Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #13 (Dealing With Anger)

(Monroe sunrise) 

In every good marriage there are feelings of anger between husband and wife. I once had a person tell me, “I never get angry.” My thought was this: here is a person out of touch with what’s going on inside of him. Even God feels anger; even Jesus felt anger. There’s a healthy anger everyone should experience when faced with injustice; there’s an unhealthy and even destructive anger that creates injustice.

When angry, evaluate your anger. Here are some suggestions. 

1. Recognize your anger. “Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. In other words, every time you feel angry it’s because you have an unmet expectation.

2. Identify the unmet expectation. Think: “I feel angry because my expectation was ___________.”

3. Evaluate the unmet expectation. Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair.

4. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not,  commnicate it. If the expectation has not been communicated then your anger is unjust since they are not responsible for something they did not know.

5. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then speak this way, using these kind of words: “I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.

In the midst of interpersonal conflict use “I” words rather than “You” words. That is, begin your sentence with “I feel angry…” rather than “You make me feel angry…”

Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As you get free of these things you’ll find yourself less angry.

Remember that from the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In marriage, we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. But in every marriage anger is felt by both husband and wife.

Finally, the second part of Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation. Regarding this idea, I am thankful that only two, may three times in our 36 years of marriage, have Linda and I fallen asleep angry with each other. The reason for this is not that we’re some special couple. We do this because we were taught to do this by godly people who spoke into our lives. We were sufficiently warned about the cancerous bitterness that arises when anger is “swept under the carpet.”

“Christmas” or “the Holidays?”

 

(Jet high over downtown Monroe) 

What in America we call “the holidays” has, essentially, nothing to do with what “Christmas” is. It’s important to understand this since, in the minds of many, I think, the Christian idea of Christmas has been lost. Here are some differences.

#1 – Christmas has nothing – literally, NOTHING – to do with shopping. I’m not against shopping. I like to go to the mall with Linda and look around. I like the crowds and the lights and the music and the candy. Yet all these things and more have NOTHING to do with Christmas. What, then, is Christmas about? There’s a big clue in the word itself. Christmas has to do with “Christ.” What does that mean? The word “Christ” means “anointed King.” Jesus is “the Christ,” the anointed King. Time and space do not now allow me to expand on this rich theme.

#2 – Christmas has NOTHING to do with gift-giving. But what about the wise men who brought gifts? They came after Jesus was born. Yes they did bring gifts to honor Jesus’ birth. But they did not go shopping to buy gifts to give one another. But is it wrong to do that? I don’t think so. I love giving gifts to my family. But giving gifts to one another has NOTHING to do with Christmas. Except that, in Jesus, God gave a great gift to all humanity. For that Gift, I remain eternally grateful.

#3 – Christmas has NOTHING to do with tree-decorating. But surely it’s not wrong to have a Christmas tree, is it? I don’t think so. If anything, I think it’s wrong to have a fake tree. It’s clear to me that, had there been a lighted tree next to the cattle feeding trough Jesus was born in, it would have been a real tree, not a fake. I like decorating the tree every year. I really like the smell of pine in the morning when I get up. I very much like the lights, especially the old-fashioned large multi-colored lights. But of course all of this has NOTHING to do with Christmas. Read the original Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke and you won’t find any trees or lighted trees or tinsel and nothing about snow. Which leads me to #4.

#4 -Christmas has NOTHING to do with snow. When first-century Jews hoped for a Messiah (a “Christ”), not one of them was dreaming of a white Christmas. Those ancient people were under great political oppression. They could care less if it snowed or not.

#5 – Christmas has NOTHING to do with the economy. Personally, I have friends who are local retailers, and I hope they do well. I also like a stable American economy. But Christmas has NOTHING to do with a consumer economy. The angels were not rejoicing because Christmas sales were up as a result of the Christ being born. Get this: God’s Son was born into radical poverty. Mary ended up singing about how God would now finally help the poor and the hungry and the marginalized and the oppressed.

I like the holidays. For me, they remind me of times with my parents and brother when I was growing up. And times Linda and I had with our sons. They also remind me and Linda of a son of ours who died, which made one holiday season not so jolly. I like the holidays, but I love Jesus. When I became a follower of Jesus I left a life of drug and alcohol abuse forever. I doubt I’d be alive today if not for Jesus. Jesus still fills my life, now more than ever as I grow older. This time of the year is yet another opportunity to experience and encounter and think about the Christ, my Savior, and your’s too.

