FIGHTING ANGER WITH PRAYER

Martin Luther’s Petitions in Light of the Sixth Commandment

“You shall not murder.” That’s the sixth of the Ten Commandments. No one questions the literal meaning.

Angry young men

Apart from certain exceptions–as in the state’s legitimate authority to punish evil (Rom. 13:1-7)–it is unlawful to take human life made in the image of God (Gen. 9:5-6).

Jesus drilled down even further with this commandment. He expounded on it at a heart level in Matt. 5:21-26. Unjust anger constitutes a violation of the sixth commandment as well. And who doesn’t struggle with that?

The Bible prescribes praying for dealing with our anger. Consider 1 Tim. 2:8. I desire then in every place that men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or quarreling. It’s awfully tough to pray when you’re jacked up with rage over someone or something they said or did.

Martin Luther prescribed a specific way to pray about anger in light of the sixth commandment. It involves both confession and petition.

I confess and lament both my wickedness and that of the world, that we are horribly unthankful for His fatherly love and concern for us that we do not acknowledge and will not learn such a commandment. What a wretched scandal! Instead, we despise it as though it does not apply to us, or as though we have nothing to do with it.We go on our way quite secure and do not give it a second thought that when we despise our neighbor, we are acting contrary to this commandment. Instead we forsake our neighbor, persecute him, violate him. We even murder him in our hearts and act out with wrath, rage, and all evil, as though we are perfectly upright in doing so. To be sure, it is time for all of us to weep and wail that we are such evil scoundrels and blind, out of control, ungracious people. We are like ferocious beasts walking all over one another, pushing, scratching, tearing, biting, and devouring one another, and we do not fear God’s earnest command, etc.

I pray that our dear Father would instruct us to recognize His holy commandment, and help us to hold to it and live accordingly. I pray that He would guard us all from the murderer, who is the Master of all murder and harm, and give His rich grace, so that we will all be kind, gentle, and generous toward one another; heartily forgiving one another, and bearing one another’s mistakes and failings in a Christian and brotherly fashion. This is how we are to live together in genuine peace and unity; as this commandment teaches and demands of us.

Few things disrupt the peace of a church like unchecked anger among its people.

Do you struggle with this?

Add prayers like these to the fight and watch how God works!

Overlooking Offenses

Last Sunday I hammered away at peacemaking in the body of Christ as an application of Jesus’ prayers about our oneness in John 17. You can listen to that message here.

An essential strategy in the peacemaking process is the glory of overlooking offenses. I say glory because of a text like Proverbs 91:11.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

It makes bad sense to blow your top. One way to stay on the good sense side of things is to regularly overlook offenses. But why call that disposition glory and when must we not overlook an offense?

Ken Sande explains:

Since God does not deal harshly with us when we sin, we should be willing to treat others in a similar fashion. This does not mean that we must overlook all sins, but it does require that we ask God to help us discern and overlook minor wrongs. Overlooking offenses is appropriate under two conditions. First, the offense should not have created a wall between you and the other person or caused you to feel differently toward him or her for more than a short period of time. Second, the offense should not be causing serious harm to God’s reputation, to others, or to the offender.

It is to God’s glory that He passes over our offenses because of the blood of Christ. We share in that glory and put it on display when we choose to be not easily offended and overlook the offenses of others.

Why Don't You Hate God?

Someone actually put that question to me not long ago. Why don’t you hate God?

Granted, he had his own anger issues, by his own admission. It never ceases to amaze me how rage can grip the human heart so as to strangle superior affections.

He posed the question in light of my head and neck cancer battle back in 2005. I didn’t recall the occasion, but he told me he actually saw me curled up in a fetal position on my family room couch suffering from the effects of treatment, balancing precariously between life and death. Somehow, and I hurt for him on this, he couldn’t imagine that somehow I would feel anything towards God after such suffering than outright hatred.

I paused. It was a legitimate question. Of all the things I said to him to try and redeem pastorally the opportunity presented before me, I simply said, “Jesus was enough.”

I also quoted Psalm 73:25-26.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Have you ever heard someone say, “As long as you have your health, you have everything?” I have. Among the things people tend to idolize, good health ranks near the top of the list along with lovers, wealth, power, and no doubt a few other so-called messiahs. I learned in 2005 that health makes a lousy functional savior. Cancer taught me, among other things, as long as you have Jesus, you have everything. And that’s why I don’t hate God.

Preventing Provoking

This Saturday our Oxford Club for Men meets at 7 AM at the church office. We will continue our discussion over Richard Phillip’s book The Masculine Mandate.

Chapter ten deals with our keeping role of disciplining our children as godly men.

