Controlling Your Anger

James 1:19-20: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Proverbs: 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Ephesians 4:31: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

All of us have been angry at some point in our lives. We become angry at the driver that cut us off in traffic, we are angered when events in our lives don’t go the way we planned or hoped, we are angry at those people whom we believe have wronged us somehow. Most of us can deal with our anger, we realize how destructive anger can be and we learn ways that we can manage or at least minimize our outbursts of anger.

This past week I have seen up close, the results of anger, rage, and jealousy that have been cultivated in people for a long period of time. I have witnessed the damaging effect that it can have upon a person’s life if allowed to go unchecked. And I also have come to realize that some people just enjoy being angry and mad at anything or anyone.

In the book of James we read that we should be slow to anger. God doesn’t want us to spend our time upon this earth being angry. If we are constantly angry we miss out on the many good things that God desires to place in our lives. He won’t do that it you have anger and malice in your heart.

James also warns us that we should be slow to speak and slow to become angry. Being slow to speak is a difficult concept for many of us to grasp. We want to speak first and we want to be heard before we are willing to listen. In fact, there are many people that simply don’t know how to listen or they don’t want to listen. Instead they only want their point of view heard and they twist words to their own advantage or to further their agendas of hate and rage. The Bible tells us that this type of anger does not bring about the good and righteous life that God desires for each of us.

Anger if allowed to simmer over time will destroy your relationships with other people and it pulls you farther away from God. As believers, God wants us to build up and to encourage each other. The apostle Paul in writing to the church in Ephesus tells us that we are to “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Paul is telling us that as followers of Christ we have been changed and made new, and that “new self” should be self-evident for all to see. We should be about building others up not tearing them down with hurtful and hate-filled words.

The Bible tells us that some anger is sinful and some is not. We should be angry with the many types of injustice that exists in our world today. As Christians, we should be angry when we see people in this world starving or persecuted for their beliefs. We should be angry when we see those less fortunate, those without a voice, being ignored or abandoned in this world. We should be angry when our faith is falsely attacked and slandered. However,  we must also turn that anger into action and set our minds to do something about the things that we deem unjust in this world.

As I said earlier, I have witnessed the raging face of anger this week in my own personal life. It was terrible to witness how that anger raged into a personal attack on my ministry and upon who I profess to be as a follower of Christ.  All that I can do is to further resolve myself to be led by God and to continue to do what He has called me to do. As believers, we must also pray for those who want to damage our ministry and our reputation with hate-filled words and false accusations. God wants to bring about peace in our lives and in our relationships and we must continually pray that He will bring back those that are filled with anger and rage into a closer relationship with their creator God.

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:44: But I tell you: Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.

 

 

Fatherhood and Trusting in God

Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Being a parent in today’s world isn’t easy and it probably wasn’t easy when my parents raised me. I am thankful to have had two loving parents, who raised me and taught me by example, how to live an honest and God led life. Today however, I am going to remember the men in my life who played a part in molding me into the man I am today.

My father, George Mathis, was a wonderful father. He gave me the gift of his time and he always wanted me to go with him everywhere he went. I regret now the many times that I didn’t go with him. Most importantly, I knew that my father loved me and he knew that I loved him. He taught me the importance of an honest day’s work and how to be trustworthy and dependable.

My father was an excellent cook and I wish that I had spent more time with him in the kitchen, learning some of his secrets. He would come in tired from work most days but always seemed to find enough energy to toss the baseball with me for a few minutes. He was handy with tools and he enjoyed working in his garden, he always enjoyed being outside.

During my last year in college, my father had a heart attack and was taken away from me before I was ready to see him go. It was a difficult time for me, as I questioned why I had to lose my father so early in my life. There were so many things that he had yet to teach me and more advice that he needed to give me. I wondered how I would function without my father in my life and I wondered who I would turn to for help when life became difficult.

There are many days when I wish that I could talk to my father and get advice from him. I often wonder how much he would have enjoyed and loved his grandchildren and how he would have spoiled them. It is difficult to believe that it has been twenty five years since his passing. I love my father and miss him so much, but I know that death has been defeated by Christ, and that we will one day, be reunited in heaven.

Another man who had a tremendous influence in my life was my uncle, Grover Simmons. I always had a great deal of love and respect for Grover. He would quiz me on state capitals, on national and world leaders and he took me along with him as he worked as a game warden and a deputy sheriff. Soon after I bought my first car, he would pull up into the driveway and do an “inspection” of my car. The cleanliness of my car was of the utmost importance and I always kept it clean in order to make Grover proud. He was always teaching me something about the world and about my duties as a citizen of my country. He also loved God and taught me about my responsibilities to my creator also. The way that he carried himself and led his life was something that I have remembered throughout my life. I continue to try and be just a fraction of the man that he was – a man that I loved and respected so very much.

