “some” (v. 4, 10, 17, 23) find themselves in? What should we pray for everyone caught in sin?
  • What do you learn from the unique aspects that are prayed for each of the sinful situations? How does God present Himself uniquely to each of His children to draw them from their particular sin?
  • For what instances of regret or troubled friends/family do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 107?

Bible Verses on Anger

Effective Biblical Counseling can never be reduced to the question, “What does the Bible say about [topic]?” Both life and counseling require more than having the right answer to a question. Counseling (or Christian friendship that seeks to embody the “one another” commands of the New Testament) is when one person joins another on his/her journey to cultivate more of the fruit of the Spirit in his/her life by overcoming some life struggle.

What you find below should be considered the “map” for this journey. God’s Word helps us see both where we are (stuck in sin and/or suffering) and where we want to be. The Summit counseling ministry hopes you find both direction and encouragement for your journey in these passages.

This list is updated periodically.

Our first instinct in anger is to justify our actions/feelings, but Scripture cautions us.

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 that God requires.”

We must admit that our anger reveals our heart. It really is “me” speaking.

Matthew 12:33-37, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Our anger reveals what we desire most in any given moment.

James 4:1-3, “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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Our anger is sinful when it makes an offense primarily about us instead of God.

See Numbers 20:1-13

Jesus’ anger in clearing the temple did not prevent those who needed Him (blind and lame) from coming to Him although it communicated effectively to those who rejected Him (chief priests and scribes).

Matthew 21:12-15, “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.’ And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant.”

Christians are commanded replace their sinful anger with expressions of kindness.

Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

 

The slower an individual is to get angry the wiser that person will likely be.

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

Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”

Sinful anger values “something” more than “someone” and is therefore the root of murder as lust is the root of adultery.

Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Over 50% (8 of 15) of the works of the flesh are anger-related issues.

Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Other Passages to Study: Psalm 4; Proverbs 6:34, 14:17, 15:1, 16:32, 19:11, 19:19, 22:24, 25:28, 27:3, 29:22; Ephesians 4:26; 1 Timothy 2:8;

Other Topics to Consider: Character, Change Process, Communication, Domestic Violence, Emotions (General), Forgiveness (Bitterness), Relationships