Blog

A Small Book About A Big Problem: Meditations On Anger, Patience, and Peace

smallbook.jpg

There’s a line in one of my favorite songs (“Pitseleh”) by the late Elliott Smith that goes like this:

 

I’m not half what I wish I was

I’m so angry

I don’t think it’ll ever pass

And I was bad news for you just because


I never meant to hurt you

 

As I read Ed Welch’s new book A Small Book about a Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace, I thought a lot about these lyrics. They are true of me. I’m not half the man that I wish I was because I still struggle with anger. I wish that I didn’t, but I do. And there are days when I get so angry that I don’t think it will ever pass (I have 6 kids, does that get me off the hook?). And because I still struggle with anger, I can be “bad news” for those closest to me, even though I never mean to hurt anyone with my words.

 

So I am going to assume that you struggle with anger too. Every human being does. As Ed says on page 1, “To be human is to get angry.” Some of us explode and the whole world sees it when we get angry. Just as Elliott Smith sings in another song (“Bottle Up and Explode!)-

 

Bottle up and explode over and over

Keep the troublemaker below

Put it away and check out for the day

In for a round of overexposure

 

Some of us try to bury our anger deep inside but we soon realize that anger is pretty good at resurrection. And when it finally gets released, we’re in for a round of overexposure as our hearts are revealed to all the people in our warpath.

 

And then some of us bury our anger so deep that we think it will never get out. But it does. Not with explosions. It seeps out in subtle ways, subtle comments. So the bottom line is that every human being struggles with anger, whether you’re good with a shovel or lighting fireworks. And as this little book points out, anger destroys. That alone should be reason for you to pick this book up. We may not mean to hurt others, but our anger does.

 

If anger has its way, it will lead to murder. Puritan pastor and theologian John Owen said something like this over 300 years ago:

 

Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, if it has its own way it will go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could, every thought of unbelief would be atheism if allowed to develop. Every rise of lust, if it has its way reaches the height of villainy; it is like the grave that is never satisfied. The deceitfulness of sin is seen in that it is modest in its first proposals but when it prevails it hardens mens’ hearts, and brings them to ruin.

 

Every sin wants to go to its utmost, so if anger could have its way, it would grow up and become murder. What does anger want to be when it grows up? MURDER. And that means that there’s a murderer inside everyone one of us. This is exactly what Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins sings about in their song “Disarm”-

 

The killer in me is the killer in you

 

And that’s exactly what Jesus said about all of us in Matthew 5:21-22. Listen to how Ed describes it:

 

You see where Jesus is going. Jesus has just enlarged the boundary of murder so that it includes all kinds of anger… Jesus is putting casual name-calling within those same murderous boundaries… Welcome to the band of murderers. Why is Jesus so hard-hitting on this? Anger destroys. Jesus wants life for us all. And we can’t turn toward life until we see the murderer who lurks within. Try this identity: murderer. p.18-19

 

Ouch.

 

I’ll be honest with you. This book comes out swinging. Ed pulls no punches, in fact many times the words would leap off the page and punch me in the gut. The Biblical word for this is conviction. It’s the loving ministry of the Holy Spirit. But I trust Ed, as I’ve benefited from his books and articles through the years, so I let him get in a few shots knowing that he did not desire to hurt me with what he was saying. His goal is healing. And I need that.

 

In a way, this book does what it is supposed to do. It follows that wonderful pattern of law and then Gospel. Ed shows us our sinfulness and then he points us to our Savior. So if you struggle swallowing the bad news, hang in there ‘cause the good news is on its way and it goes down easy.

 

Here are a few quotes that really stuck with me:

 

A definition of anger includes this: anger specializes in indicting others but is unskilled at both self-indictment and love. p.11

 

Wisdom is anger’s opposite. p. 26

 

Anger is not something that comes upon us when an offence is committed. Anger is already in us. In its embryonic from we call it desire… anger is in us. It just takes the right occasion to bring it out… Anger comes from within, and the stuff is rancid. p.29

 

Anger lodges in us. It comes home, kicks off its shoes, plants itself in front of the TV, and expects to stay. It doesn’t even look at you when you tell it to leave. p. 35

 

…humility is not owed anything. p. 61

 

God’s kingdom is the world’s opposite. It runs on humility. p. 66

 

Asking forgiveness is anger’s opposite. p. 75

 

Psalms is the longest book in Scripture. Its basic message is: talk to the Lord. p. 84

 

Anger looks like Satan… and it summons him. p.87

 

Wow! Isn’t that last one good? I could add plenty more but I want to whet your appetite so you’ll go and pick this book up.