“Man (+ God) Vs. Wild”

 

I here confess that I like to watch “Man vs. Wild” on TV. Last night I saw Bear Grylls fly a motorized hang-glider above Mt Everest! Note: Grylls has also summited Everest. He’s a phenomenal physical specimen who does the craziest, most adventuresome things. And, Grylls is a follower of Jesus.

I looked up his website today, and Grylls talks about how he trains. Here are some quotes.

“I routinely train for three to four hours a day to keep my physical fitness at the level needed to sustain the pace of each shoot; this routine includes weights, running, yoga, rucksack runs, yomps, and circuit training. In addition I need to dedicate time and energy every day to maintaining my skill levels within each discipline I use: such as skydiving, climbing, paragliding, yoga, gymnastics, and martial arts.

In between all this I have my family to love and hang out with. I have two great boys and a wife who means the world to me. My challenge through a lot of the craziness of the last couple of years since Man Vs Wild took off, is to balance my family life with my training and filming schedule.

The final part of the equation is my Christian faith…I look at this as the thread that binds all these other elements together. I pray daily for my family and we also have little quiet times together, and I pray hard when out filming for safety, good judgement and for protection in all the dangers.” (24 October 2007)

Well, I am a follower of Jesus, too. So, inspired by Grylls’s Everest adventures, I recently *summited the highest point in Monroe, Mt Munson. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I am always in training for this climb. My training regimen includes: reading books, going to meetings, and eating at potlucks. Above is a picture of Mt Munson before I went for it. I took this shot from below the peak, in base camp 1. Conditions can be deadly at the top. Many out-of-shape persons have found themselves in danger, especially making the treacherous descent. Finally, as the picture above shows, conditions were perfect. So, for at least the 500th time, I did it again!

*Warning: adults should never attempt this climb without supervision of a child.

The Anti-Church-Growth Strategy of the Real Jesus

(Somewhere in Monroe…) 

In Luke 9 Jesus responds to three men who come to him saying “I want to follow you.” Instead of just saying “Cool – another warm body to inflate the numbers of my followers,” Jesus proceeds to tell them what it will cost them to actually follow him.

This is important because the Real Jesus is looking for followers, not pew-sitters. The definition of a “follower” is this: someone who actually follows. If, then, a person says “I am a Christian” but does not actually follow Jesus, then (logically) they are not a follower of Jesus. That’s pretty simple to understand, isn’t it? And if someone says they are a Christian but don’t actually follow Jesus, then I confess to not having a clue as to who or what they are. But one thing I do know: the Jesus of Matthew-Mark-Luke-John is after nothing less than followers. And following Jesus is costly.

As a pastor I have long been familiar with the church-growth strategies that are given to us. The idea is that “bigger church” equals “success.” Now I think that adding persons to the church is great. But, as a possible marketing strategy to do this, what Jesus says in Luke 9 is odd. Look at it, and ask yourself how this approach might work in your church. (Luke 9:57-62)

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
      But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

What’s the point Jesus is making? It’s this: Jesus is looking for disciples. Disciples actually follow after Jesus and carry on his mission. He wants to be Lord and King in a person’s life. The result is a life released from what Jesus calls the kingdom of darkness and liberated into his beautiful kingdom. There is a cost of discipleship. There is a cost of following after Jesus. This has nothing to do with nominal “Christianity.” The inflated numbers of “Christians” in America fail to identify what Martin Luther called the true church, or the “invisible church.” 

When Black Friday Morphs Into Good Friday

(Times Square, June 2007. The hanging lobster is above the door to a Red Lobster restaurant.)

Tomorrow is “Black Friday,” when many shop all day and overspend and accrue even more credit card debt, and retailers hope to get out of the red and into the black. It’s either the “holidays” or “Christmas,” depending on your philosophy of shopping. It’s worth noting that the original thing [i.e., Christmas] had NOTHING to do with shopping. Instead of us buying gifts for people that they don’t need and hopefully getting an equal monetary amount of gifts back at us, a GIFT was given to us.

In order to celebrate the holidays, one needs money. But in order to celebrate Christmas, I mean really celebrate it, it’s not going to cost you money, just your life. For those with little money this is good news!

