Help!

Colossians 3: 8

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

This is a good word and a good reminder. When we sin, it is often with our mouths. I know I need hear these verses routinely to keep me reminded to watch my mouth. I did an entire series on this one little verse once. It is packed with meaning and when you unpack it, you find these are very powerful words. I am sure that Paul did not choose them lightly.

When you read verse 15 you find that we are supposed to “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts.” All of the words above stand in contrast to the Shalom of God. Remember, when a Jewish writer, as was Paul, writes about peace they are not speaking only about tranquility. It means wholeness, unbrokenness. You cannot live in peace while giving vent to anger or wrath. Abusive speech is never to exit our mouths, nor slander.

It is easy to read this verse and say, “Yes, I know I should watch this.” It is quite another to unpack this and think about what each of the words means and what Paul is asking us to do. Remember, he was confronted with a new body of believers which included Jews and Gentiles. You know there was much tension. Those tensions show up in the Bible and you can bet it was much worse than portrayed there. People who may not have even spoken to one another before were all of a sudden expected to live harmoniously. Their lifestyles were completely different as were their values. Of course there were disagreements. Paul had to teach them that even in their differences, they were to show each other respect.

The Jews have a principle known as loshon hora. In its simplest form it means not to make any derogatory comment about anyone, even if it is true. So while there were disagreements, the Jews had to learn how to respectfully confront those conflicts. Further, it means we are not supposed to disparage anyone even if what we say is true. Is that a challenge? Everyone has someone in their life who is a nutter but this means you can’t even call them a goof to someone else because it would tend to damage their reputation. Even if it’s true!

All forms of violent, abusive, disparaging, insulting speech are prohibited by this passage. Anger, get a grip on it. If you’re like me, you need more prayer time. Definitely, if we are going to control our tongues, we are going to need more prayer time. You can’t do this on your own. You need help. That person is going to dig right under your skin, so get help. Call 1-800-GOD-HELP and put anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech on the altar.

Renewal

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Throughout the Covid crisis, I have tried to write to the needs created by the virus outbreak. Of course, each person is at a different place in situation, emotions and their walk with God. Still, there have been outstanding sentiments which, have washed through the world, affecting many. At first it was fear and panic yielding the resultant shortages. Then there was resignation and accompanied by increasing faith, followed by prayer and courage. Interspersed in there was a second wave of fear as people lost their jobs or were temporarily furloughed. Through each of these stages we have reached out to our God for comfort and strength. Many people will be able to testify about how God embraced them during the tough times. However, we have now reached the hardest stage of all, uncertainty. Should we begin to return our lives to something that resembles normal or not? What are the costs and benefits?

That is a challenging question for which I do not presume to have an answer. What I have noticed, though, is rising emotions flooding the country. Fear has given way to anger. I believe this anger is born of frustration and loss. There are many different kinds of loss; jobs, activities, freedom of movement, and so on. Of course, in the midst of the challenge each person is experiencing, I cannot forget those who grieve for loved ones who have died from Covid-19. In the beginning, we all were in the same boat, none of us knowing what tomorrow would hold. Now we have diverged in our experience and our loss. Those divergent experiences are becoming increasingly divisive. We are becoming politicized in our separation, even amongst Christians.

Our need is, therefore, great. Whereas we stood as one people locked in battle against a common enemy, we have now become splintered. People’s hearts are more aggrieved now than in the beginning because of the isolation. Physical separation has given way to emotional and ideological separation. People are hurting and the anger you hear in the marketplace of ideas is the rejoinder to that intense stress response. By now, even people’s physiology will be reacting to the increased tension.

Fortunately, we have a remedy. Here is the way to take care of yourself. Please pass this on to anyone and everyone, but especially those who you notice expressing intense emotions. First, there is no pill, prescription, method or remedy better than our Lord. Entering into a quiet state of mind and putting ourselves fully in His hands and even His embrace is the best tonic of all. Bathe yourself in His presence. You may find the Psalms very helpful for finding that place of refuge.