 

I highly recommend this book. These 50 short, daily devotions are as short as your fuse and they will help turn your eyes away from you and your little kingdom. And by the time you get to the end of the book, you’ll love Jesus more and hate sin more. Who doesn’t want that?

 

One thing that I truly love about this book is the way that Ed Welch writes. He uses clever turns of phrases that catch your attention and make you look at truth from a different angle. His own words are like “mini-Proverbs” and would easily fit into your status updates, tweets, etc. I love that about this book. Certain phrases and sentences made me put the book down and think about a concept for an extended period of time. To me, that makes for a great book. Good books make you stop and reflect. And Ed does not disappoint with A Small Book About A Big Problem.

 

But what I want more than anything in a good theological book is to see Jesus again and to love Him more. I want to put the book down knowing that He will never leave me nor forsake me, even though I still struggle with sin. This small book about a big problem does just that. It diagnoses the problem of anger but then points you to your Redeemer so you can have hope. Ed reminds us that anger does not have the last word over our lives. Jesus does. Mercy does.

 

Sometimes I don’t believe that mercy has the last word over my life. I’m a pastor and I still get angry and I think that my identity is wrapped up in my sin and failures. Some days I think the thesaurus should include my picture alongside these words:

 

lose one’s temper, become enraged, go into a rage, go berserk, flare up; INFORMAL go crazy, go bananas, hit the roof, go through the roof, go up the wall, see red, go off the deep end, fly off the handle, blow one’s top, blow a fuse/gasket, flip out, have a fit, foam at the mouth, explode, go ballistic, go postal, flip one’s wig, blow one’s stack, have a conniption.

 

Some days I feel like my picture belongs with those words. Maybe you do too? If you’re a disciple of Jesus and you feel like the previous words are your identity, let me comfort you now and let you know that this is the banner that hangs over your life:

 

Jesus can’t remember your sins.

 

Jesus can’t remember your sins (Hebrews 8:12). He can’t remember your anger. Because you are in union with Him, He can’t remember all those times when you blew your stack and flew off the handle and went bananas. That’s good news. So walk in that freedom today. And then walk or drive or fly to the nearest store and pick this book up. Or, you can order below.

 

To learn more about Ed or to purchase his book:

 

http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/a-small-book-about-a-big-problem/

 

http://litfusegroup.com/author/ewelch

 

Follow the conversation on Twitter:

 

@litfuse

 

@NewGrowthPress

 

@ccef

 

* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.

Advertisements

Think Again: Relief From The Burden of Introspection

think-again-thumbnail__54712.1490985626.1280.1280

Honest confession: I can be morbidly introspective. My devotional times, my prayer times- pretty much any time, you will find me being morbidly introspective. I often rehearse the day and all of my shortcomings and how I failed. I obsess over words that I said or didn’t say, I obsess over what others think of me, I obsess over how things might have been different had I acted different. It’s really sad, actually. And I’m a pastor! But I’m sure none of you struggle with this, right?

 

Well, I have good news for you if you do. If your self-examination turns into a cross-examination and you always end up hearing a guilty verdict, then I’ve got some good news for you. Actually, Jared Mellinger does in his new book, Think Again: Relief From The Burden Of Introspection.

 

I was thrilled to see that this book was coming out and very happy to review it here on my blog because this is a real struggle of mine. And Jared does not disappoint. He helps people see how paralyzing it is to live a life focused on self. He paints a wonderful picture of what true Gospel-centered freedom looks like when we focus on Jesus.

 

So if you’re a person who overdoses on introspection, then this is the rehab you’ve been looking for. If you find yourself obsessing over your looks, how people perceive you, second-guessing yourself, and replaying conversations in your head (who doesn’t do this?), then this book is for you. And in the end, Jared simply reminds you of what you already know: you need to keep your eyes on Jesus. You know that, right? Of course you do. You’ve heard the oft-cited Robert Murray McCheyne wisdom: “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ!” We’ve all heard that quote in sermons (heck, I’ve used it in my sermons!), we’ve re-tweeted it, we’ve liked it and hearted it and all that other social media stuff. But it’s a lot harder than it looks (pun intended). It’s a lot harder to “look at Jesus 10x for every gaze at your navel” than the preachers make it out to be- take it from this preacher.

 

So why get this book? Here’s why: Think Again tells you how to do it. It tells you how to keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s full of practical, Gospel-centered reminders that will help you quit obsessing over you. For instance, chapter 10 (“Self-forgetfulness”) alone is worth the price of the book. Jared gives hands-on experience in the art of losing yourself in many areas of life like worship, love, art, sports, preaching, and work.