I’m now reading Brian McLaren’s book Everything Must Change, and came across something that sheds light on what’s happening on Black Friday. Black Friday is a “theocapitalist manifestation.” What’s that? McLaren, following author Tom Beaudoin, says that theocapitalism is “godlike consumer media capitalism.” Theocapitalism functions like a religion; indeed, it is a very real and very strong religious kind of thing. Here’s why (and I quote directly from pp. 190-191).

1. It gives us identity, helping us find or create our true selves – as the kind of man who wears cologne X, or the kind of woman who wears dress Y, or the kind of teenager who buys music Z, or the kind of senior citizen who bonds her dentures and heals her hemorrhoids with Product Q or Product H.

2. It helps us belong to a community of kindred spirits who share our faith – whether that faith is in the power of a cosmetic to produce youth, or the power of a car to produce sex appeal, or the power of an investment firm to give us security.

3. It develops trust by making and keeping advertising promises, and thus reduces the anxiety of making choices, so when we purchase deodorant A, electric drill B, or computer C, we can do so with joy and anticipation.

4. It helps us experience ecstasy – when we step out of a plane on vacation, when we bite a chocolate bar, when we sip a fine wine, when we click into an XXX website.

5. It communicates transcendence through sacred images and symbols – the mystical Nike swoosh that directs us toward transcendence through footwear, the holy cardinal red of a coke sign that saves us through sugar, the iconic Target bulls-eye that draws our concentration to the Center of All Things in the housewares aisle, or the heavenly Golden Arches that guide us to bliss through beef and cheese.

6. It promises us conversion to a new life if we try their product and jouin their brand “family.”

7. Ultimately, theocapitalism promises rest for the restless heart – a rest that replaces Augustine’s Confessions with a thirty-minute infomercial featuring the testimonials of satisfied customers and believers in the product, complete with dramatic before-and-after photographs.

Theocapitalism, through marketing and advertising and brainwashed word-of-mouthing creates, ex nihilo, powerful wants and desires for things and products and experiences one does not actually need. And off we go a-shopping again for the next incarnation of the Chia Pet.

I have news for you: you do not have to bow before this holiday god. There is another world out there, another kingdom, and it is light and truth and love and it will only cost you your life. It will set you free. It will turn the great moral indebtedness of “Black Friday” into the debt-relief reality of “Good Friday.” The result will be that theocapitalist things will grow strangely dim. And you won’t have to find a place to store all the presents and work overtime to pay off the credit cards.

A Thank-You to My Church Family

If you are in my church, this is especially for you.

From me and Linda – thank you!

We are so greatly blessed to be with you in our Redeemer Church family.

We give thanks to God for…

…many Real-Jesus-Followers

…great hearts of generous, sacrificial giving of not only money but time and labor

…many who have served and serve in our part of Godworks Soup Kitchen

…hearts that love to worship

…people who don’t just believe in prayer but actually pray

…a unified, faithful team of wise leaders at many levels

…a people that cry out for and welcome the proclamation and demonstration of the kingdom of God

Linda and I bless you with a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Love,

PJ

The Greatest Thing God is Doing in Monroe

(The River Raisin) 

In my estimation there is no greater thing that God is doing in Monroe than the Godworks Soup Kitchen. Real followers of Jesus feed the hungry and reach out to the poor in systemic ways. While it’s common for people to give food to the hungry a few times a year, I have found it uncommon for a community to band together to provide daily meals for the hungry and needy.

Why just give out meals around Thanksgiving and Christmas? I don’t think that’s bad, but if I were without a job I know I’d get hungry the other 363 days of the year too.

If you consider yourself a Christian and a follower of Jesus (the two are the same thing), then look with me at Matthew chapter 25:31-46. This is our Lord Jesus speaking. And he says: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’…   “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

These words are RADICAL. How clear can it be that Jesus is saying his REAL FOLLOWERS will feed the hungry and will clothe the naked and will look after the sick and will visit those in prison. This is not just for “pastors.” The ramifications of you not doing this are, from Jesus’ viewpoint, devastating.

Thank God that here in Monroe a number of Christians from a variety of local churches work together to live out Matthew 25. And thanks to Jeff Weaver and the other Godworks servants for their great labor of love. Personally, I know of no greater thing God is currently doing here in Monroe.

