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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Righteously Angry

Been angry lately?  What was it about?  Anger is one of those tricky emotions.  It can easily go real wrong, real fast. 
In the helping professions, anger is what is often called a “secondary emotion.”  In other words, you can feel a primary emotion of fear, disrespect, frustration (blocked goals), injustice or pressure (high stress).  The outward response to that primary emotion can often be anger.  But the anger was triggered by what came first.  Anger can be a great signal to us that something deeper, more powerful is going on in us.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but do not sin.”  It is OK to be angry.  It is not OK to sin.  What is anger that does not become sin?
Last week my favorite Bible passage was Psalm 18.  When I shared it with my wife Pam, her comment was she liked how it talked about God becoming angry.  I went back and read it again and I have to agree with her – I like how God became angry.  Since God is perfect, holy and righteous, it is a pretty good example of sinless anger.  So what did God get angry about?
Look at verse 6:
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. ” (Psalm 18:6, ESV)
David was in trouble and he cried out to God.  His enemies were threatening to do some serious damage to him.  And God got ticked.
Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. ” (Psalm 18:7, ESV)
God got ticked because he is passionate about righteousness and justice.  Anger that flows from Godly passion is how we can have sinless anger.
We could really use a lot more Godly, angry people.  We could use more people like Jesus, who sees the temple courts filled with vendors that are keeping his house from being a house of prayer for all nations so he “cleans house”, he does something.
Anger that has no action is just whining and complaining about the status quo.  Anybody can (and does!) do that.  Godly anger moves us to action, to bring the Kingdom of God where it presently is not.  Godly anger over senseless violence should motivate us to be battling in prayer and being a peacemaker.  Godly anger over kids destroying their lives through destructive choices should motivate us to go and be the presence of Jesus where they are.  Godly anger over the exploitation of children by sex traffickers should motivate us to give and work toward justice.  Godly anger over people going to a Christless eternity should motivate us to step out of our comfort zone and start sharing Jesus in simple ways with those around us.
Are you angry?  I sure hope so.  I hope you discover the deeper thing God is wanting to do that is the true source of your anger.  I hope you find your righteous anger and it moves you to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus.  We need more righteously angry people.

Friday, February 4, 2011

God Is Present In Tragedy

It has been a very hard week on our community.  The murder of Sam LaCara, principal of Schnell School has rocked us.  As more details come out it seems to make less and less sense.    John Leubbers, the school janitor who shot Sam, was a long time employee and even a golfing buddy with Sam.  And yet, in a moment of passionate rage, so many lives have been turned totally upside down, never to be the same.  Our hearts and minds quickly cry out “WHY?!”
One of my friends from the church shared with me how this has rocked his faith a little.  As he thinks about Sam’s wife and three daughters he was struggling to understand where God is in all this.  Another friend reflected that this was like experiencing 9/11 all over again for her, on a very close-up personal level.
In times like these, we can feel very much like the Psalmist:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ” (Psalm 22:1–2, ESV)
            We get caught in our grief, unable to make sense of what is going on and questioning whether God is really even there.  And that is OK.
            One of the things I appreciate about the Psalms (and about the whole Bible) is the raw emotion that is found there.  It is not a fairy-tale book but a book that wrestles with life as it really is.  The emotions of grief and sadness and the thoughts they elicit are not hidden away as inappropriate but shared openly as a path to faith.
            Psalm 22 is the perfect example of this, a reflection on the intense agony of someone who is suffering and questioning life yet keeps coming back to be reminded of God’s faithfulness in the past and God’s hope for the future.
            Life is messy and it often carries with it deep pain.  We want Sunday School answers but they too often escape us.  And when we are in the midst of the confusion and pain, we begin to believe we will never find our way out, that God is far away and inattentive to our cries for comfort.
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. ” (Psalm 22:24, ESV)
            The Good News from God is that he not only has heard but he has responded.  God climbed into the messiness and confusion of life through his Son Jesus.  The prophet Isaiah writes of Jesus:  “…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”.
            God has not forgotten you.  He has been with you in the past, he will be your salvation in the future and he is your comfort in the present because he IS present, he is here with us.  Simply call out to him.
            You may not feel it right now.  You may not even believe it right now, but your sorrow, pain and grief can be turned to peace and joy in Jesus if you will only turn to him.  It is the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection – evil, death and destruction do not win.  Life wins.  Overflowing, abundant, hope-filled life wins.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! ” (Psalm 22:26, ESV)
            As we grieve together, let us love God together and love each other together.  Then the darkness will be pushed back and the light of God’s glory will shine in and through us.

You are loved,