The main memories I have of my biological mother (God gifted me with a wonderful grandmother and step mother) is her incredible ability to go from zero to passionately angry in 2.5 seconds. In fact, she was pretty well known for this. It didn’t take much, and before you could escape, the head would tilt, the forehead vein would pop out, the face would turn red, and the shrill sound of her soprano voice would fill the air. What often made these scenarios humorous was her famous line, “I DO NOT LIKE SCREAMING!!!!” Though, if you knew her, you surely doubted the sincerity of that statement. Anger was her spiritual gift. It sprouted in her life on the daily. And before you hate on me for mentioning her, or fee sympathy for me for living with her, hear this: I’m so thankful for that screaming, angry woman now as I look back.
God surely used that unstable and crazy environment to help shape my temperament into what it is today. It takes so much to make me mad. In fact, its near impossible to tip that anger scale for me. But when it has happened, I’ve had to evaluate where it started and how it sprouted. And with a deeper understanding of what anger is, and where it comes from in my life, it has given me a deeper understanding of where others, even my mother, are coming from when they have an anger episode. The deeper my understanding, the deeper my reservoir of mercy.
God continues chiseling away at Tommy, and all of a sudden he hits a deep one.
“Anger, I created the emotion but you use it in the wrong way.”
If mercy is a well we must draw from, anger is a volcano, springing up, that we must flee from. Anger always reveals what is going on in the heart of the matter. And the HEART of the matter is always the heart of the matter. I used to joke that I wished my mother had a red warning light that would start flashing 30 seconds before her “click” moment. While that light might not be visible to anyone else, did you know that unrighteous anger does have some “warning lights” that begin to flash, indicating a malfunction in our spiritual drive?
Before we dive in, let me answer the question that YES, there is righteous anger. The emotion you feel when you witness cruelty, injustice, or sin. Righteous anger does have a role in the Christian’s life, but that will be a discussion for a whole other day, since that’s not the area that we need some chiseling in.
Ed Chinn writes, “Burning or prolonged anger is a warning light that something is out of balance in life. Anger is closely tied to feeling threatened. A sense of threat, real or imagined, usually arises out of a perception of oppression, humiliation, injustice, physical danger or just a lack of control over our environment and circumstances.
Guilt can also trigger anger. For example, if we know or feel that we've violated the law (biblical, moral, or civic), we may live under a cloud that God or the IRS or the sheriff is about to get us. That lack of control over our circumstances can make us angry.”
Ultimately, the hot lava of anger erupts when our pride is damaged, our control is taken, or our conscience is convicted. Anger quickly becomes a sin that is the fruit of a deeper rooted sin. God created anger as an emotional drive toward action because angry people tend to become active people. But, so many of us misuse it. We have so much sin, bitterness, and pride in our hearts that our actions are ill intentioned. So what are the warning lights for this destrictive anger? How can we avoid the sin?
1. LISTEN FIRST – talk last. Don’t speak until you’ve listened. Ignorance is often a most passionate communicator.
James 1:19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
2. LET GO. Anger ferments into bitterness and boils into foolishness.
Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
3. LEVERAGE KINDNESS. When there is gap between what we expect and what we experience, we get to choose what we fill the void with. Trust or distrust. What we fill the gap with reveals our depth of spirituality. Love believes all things…it gives the benefit of the doubt. Proverbs 19:11: "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." In other words, balance gives a sense of discretion in life. And, it is the mark of wisdom to be able to overlook perceived transgressions.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
God, please give me strength to listen before I speak.
Lord, I am not you, so holding on to anger only damages me and other’s image of you when they see me. Help me to let go of my frustrations and reject my irritations in the moment.
Father, you’ve been so kind to me. Help me extend that benefit of the doubt to someone else today. Let them see you in me.
One of my least favorite lines from this entire video is also one of my most favorite. In between exchanges in conversation between Tommy (insert your name here) and God, an ultimatum of sorts is issued. God asks, “talk…or chisel?”