My grandfather, Cleve Simmons, was another man who played a pivotal role in teaching me values and about love for God and family. “Granddad” and I would sit and talk for hours on his front porch or at the picnic table under the large oak shade tree. He told me stories about growing up and the difficulties of raising a family in the middle of the Great Depression. I remember him talking about the importance of a close knit family life and how his faith carried him through some dark and difficult times. My grandfather was not a wealthy man but he taught me the importance of helping out those less fortunate and those in need. He taught me that you do things for others quietly, not drawing attention to yourself.

My granddad loved his home in rural Banks County and he didn’t like traveling very far away from home. I have always felt a special bond with the county that I grew up in because of how much my grandfather loved it there. I can still picture him walking up and down the walkway at his home, and his words to me when I would come up on his front porch, “Hey son, come and sit a spell and let’s talk.”

I loved my grandfather dearly, and after thirty years I still miss him, as I remember and think about the many conversations that we shared. I thank God that there will be a day in the future when we will once again sit and talk and be reunited in heaven.

My father-in-law, Rawdon Akins was another man who had a tremendous impact on my life. Although I would only know Rawdon for thirteen years, the effect that he had on my life was incredible. Rawdon’s relationship with God was the first thing that caught my attention. Rawdon was a godly man and you could see and sense that in the way that he lived out his life. He was a humble man who loved God and his family. Taking care and providing for his family was important to Rawdon and I constantly try to emulate his actions in my own life. Rawdon encouraged me as I felt called into ministry, and he was there for my ordination, telling me how proud he was of what I was doing as I followed God’s call upon my life.

I remember the last time he heard me preach.  He and I were riding together back home, after a service at a church in Union Point, Ga. He always encouraged me to continue following God’s call upon my life, and this day was no exception. Rawdon told me what he liked about my sermon and we talked about the first time that we met. Little did we know that we would not have many more of these conversations remaining.  Rawdon passed away a short time later, and it was with great honor, that I helped to officiate his funeral. It was a blessing that I could do this for a man who I came to love and respect so very much.

I am thankful for the time that God allowed me to spend with these men, and for the chance to learn from each of them, how to be a better father, husband, and follower of Christ. God gave me each of them for a “season” and I know that I am a better person because of the influence of these four men. It is my hope and prayer that my family will be able to say the same of me when I am gone – that I was a good husband, father and follower of Christ.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  

 

 

 

 

A Pure Heart

Psalm 51:10-12;15: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

Psalm 51 is a prayer from David to God asking for forgiveness and for the cleansing of his sins. David pleads for mercy from God and acknowledges God’s unfailing love and compassion. David confesses his sinful nature and looks to God to “blot out” all of his iniquities. Then, in verse 10, David prays for purity, a pure heart and a “willing spirit, to sustain me.”

If we are honest with ourselves as we read Psalm 51, we can easily take David’s place as we examine our own lives. We also acknowledge that we are sinful from birth but we continue to have hope and assurance that God will continue to plant His truth in our inner most being. We struggle daily with sin but we long for a pure heart which leads to wisdom, instead of sin that leads to recklessness and destruction.  We should all strive to have God create in us a pure heart and the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit that dwells within our inner most being.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus gives us the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Jesus warns us that we are not to become so self- righteous that we look down on everyone else. The Pharisee and the tax collector go up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself. He thanked God that he was not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. The Pharisee then boasted that he fasted twice a week and gave a tenth of all that he received. However, the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven. He beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus then reminds us that the tax collector went home justified before God. Why? Because the Pharisee exalted himself but the tax collector humbled himself before God. (Luke 18:9-14).

I strive to be like the tax collector but many times I find myself to be more like the Pharisee. What about your own life? Do you find yourself more like the Pharisee or the tax collector? There is always the temptation to compare ourselves to others and to ignore the effects of our own sinful lives. The tax collector was honest with himself and most importantly, with God. He didn’t try to list his accomplishments or his record of giving or his community service. The sinful tax collector, like David, realized that we are all sinful and we constantly need God’s forgiveness in our lives.