Second, let us return to prayer. Today’s psalm is titled, “Prayer for help in Trouble,” which sounds appropriate. The more we focus on others, the nation, and the world through prayer, the more our minds are able to shift the attention off ourselves thereby reducing our stress. That is not to say your problems aren’t real and valid. It is just means that you need a break from them. So, this is an opportune time for prayer. The more we pray for others and for the broader situations we all face, the more cathartic it will be for us. Therefore, pray so that your soul may receive nourishment from above. In the balance you will be doing God’s work and helping your fellow humans.

Third, tap, tap, tap! Do you remember the article on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which was highlighted in the Word of the Day on April 21st? Click here. Our God has created a biomechanical mechanism which we can use anytime to reduce stress in our bodies. See this insightful message from two Christian EFT practitioners. There is also a link on our website: IveyMinistries.org.

Fourth, turn off television news. It is really tough on you. If you can, try to get your news from print media. There are sources which provide curated articles and show a very low bias. Personally, I think you will be blessed to avoid both the liberal and conservative bias so that you can be persuaded by your own heart. Look for news feeds which give you data so that you can sort through it for yourself. Still, even limit that. Your spirit was not intended for 24-hour news channels or even the inundation you can get through print or internet news. Catch up on the headlines then let it go. It’s just not good for us to dwell on those things. What did God tells us, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things,” (Philippians 4: 8). Dwell on the good news.

Our spirits need God now more than even in the beginning of this crisis. We are tired and it feels we are pursued from every angle like David was. But also, like him, we have our refuge in the Lord. Take full advantage of this time with God. You may never have an opportunity to spend such large amounts of time with him again. Feed on His presence so that you may be renewed.

Clearly Defined

Ephesians 4: 31 – 32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

In verse thirty, Paul told us to grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. His very next words seek to further instruct us in how to avoid distressing God’s Spirit. Put all of these things away from you; bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. Don’t have them around you at all because they should not be part of the mature Christian’s walk.

Most of us know, or at least have a good idea what bitterness, wrath and anger are but I found that I was reading right over clamor without giving it much attention. Then slander stands out to me because it refers to the spoken word, reminding us again about the words of our mouth. Then there is malice, about which most have a rough idea as to its meaning.

Stopping to look up each of these words in the dictionary, I realized that there is much more meaning in this scripture than we might, at first reading, appreciate. Look at the Webster’s definition for each of these terms.

Bitterness: sharp and disagreeable; harsh; severe; piercing. 2) characterized by strong feelings of hatred, resentment, cynicism.

Wrath: intense anger; rage; fury 2) any action carried out in great anger especially for punishment or vengeance.

Anger: a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc., and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.

Clamor: a loud outcry; uproar 2) a vehement, continued expression of the general feeling or of public opinion; loud demand or complaint. In its verb form – to make a clamor- cry out, demand, or complain noisily.

Slander: the utterance in the presence of another person of a false statement or statements, damaging to a third person’s character or reputation.

Malice: active ill will; desire to harm another or to do mischief; spite. 2) evil intent.

One can easily see the consistency in Paul’s discourse. Here he is again encouraging us to curb our language and restrain our tempers. This verse expounds on what he wrote in the previous text. Here we go deeper into the meanings of his former instructions. We see that clamor amounts to complaining and I think the idea of loud complaining draws up an image with which we are all familiar.

We are not to be cynical and skeptical. We are not to complain about others or speak in a way that is disparaging to their character. Well, we know that from verse 29 which says to only use our words in a way which edifies others. We are not to be harsh or sharp which means we are to be gentle. Nor are we supposed to strike back from a sense of being wronged. Staying apart from wrath includes avoiding any action carried out in anger.

I encourage you to keep this list for the future so that you can look back at it from time to time. These definitions will have different meaning for you at different moments of your development. You will see different significance depending on what is going on in your life at the time. The message that I think will consistently ring out through these words is, “Get a tight rein on your words and your anger.” Those two ideas are embedded in the definition of the six words.