Which will it be?
…because it’s either one or the other. Talk about doing for God, and letting God work in us… or actually putting our “money where our mouth is” if you will.
Nehemiah has got to be the most perfect example of an action-oriented man. I would challenge you to read the first few chapters today. Seriously. In chapter one we see a man who is broken hearted over the walls of his home being in shambles. Without walls, the people lived in constant danger of further attack. A city without borders is no city at all. So for the first chapter, you find Nehemiah in prayer.
He goes before the king, as was his duty, at the beginning of chapter 2. I’d love to spend hours explaining the miracle that takes place in the king’s heart by granting Nehemiah’s many requests, but God wants us to notice something. Most of us “pray about something” and we never put feet to our “faith.” We HOPE that everything will get better. We HOPE that God will do something. We HOPE that people will turn out right and the walls will be rebuilt, but the average Christian church today will spend countless hours in discussion…and absolutely zero time in actual doing. Pastor Craig Groeschel, pastor of the largest and fastest growing church in the United States pointed out in his leadership podcast that many churches hamper their success and slowly die by way of endless meetings, discussions, and votes with little to no action to follow. Be it in the church world or in the Christian’s life, prayer is GREAT. But, genuine prayer is a prerequisite to the faith that will follow. TALK or CHISEL?
As with any project ordained by God, opposition came out of the woodwork. Who knows exactly how the word spread, but somehow it did, and in Nehemiah 2:10, Sanballat and Tobiah are grieved exceedingly that a man has come to seek the welfare of the needy (being that they were nobility.) And right there…that’s where I personally struggle, and where most of us often stop. When someone doesn’t like what God has called us to do, we cease and desist. But verse 11 is one of my favorites in this narrative. Even among the talk, Nehemiah writes, “so……I came to Jerusalem.” Opposition will always accompany opportunity. So, TALK or CHISEL?
All of a sudden, the number of opposers grows. Sanballet mocks the Jews, and speaks to his brethren, the army of Samaria, and Tobiah. They accuse Nehemiah, once again proving that we are never more like Satan, the accuser of the brethren, than when we accuse. Then, he calls into question a few things:
a. Identity – “what do these feeble Jews?” … turns out the accusers are the feeble ones, though.
b. Insecurities – “ will they fortify themselves?” … why should this matter to them? Because when someone else’s insecurities are fortified, it reveals my own.
c. Invocation – “will they sacrifice?” – They call into question their form of worship. Pharisees and Idol worshipers are the first to call into question the worship of another.
d. Improvement – “will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish?” – Those who harbor sin within their hearts will never grasp the concept of revival and restoration. And what they do not understand, they will seek to hinder.
Now, in Nehemiah 6, the list of opposers has grown AGAIN! Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and THE REST of our enemies… They call for Nehemiah to cease building the wall and come down to the plain of Ono to “discuss the situation with him. Lets just talk about these building plans you have, Nehemiah. But Nehemiah says, “why should the work cease while I leave it and come down to you?” TALK or CHISEL?
Nehemiah understood that the enemy will never come to talk to you, they always want you to come “down” to them. Friend, can I warn you, OH NO! DON’T GO TO “ONO!” My papa used to say, “don’t argue with immature people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
And now, after Nehemiah refuses to stop fixing the brokenness four different times, they send an “open letter.” It reads, “It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king…and now it shall be reported to the king according to these words.” They even asked Nehemiah to meet with them in the temple in order to spiritualize it…even though their plan was to kill him.