Here is a taste from the chapter, some excellent words relating to not provoking our children to anger as Paul prescribes in Ephesians 6:4

In order to avoid provoking our children to anger, we must be fair and judicious in placing demands on our boys and girls. We should not be personally abusive (agian, all abuse  undermines rather than enhances authority). I want my children to think of themselves with God-given dignity and self-respect, and this requires the proper praise and respect of their father toward them. Here’s a rule I try very hard to follow: I will always be on my children’s side, even if I am punishing. I will never be against them and I will never speak to them with contempt (pp. 117-18).

Lots more good stuff where that came from. Look forward to digging in with you on September 17 for breakfast, fellowship, and study.

When Deity Delivered from Dying (Part One)

Today’s message from John 11:38-44 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I reiterated the theme this way:

Because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, we should believe on Him as the Messiah, God’s Son.

We covered four of seven observations about Jesus from the text that present Him to us as undeniably true and strikingly beautiful:

  1. His passion – deeply moved with anger over death.
  2. His pattern – test and grow faith.
  3. His patience – with our slow-to-learn unbelief.
  4. His precept – believing is seeing not seeing is believing.

I closed with this incisive quote from Oswald Chambers:

Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict. What is your faith up against just now? The test will either prove that your faith is right, or it will kill it. “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” The final thing is confidence in Jesus. Believe steadfastly on Him and all you come up against will develop your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith, and the last great test is death. May God keep us in fighting trim! Faith is unutterable trust in God which never dreams that He will not stand by us.

Next Sunday, Lord willing, we will finish the account of the seventh sign with three more observations – His purpose, prayer, and power.

And we will finally get poor Lazarus out of the ground, so to speak!

When Deity Dissolved Over Dying

Today’s message from John 11:28-37 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is the quote by B. B. Warfield characterizing the depth of emotion displayed by Jesus as fundamentally rage.

It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words again, “as a champion who prepares for conflict.” The raising of Lazarus thus becomes, not an isolated marvel, but — as indeed it is presented throughout the whole narrative (compare especially, verses 24-26) — a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell. What John does for us in this particular statement is to uncover to us the heart of Jesus, as he wins for us our salvation. Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. He has not only saved us from the evils which oppress us; he has felt for and with us in our oppression, and under the impulse of these feelings has wrought out our redemption.

Praise God for Jesus our champion who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10)!

In Praise of Constructive Peacemakers

OGC made the local paper not long ago.

Someone sent this little ditty into the Ticked Off section a few weeks back.

A sign that says “The Future Home of the Orlando Grace Church” has been posted on Maitland Avenue in Altamonte Springs across from St. Mary Magdalene Church for at least 38 years now. How much longer do we have to wait?

I have to admit. At first I wondered if someone from OGC put that in the paper! Just kidding, sort of.

No matter who submitted it, I sincerely hope no one will have to wait much longer for us to get into a facility, certainly not another 38 years (don’t you just love sarcasm?). But this post doesn’t concern building programs and God’s providence for when a project of that magnitude gets off the ground and when it doesn’t. This post is about peacemaking, constructive peacemaking, in particular.

I HATE this section of our paper. Nothing about anonymous griping and grousing over anybody or anything promotes constructive peacemaking when someone gets ticked off. That’s peacebreaking, even peacefaking at its worst.

Peacemaking, the biblical kind, governed by the principles and constraints of scripture, is constructive in every way and commended by God (Matt. 5:9).

I decided to write about this for a couple of other reasons beyond the snipe in the paper.

First, someone recently confronted me about a beef they had with me. They honestly shared their feelings in a calm and constructive fashion. The first words out my mouth were, “Thank you for telling me. This gives us an assignment from God to do biblical peacemaking to the glory of God.” And we did. We prayed. We talked. God was honored. The relationship was restored. Confessions were made (by me too). I emailed the party after the fact and thanked them again for loving me well as a constructive peacemaker. May their tribe increase!

Second, I just finished teaching on peacemaking in our new member’s class. I am not sure why, but I think it might be my favorite session. Probably because of the practical value of the content and its enormous importance to the peace and purity of our church.

SandeIn the class I cover the 4 G’s of biblical peacemaking as outlined by Ken Sande in his book, The Peacemaker. Do you have them memorized? I pray you do. They have saved my pastoral keister in more than one conflict. Here is a quick refresher.

 

  1. Glorify God – determine to conduct yourself in the conflict in a way that honors God from first to last (1 Cor. 10:31).
  2. Get the Log Out of Your Own Eye – examine your own contribution to the conflict and admit any sins/faults you contributed along the way (Matt. 7:3-5).
  3. Gently Restore – engage the conflict with a view toward another’s restoration all the while moving through the various steps with a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1-2; Matt. 18:15-17).
  4. Go and Be Reconciled – pursue the complete restoration of the relationship through the practice of biblical forgiveness (Eph. 4:31-32).

So the next time you get ticked off (and we all do), what will you do? Determine to be a constructive biblical peacemaker. I for one will rise up and call you blessed.