Lastly, the definition above for slander is the world’s definition. I would suggest that God’s instruction to us may draw us to a higher standard than the legal definition of slander. In the legal sense, one must utter false statements in the hearing of another which have the effect of damaging a third person’s reputation. I believe God would even restrain you from speaking true statements about someone else that have the effect of damaging a person’s reputation. This is especially true when your motive is to tear them down or damage their image in the eyes of someone else. Please recall that we are instructed to only say those things which are good for edification of others. Therefore, even if the statements you make are true, if you are harming another in the utterance of them or you have the intent to harm them or their reputation, then I believe you are in disobedience to God and risk grieving the Holy Spirit. Keep your words holy because Jesus is “The Word” and He is holy.

Edifying Moment

Ephesians 4: 29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We left off last week, in our Ephesians series, talking about how to react when angered. Here is what Father God would have you do when you are angry. Rather than giving place to the devil we are supposed to say things which are edifying. To edify means to build up. In other words, we are to speak those words which build up others rather than tearing them down.

Now really, this is not hard to understand, just kinda hard to do at times, but with Jesus all things are possible. I do not begin to say that you should do this in your own strength but rather that you should surrender your will to Jesus and let Him be the graciousness you need. And do you see that God will give all grace to all who are in need? He will fill the space with his grace where previously your old self would have filled the air with blue streaks. Now by humility and prayer a bad situation becomes a time of grace and blessing. When you yield your will to God, He is able to take all that is bad and turn it into the beauty of who He is.

In your time of need, before you give voice to your emotions, pray for the Lord of Hosts to be God of the situation, God of the moment and God of all that you are. Pray for Him to move in His grace rather than you moving in your emotions. You will see incredible moves of the Lord when you yield to His leading in such times.

Angry Expression

Ephesians 4: 26 -27

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

This is the verse I have been working my way towards for several days now. The point of all of this is for Paul to tell us not to give the devil an opportunity in our lives. An opportunity for what? Well, Jesus told us in John 10: 10 that the devil comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Therefore, we want to keep the door closed to the devil so that he cannot kill us, steal from us or otherwise destroy us, our families or our lives. That is what all of this has been building up to.

We saw Paul teaching the Ephesian church to put away their old selves in which they were deceived by the lusts and desires that the devil tempts with. He told them in putting away their old selves they should put on the new self that was purchased by the shed blood of Jesus. It is that blood by which we have become the righteousness of God. We are to live in truth, which is Christ, and put aside, for all time, the ways of the devil. We are to walk like Jesus rather than act like the devil. Then Paul sets the anchor pin by telling us not to give into anger.

Culturally we have completely overlooked this command. We constantly vent our anger and act out. Many people have heard the first two words of verse 26 but stopped there. We’ve got to read to the end. Paul knows that you are going to feel anger at times, but he is telling you not to give vent to it. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t rage, don’t tell everyone and their brother about this thing that has angered you or the person that you think has done you wrong.

He just finished telling us that we are the righteousness of God and holiness through the truth which is Christ. Do you think he is then telling us to allow anger to run amok in our life? Surely not. No, rather in verse 29 he goes on to say, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” which is exactly what will happen if you let anger have its way with you. When you open your mouth you are going to give the devil something to work with and he is going to run amok with it.

I want you to see the completeness and the construction of Paul’s instruction. He is showing us how to overcome the devil’s machinations. He is protecting his own flock by showing them how to defeat the wiles of the devil. Don’t give anger a place in your life. Put that anger down. Do not carry it into the next day. For that matter, you are to overcome the anger before the sun sets. Do not let that anger rule you. As soon as you let the anger have expression in your life you are going to say things you ought not, and you are going to give the devil an opportunity. And believe you me, if you give him an opportunity, he is going to take it. He is going to steal something from you. Let the expression of anger and lying lips be part of the old man that you bury forever. Put on the truth and righteousness of Jesus so that you may live a life of victory over the trickery of the devil. Be free from the sin that continually binds you to disappointment, frustration and defeat. Receive this instruction into your spirit from a loving Father who gives it as a means to protect you.