Note a few things about those who choose to talk:
a. An Open Letter – when anyone wrote a letter in this time, the final step was to seal it closed with a wax seal so that the writer and the reader knew the contents. Why send an open letter? Because they were more concerned with everyone knowing what they thought rather than the truth being told. TALK
b. “It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it:” - You’ve heard the phrase, “consider the source.” Can I translate that King James phrase into modern vernacular: It is reported on the internet, and my cousin’s neighbor said it was true.” TALK
c. “You think to rebel against the king” - the imagination of the unrighteous talker is limited to the boundaries of their own secret struggles and sins. TALK
d. “And now it shall be reported to the king…” In other words, “if I can’t get my way, I’m telling mom on you.” TALK
e. “Let us go into the temple…” Not all who come with ‘holy intentions’ are genuine. Since the snake and the fruit in the garden of Eden, the enemy always disguises the most clever attacks under the mantle of spirituality. 1 John 4 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:” TALK
At the end of chapter 6, with men who worked with tools in one hand and weapons in the other to get the job done, the enemies are cast down and having to admit that the structure now built was wrought of God. Nehemiah chose the chisel over talking, and God took care of the enemies. Obey God, leave the consequences to him. The power, blessing, and presence of God cannot be faked. If we must choose between Talk or Chisel… like Tommy, my prayer is that we too might say, “I choose the chisel.”
Rebuild the walls.
Revive the stones.
Restore the people.
Reach the broken.
God: “You’re funny.”
Tommy: “You made me that way!”
God: “I also made the platypus…”
In the early 70’s, a comedian named Flip Wilson hosted his own variety show. He would play this character named “Geraldine” who would find herself in all sorts of messes and situations. She would begin to explain how it all happened, but if pressed, her go-to-response was “the devil made me do it!”
Human nature since the fall of Adam and Eve is to look for a scapegoat. There’s got to be someone or something to take the blame or fall for our mistakes and failures. Don’t believe me? Try calling one of your kids out and see if they don’t respond, “well HE made me do it!” As Christians, we are a lot like Geraldine and Tommy. Depending on the situation we either blame the devil or we often blame God for our shortcomings: The devil was attacking me or God created me this way.
My friend, when we consider the truth of Ephesians 2:10, we discover that God is making us into what we ought to be. Yet, even though he is making us…he never makes us. Meaning, he is shaping you, but the Holy Spirit is a gentleman who will never force himself upon you. Until the day of eternal judgment when every knee shall bow, the choices of every moment are completely in your control. No one and nothing is making you do anything.
Your attitude on this Monday is completely your choice. Your focus today is completely in your hands. Every decision you make today will be within your own power and consciousness. God wants to make you into the likeness of his Son, but you will have to willingly hand him the chisel. Today, let’s escape the blame game and make the most of every moment. Realize that no matter our past, baggage, family situation, or social context, God wants to make us…but he’ll never MAKE us.
Say it with me:
Anything good in me, God did it.
Anything else, I did it.
In our video, God pulls out his tools to begin the process. Tommy asks, “Hey! What are those?” God says, “these are the tools…” This is the process by which I make you look like my Son. In other words, you’re not going to take shape overnight. It doesn’t work that way.
This phrase does not originate with me, but I love to tell people, “The power is in the process.” Oh, how we wish that washboard abs, a trim figure, financial peace, or even building a church could happen overnight. Wouldn’t that be great? But, just like we didn’t gain weight overnight, go into a debt lifestyle overnight, or create a reputation overnight, the solutions will come the same way the problems were created. One exercise at a time. The power is in the process.
In Exodus, we find a man of great prominence, power, prestige, and position, living in the king’s palace by the name of Moses. It seemed he had everything he would need to lead God’s people out of their bondage. Yet, because of his sin, in chapter 3 verse 1 he is leading the flock of his father in law to the backside of the desert. He’s a lowly man, with a lowly job, in a lonely place, who God had already anointed for greatness. For 40 years, the man anointed was working and waiting to be the man appointed.
This scenario almost does not make sense, until we see the aerial view in Psalm 77:20, “Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” And all in a moment, 40 years of desert walking made sense. God was chiseling away at who Moses was so that Moses could see who God is.