A Road Trip to Teach at the Oldest Private African-American University in America

On Thursday Linda and I got up at 5 AM and traveled 200 miles south to Wilberforce, Ohio, and Payne Theological Seminary. PTS is connected to Wilberforce University. WU’s website says this: “Wilberforce University is a unique institution located in a state rich in America’s private college tradition. Founded prior to the end of slavery in 1856, it is the nation’s oldest, private African-American university. For 147 years WU has, through sheer force of will, provided young African-American students with a solid educational experience.”

PTS’s dynamic president, Dr. Leah Fitchue, is a friend of mine. She invited me to speak and teach part of a week-long seminary class called “Transformational Leadership.” The other class teachers were Dr. James Cone of Union Theological Seminary and Dr. Deotis Roberts of Howard University. My role was to wrap up the class by teaching on Personal Transformation: How God Changes Lives. I did this Thursday from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. My class was held on the campus of Wilberforce U.

Thirty-five African-American seminary students were in my class. Most were pastors and leaders in the A.M.E. church (African Methodist Episcopal). One student was from Sierra Leone, and another was from Ghana.

I structured my 3 1/2-hour block like this:

9 – 9:45 – Introduction; meet the students; share basics of how God changes lives

9:45 – 10:45 – I sent the students out to pray for 45 minutes. I explained to them how I wanted them to do this. My basic instructions are: go alone to a quiet place to meet, just you and God; use Psalm 23 to meditate on; when your mind wanders, write down where it wanders to (the mind always wanders to something like a burden); when God speaks to you, write it down; After 45 minutes, return to class.

10:45 – 11:45 – Meet in small groups, Share what God said to you. Someone take notes on the group sharing. Then, group recorders share with all of us. I comment on what I hear God saying to the people.

11:45 – 12:30 – I taught the elements of Personal Transformation. They are:

1. Recognize how needy you are
2. Realize the magnitude of the needed transformation (into Christlikeness)
3. Understand that only God can effect the needed transformation
4. Get into the presence of God
5. Understand what it means to dwell in God’s presence
6. The level of personal transformation is: “the deep waters of the heart” (Proverbs 20:5)
7. God deconstructs the false self
8. The essential attitude is: humility (“Unless you humble yourself like a little child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 18)

I am so glad Linda came with me. We had a wonderful time, made many new friends and connections. I believe we will be working together in some way in the days ahead.

(Payne Theological Seminary and Wilberforce University are in a beautiful area in Ohio. The picture is of an old WU dormitory building built in 1913. Funds are being raised to restore this incredible structure.)

Letting Go of the Past & Water Over the Dam

Here’s a picture of the dam on North Custer just west of Telegraph. When you forgive someone, the effect of the forgiveness is a letting go of the hurtful past, like “water going over a dam.”

To forgive, according to Jesus in Matthew 18, is the “cancel the debt” another person owes you due to a hurt they have caused you. Non-forgiveness “makes the person pay.” Forgiveness is an act of mercy that says, “No longer do you owe me anything.” People who refuse to forgive often are bitter inside. That thing that was done to them is something they hold on to, and in the holding on they withhold things like love and relationship from the other person.

To not forgive someone is to be in a kind of self-imposed prison; to forgive someone is not only to free or release them from the debt they owe you but is also to be free in one’s own heart.

Note: biblically, forgiveness does not mean “forgetting,” even though in my marriage to Linda we have truly forgotten most of the things we have asked each other for forgiveness for.

Also, to forgive a person does not imply that now you are to trust that person.

Finally, from a Christian standpoint, Jesus (in Matthew 18 and the parable of the unforgiving servant) says that because God has forgiven us of so much, how could we even think of not forgiving someone when they hurt us?

Redeemer Ministry School – Coming to Monroe September 2008

In September 2008 our church’s ministry school will take in its first class of students. We’re looking for students from the Monroe area and beyond to consider spending 10 months with us. Redeemer Minstry School will be an in-depth program with academic excellence combined with experiential knowing, a combination of theory and practice, of proclamation and demonstration regarding the realities of the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about.

We are looking for people, and especially young people, who are passionate followers of Jesus to be with us for a 10 month period and be mentored by us. If that’s you, check out the information at our website and contact me personally if you like at 734-242-5277.
For details and updates see Redeemer Ministry School’s website.