David prayed to God and he asked God to make his heart pure and to grant him an unwavering spirit that would dwell within him. And that pure heart and steadfast spirit would sustain him, and renew him, to reach those who were lost in sin and did not know God.Turn your worries, and doubts, and sins over to God, and allow Him to create in you a pure heart and a committed spirit that will dwell within you. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”  Psalm 51:15.

 


Forgiveness

Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This command of Jesus is a difficult one for many of us to follow. As with most of Jesus’ teachings, this runs counter to what society would have us to follow. The world that we live in encourages us to take revenge, to get even, to make the other person “pay” for their deeds against us. After all, it “feels good” when we get even for some perceived wrong, doesn’t it?

Jesus tells us that we are to “pray” for those who treat us badly or talk about us or who simply don’t like us. Through prayer, the believer is able to give over to God the anger or need for revenge that he or she is feeling. And by praying for that person whom you are angry with, God is most certainly able to affect a change in their heart also.

The Old Testament also gives us an example of  how the prayer of a true believer can help both the believer and their “enemies.” In the 42nd chapter of Job, Job’s three friends have claimed to know why God had brought such terrible suffering upon Job. The three friends seemed to make themselves more spiritually superior than Job and they essentially gave Job some bad advice.

God tells the three friends, in Job 42:7-10, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.

This Old Testament illustration is what Jesus is teaching when he tells his disciples to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus wants each of us to be able to forgive and not hold on to anger or hurtful words, so that we can fully serve God in the way that He has called us. It’s impossible to move forward with our lives if we harbor grudges or cling to hateful words from our past.

We were discussing the subject of forgiveness in Sunday School this past week and my wife made a comment that makes sense. She said, “I don’t hold onto grudges or stay upset with people because it just takes too much effort, and I don’t have time for that.” Holding onto grudges and not forgetting how others have wronged you does take a lot of time and effort. Could your time be better spent in service to God if you could let go of and forget how others have mistreated you?

Luke 6:37: “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.

 

 

To the Ends of the Earth

Mission to Haiti

Acts 1:1-11: In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Can you imagine bearing witness to what the disciples saw, as they watched Jesus being lifted up before their very eyes and hidden from their sight by a cloud? I am certain that I would have been staring into the sky like the disciples, taking in the awesome sight that was Christ ascending into heaven. But suddenly, two angels call their attention to matters here on earth. They tell the disciples that there is work to be done and they better get to it. This was no time to be staring off into space.

Jesus had just promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would descend upon them in a few days. The Holy Spirit would give them the ability to carry the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. We have the same promise today from Christ. The Holy Spirit, who lives and dwells within us, calls us to carry out mission work for the spreading of the Gospel message.

This past Wednesday, my oldest daughter Beth Anne, arrived in Haiti on a one month mission trip. This is her third trip to Haiti and she was both excited and nervous as she left the airport on Wednesday morning. God, through the Holy Spirit, has really given her a heart for mission work. And much to my delight, she is following God’s call upon her life as she seeks to serve those less fortunate that us. And she is excited as usual to be sharing the Gospel message with those that have not had an opportunity to hear it.

Beth Anne has always been the advocate and friend of those less fortunate and this began in her early years of school. She would always make friends with those children that otherwise would not have had a friend. She cared deeply and was concerned for those children that would go unnoticed by almost everyone. I have always admired this aspect of who she is as a person. She always tried to treat everyone fairly and with love and concern for who they were as a person.

I was talking with a lady who has been a missionary in Guatemala for over forty years. She has also talked with Beth Anne and she has been very supportive of Beth Anne’s desire to do mission work outside of the United States. This missionary told me that she was proud of what Beth Anne was doing and that once you started doing this type of work it was very difficult to stop doing it. “The more you serve”, she said, “the Holy Spirit seems to call you to do even more.”

Beth Anne arrived safely in Haiti on Wednesday afternoon. We received a text message when her plane landed in Port Au Prince and another one when she arrived at the compound where she will be living for one month. Since then we have not heard from her. Since using her cell phone would be very expensive, she will be buying a cell phone there along with prepaid minutes and hopefully will call us sometime this weekend. In the meantime, we are praying that God will keep her safe and also busy doing the work of the kingdom while in Haiti. Beth Anne is allowing God to use her and to grow her while serving the Haitian people in her own loving and compassionate way.

So I would ask you to keep my daughter in your prayers during the month of June. Pray for her safety and for her to be open to doing God’s will while she is on the ground, serving God’s children, in Haiti. Pray for strength and endurance as she continues to follow her Lord in faith and in obedience to His will for her life.