For 40 years, Moses was practicing his shepherding skills in an obscure place on one of the most stupid animals so that he could lead some of the most obstinate people.
Friend, you may be in an obscure place in life right now. God has anointed you to do some amazing things for him, but the time of your appointment has not yet arrived. You’re looking around and wondering why God has you in the backside of the desert. Be encouraged that even in the backside of the desert, you may happen upon your “Horeb” the mountain of God.
God will work what you have learned during this desert season together for your good and His glory. You will encounter his presence in a surreal way. And He will motivate you with a mission that will impact the lives of more people than you ever imagned.
Keep doing those sit ups. Keep making the right meal choices. Keep spending wisely and saving appropriately. Keep sharing Christ. Keep studying God’s word. Keep praying. Keep walking.
Soon, you’ll look back and see that truly, the power is in the process.
In Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples to Cesaria Philippi. This city is at the base of Mount Herman, and its also the headwaters or source for the Jordan river. In the ancient world, any time water came out of the ground, the would make those places centers of worship because they believed their gods were connected and brought this provision of water.
Caananites chose this city to be a place for the worship of Baal. Greeks and Romans chose this location to be a center for worship of the god Pan. Herod built an enormous temple here to worship the man who they claimed to be god, Ceasar Augustus. Right here in this place where multiple cultures claimed their idols to be god, Jesus asks his disciples, who do men say that I am?
They began to scroll through the list of what others said or thought that Jesus was.So Jesus asks them specifically, “who do YOU say that I am?” Peter, the spokesman for the group, says “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
If you’ve ever been a child, or know someone who has, you know that parents have the tendency to ask questions they already know the answer to. In fact, not only do they do this, but the clever parent also answers their child’s question….WITH A QUESTION!?
Why? Why ask someone a question when you already know the answer? Why when an individual comes inquiring about a topic would we answer them with a question? It is not because we don’t know the answer, but rather because there is a realization that must take place in the answerer’s mind/heart.
This is one way you’ll know God is speaking to you. Often, in His still, small voice, he asks of you a question. Not because he is ignorant, but often because he has already given you what you need to know.
My grandmother has some funny, what we call “Sandyisms.” These are phrases that don’t really make sense…but they do at the same time. Once, she said to me, “Jon, I didn’t know that until I realized it.”
The same is true for you and I. God has given us his Word. In it, he has all the answers to every one of life’s questions. Truly, there are no unanswered questions, just unrealized truth. Many times when you ask God a question, He will respond with “Who do you say that I am?” Because when you finally realize who HE is. You’ll know who YOU are. And when you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.
Prayer today: Dear God, please show me who you are in my situation right now.
In the video, of which we are kind of putting ourselves in Tommy’s shoes for a few days, God appears. Doubting who he is, Tommy requests God perform to his demands. The response: “I’m really not into playing games. Why are you so into playing games?”
A game is an amusement or pastime. To muse is to think, but to a-muse is to be absent from thought. Now I know there are some games that are real thinkers…but consider this: You’re not actually thinking about “real” issues. You’re moving a piece on a board, evaluating an imaginary situation, or manipulating a video controller that allows your mind to participate in a cause that has no effect or consequence on your real life. It’s not really thinking.
One of my favorite authors, Francis Chan talks about how we all used to play this game called “Simon Says.” Whatever Simon says, you do it. What’s weird is that in the church, “Jesus Says” is a totally different game. If Jesus says something, you don’t have to do it, you just have to memorize it. Study it. Jesus says, “go out and make disciples” and how many of us have intentionally invested in someone this week? But we memorized it! Imagine telling your kid to go clean their room. Later you go to evaluate the situation, and the room is still a mess but there stands your child proudly! “MOM! DAD! GUESS WHAT?! I MEMORIZED WHAT YOU SAID…..”GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” Puzzled, you respond, “but you didn’t actually do it…” To which your kid says, “BUT I HAD SOME FRIENDS OVER AND WE HAD A STUDY ON WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE IF WE CLEANED OUR ROOM. IN FACT, I CAN EVEN SAY IT IN GREEK. GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM = Pigaínete katharó to domátió sas!”