Fear Fueled

Ephesians 4: 26

Be angry, and yet do not sin.

Fear is like anger because it has the potential to engulf you in sin and self-destruction. That is why I have chosen this verse to talk about fear. Fear is a horrible contagion; it contaminates all it touches. If you give fear any place in your life, it will seek to invade all your life. All of Job’s troubles came about because of his fear. He said, “For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me,” (Job 3: 25). Fortunately, he learned this important lesson about fear.

One of the keys in not sinning when you feel angry is to keep your mouth shut. This same key is super important when it comes to fear too. I want you not to be in fear, but the truth is that there are moments which seize the heart. As you work your way out of that fear, you need to very carefully guard your mouth. When it comes to anger, one of the biggest ways we sin is in what we say. When it comes to fear, we set things in motion with our words.

What you think about often is what you draw to you. If you are ruminating on fear-based ideas, you will begin to create a habitat for them. Then, before you know it, you begin to speak fear-based language. That is the proverbial straw which breaks the camels back. Don’t give voice to those fears because you will solidify them. Instead, go to your Bible and find scriptures which instill confidence and faith. Speak them, meditate on them. Go over them until they go down into your spirit and battle the fear at its root. Only faith can flush out fear and faith comes by the Word of God. It is a pretty simple formula actually, but you know how fear can paralyze a person. Don’t let fear get a firm hold on you. Fight it with the Word of God. Let the words of your mouth be the Word of God instead of those frightful thoughts that are running through your mind.

Take the fearful thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. They have no part with you. Fear is not faith and you are a person of faith. Don’t be critical or judgmental, though, if you feel some fear. That is called being normal. Just don’t marinate your spirit in that stuff. Find the way out by calling on the Word of God. And, whatever you do, don’t give fear life by speaking it out. It is fine to talk with your Father and tell Him what you are feeling. He can help with that. But, don’t talk about all the things that can go wrong. Don’t speak out what you are afraid might happen. Say what God’s Word says. Your heart will feel much better and you will stand on safer ground.

Anger, Worry Flee from Me

Psalm 37: 8

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.

Here is the word of the Lord on worry and anger. It is pretty clear. It says don’t do it; don’t worry, don’t give in to anger. Now what part of that is difficult? Well, sometimes the hard part is in the execution of what God has directed us to do, rather than in the understanding. There is help in that though. First, God will never tell you to do something that He has not already empowered you to do. So, take some comfort there. Secondly, if He has told you to do it, then He will also help you. He never tells you something to do without making His resources available to you. You do not have to use will power to control your anger, you use His will power. Pray for His help and then let Him help you.

And as for worry, nothing good comes of it. Put worry away and don’t let it control your life any longer. Don’t waste your time and energy. Ask for help daily if need be and determine that you are not going to be a worrier. Anytime you feel yourself slipping, call on God to rescue you.

Lastly, God tells us that abiding in worry or anger leads to evil deeds. Worry and anger are ungodly thoughts and ungodly thoughts lead to ungodly acts. It is that simple. That is not to say that you will never feel anger nor be plagued by worry. It means that you must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus. When those thoughts assail you counter them with the Word of God. You can hang them on this verse from today. You say, “Worry, I declare Psalm 37: 8 to you and command you to be gone in the name of Jesus.” The worry, anxiety, fear or anger must, and will, flee. Beware, though, for it can come back within moments. When it does, you just speak these words again. Say, “Worry, I told you to be gone. Psalm 37 tells me that I am not the prisoner of you. Now leave.” Just keep at it until the worry, fear or anger is convinced that you mean what you say. Those negative feelings and thoughts have to obey the Word of God. Be free of those chains of fear, anger and worry. Be free in Jesus’ name.