Why do we think we will come before God someday and quote our way into righteousness? God is not into playing games. Why are we so into playing games? Being the church is more than a pretend, amusing activity we get to participate in a couple hours a week. It’s more than a strategy game, yet so many of us treat it as “Word With Friends.” My friend, living it or not living it does have a real effect on your immediate and eternal life.
John 14:15, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
We only love God when we obey him. And we only believe the parts of the Bible we are willing to obey. Frankly, to God, it’s an all or nothing deal.
All throughout my childhood, my family lived in a very public spotlight. Because of that pressure and the image we were supposed to maintain, we were never allowed to talk about anything to anyone. To some that seems extremely sad, but today I’m thankful for one of the greatest spiritual lessons I could have learned. I had to have been nearing 12 years of age or maybe even a bit younger while laying in bed one night. It had been another extremely rough week in our ministry and family, and as I laid there I remember saying, “Dear God…..” That was it. To me, prayer was kind of like a phone call. You dial up God by calling his name, and then you hang up when you say “amen.” So, I figured that in the middle of this loneliness, I’d keep my Heavenly Father on the line all night. As long as I never said “amen” I could count on the fact that he was there and he was listening.
Psalm 34:17The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
Psalm 18:3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
Amid the hundreds of verses regarding prayer, here are a couple of my top 10. I know we emphasized prayer yesterday, but as I was seeking the Lord on today’s topic, I couldn’t escape the impression that the Lord had something left to say. I wonder, have you prayed yet today?
Prayer is the most effective tool in our toolbox. It’s the mightiest weapon in our artillery. It’s the most effective medicine. And it’s the sweetest sentiment to God. As our Father, he wants to hear his children pray. Someone once asked, “if God knows everything, why do I even need to say anything?” Because when we speak his name we enter in a special, holy place. His heart is touched by our faith. His response is filled with grace. Truly prayer moves the heart that moves the hand that moves the world.
I truly believe that every failure in life is a prayer failure. And the greatest indicator of our faith is not the things we pray for, but rather how we respond when God provides them. Why is it, knowing that he is a good Father who wants to provide for his children, that we are often surprised when our prayers are answered? James writes to us in chapter 1 that we should ask for wisdom in faith. Nothing wavering. The double-minded, wavering, man who prays shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Friend, whatever issues you face at your job or at home today, there is a God who cares. He is moved with compassion upon your requests. He reserves his greatest blessings for those who ask in faith. God longs to hear your voice, and hopes to hear from you without ceasing, all day long. You can ramble. You can rant. You can cry in anguish or rejoice in happiness. You never bore God. He always picks up when you call. His reception is always crystal clear He never drops a signal. And best of all, his family plan is unlimited and the cost is free. He’ll stay on the line with you all day long, and silence is never awkward to him.
As a church we don’t have specific prayer requests today other than just to PRAY. Give it a shot!
Throughout my childhood, there were so many things that I wanted to learn to do. Just normal kid things…that my family took an “old school” approach on teaching me. Like when I was 6 years old and asked my dad to teach me to ride a 2 wheeler bike without training wheels. He said “sure,” go get me my tool box.” A little puzzled, I brought him the box where he pulled out a wrench and said “this is what you’ll need.” I laughed and said, “no it isn’t!” He replied, “yes it is… you asked me to teach you, and these are the tools we’ll need for you to learn.” He took those tools and removed the training wheels and sent me riding toward the carport support beam in that Alabama church parking lot. (ouch! Painful lesson) I think about when I prayed that God would help me be a good pastor someday so he gave me a group of crazy teenagers. Or maybe when I asked my grandpa to teach me how to drive, so he put me on the riding lawn mower and made me cut the grass.
Like the karate kid, I didn’t understand that wax the car and paint the fence were the techniques I would need to win my actual competition. If I’m honest, I often regretted asking grandpa or GOD for anything because it always ended up backfiring with implications I would have not preferred. Dangerous questions lead to dangerous results.
Tommy says, he wants to be a masterpiece. He wants to be everything that God wants him to be. So, he goes to God in prayer and says some extremely dangerous words: “Dear Heavenly Father, do whatever it takes to mold me into the image of your Son. Make me your masterpiece. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen” In a moment, “God” appears and presents the tools by which he will answer Tommy’s prayer.
Now, I know this just a skit. I’m not trying to treat it like Scripture. But what makes this video so powerful is the Bible content that is packed into every line! Jesus says in John 15:7, “ If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” If we ask God for things that are according to His will, he gives them to us, or more specifically, does them unto us! James 4 reminds us that we have not because we ask not, and if we ask for things according to our own lust, many times God will withhold them.
That’s why so many people pray vague prayers. They are scared that God might answer their specific ones, or ignore their selfish ones. We want God to give us patience, but we don’t want the testing that brings it. We want God to give us blessings, but we don’t want the poverty that helps us realize His prosperity. We want God to make us stronger, but we don’t want to carry the cross that builds the muscles. Dangerous prayers bring dangerous results.
My friend, vague, meaningless prayers do not move God to specific action. But if you’ll pray specifically today: Dangerous prayers…the kind that make you cringe. They may bring about some dangerous results, but the end product is a dangerous Christian. The kind that is strong, chiseled, patient, and bold. If you’ll ask God for some big things, I promise he will do some big things. Even if its not in the comfortable way we might prefer.
1. God, please make me dangerous.
2. Lord, place me in the circumstances that cause me to pray without ceasing.
3. Father, hold my hand and give me faith and your strength as I learn to live like you.
“When I look in the mirror…”
Welcome to day 1 of our 30 day journey together. I remember the first time I saw this video by the skit guys probably 7 or 8 years ago, God used it powerfully in my life. Over the years, I’ve probably watched it hundreds of times, and God uses it to convict me in a different way every single time. So, for the next 30 days (at least) any time we think of Tommy, we ought to put our name in his place. He says so many things that you and I have said. So, we are going to break down the video into 30 days and evaluate the scripture behind the script.
22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
When I wake up in the morning, and especially before I walk out the door, I’m sure to visit a mirror. That piece of glass hanging on my wall does me a great service by revealing the areas where I need to make some changes, adjustments, and most often: improvements! And James chapter 1 says that God’s Word is our spiritual mirror. It reveals to us the things in us that we would never have discovered on our own.
Now, I love to people watch. One of the best places to do this is at the mall. Here’s why: Nearly every store’s entrance is entirely made of glass! As people of all shapes and sizes walk by, they cannot help but take notice in the beautiful display… no, not the clothes behind the glass, but that good lookin’ devil reflected on the glass. You’ll know that is the case by the facial expression to follow that says, “oh yeah…I look GOOD today.” Some others have been known to discover their fly was down or their hair was messed up. Then, as if no one else even existed, they will begin to hilariously make the necessary adjustments as they gaze into the glass.
Friend, so many of us are like the first example. When we are feeling down, we’ll grab the Bible mirror and pray a prayer something to the tune of “mirror mirror on the wall, who’s God’s favorite child of all?” We read our favorite encouraging Psalm to boost our confidence, and like Fonz from Happy Days, we set the mirror down and say “heyyyy” because we’re happy with how we look.
So, how do we tap into this mirror’s reflective ability?
1. “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty…” STUDY IT.
2. “and continueth therein…” STAY IN IT.
3. “he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work…” SURRENDER TO IT.
1. God, when I open up your word, please speak to me.
2. Father, help me to recall the things that you say during my day.
3. Lord, give me opportunities to be obedient to your word today.