 

But more than a book full of “how to’s” and practical tips, Think Again keeps reminding you about Jesus. And isn’t that what you’re looking for in a good book? Don’t you want to love Jesus more as you read the very last paragraph and close the book? Don’t you want to walk away from a book and think, “I just spent time with Jesus. And I love Him more now that I’m at the end notes than I did when I read the introduction”?

 

Well, Think Again does that. I cannot recommend it enough. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite so you’ll go out and buy this thing and then fall more in love with Jesus:

 

The antidote to excessive introspection is not to completely forget myself, but to look more to the Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to thinking rightly- and less often- about myself. (p.12)

 

The irony of identity is that a clear view of yourself comes only as you learn to look away from yourself. (p. 18)

 

What we learn is that the gospel rescues us from self-hatred and self-esteem by destroying the idol of self and replacing it with Christ. (p.31)

 

Once self is made an idol, I will either view myself as awesome or as a failure. (p. 33)

 

Self-absorption is not always loud and self-promoting; it can also look shy and insecure. It does not always come in the form of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. It also comes in the form of thinking of ourselves more often than we ought. (p.48)

 

One more teaser and then you need to go get this book:

 

There is something appealing about a soul that delights in the Lord, serves others gladly, laughs at the days to come, and thinks far less often about how everything relates to self. This is who God made us to be. (p.49)

 

So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy or two of Think Again and help Jared by groceries for his family. Sorry, I had to write that last sentence because he has 6 kids like I do, so I feel his pain. Seriously, get this book and you’ll love Jesus more by the time you get to the endnotes. And then you can go serve others gladly, and laugh, and think far less about you. After all, this is how God made you to be. Let Think Again nudge you in that direction again.

 

To learn more about Jared or to purchase his book:

http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/think-again-by-jared-mellinger/

http://litfusegroup.com/author/JMellinger

Follow the conversation on Twitter:

@litfuse

@NewGrowthPress

@JMellinger

* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.

God’s Heart Is Like An Oven

7666886238_6f829d98c6_b

How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. Hosea 11:8

I think these are some of the most beautiful words in Scripture. God’s people have continually turned away from the Lord (Hosea 11:7), and yet His heart moves toward them in compassion. Hosea tells us that Yahweh leads His people with cords of kindness:

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Hosea 11:3-4

Puritan Walter Marshall said, “God does not drive you along with whips and terrors, or by the rod of the schoolmaster, the law. Rather, he leads you and draws you to walk in his ways by pleasant attractions (Hosea 11:3-4). The love of Christ…is the greatest and most pleasant attraction to encourage you to godly living (2 Cor. 5:15; Rom. 12:1).” (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 236)

And that is exactly what is happening here. Yahweh is revealing His heart for His rebellious children so as to allure them to love Him. His heart “recoils” within in Him when His people walk away from Him. This Hebrew word (hapak) is the same word that was used to describe Yahweh “overthrowing” Sodom and Gomorrah. Interestingly, Hosea mentions 2 suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah here: Admah and Zeboiim. I assume he does this to startle God’s people. Perhaps they thought, “Admah and Zeboiim. Where’s that again? Oh, yeah. They were suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah, which Yahweh overthrew.” 

When we run away from Jesus, His heart is overthrown with compassion and He moves out in tenderness toward us. Yes, He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5-11), but His knee-jerk reaction is one of kindness. After all, what leads us to repentance? The law? The whips, terrors, and threats of the law? No! His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

And we see His kindness here in Hosea 11 because when we run away after other lovers, Yahweh’s compassion grows warm and tender. The Hebrew word for “warm” (kamar) is used of an oven heating up (Lamentation 5:10) and also when Joseph saw his brother Benjamin for the first time after all those years (Genesis 43:30). God’s anger does not flare up when we sin, rather His compassion does! His heart heats up like an oven, not with anger, but with compassion! This is why grace is amazing.

And that amazing grace should make you want to live for Him and His glory. That’s what His kindness is designed to do. As Charles Spurgeon said-

“While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; but when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

May the warm and tender heart of Jesus warm your heart for Him today.

– Benji

George Muller: Happy in the Lord

george-muller-bristol

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. Psalm 4:7

I have found the following words by George Muller to be very helpful to me over the years. May they encourage you to get your soul happy in the Lord! And don’t let his looks and awesome fauxhawk fool you.

It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost for fourteen years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished…

 Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as a habitual thing, to give myself to prayer after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed…

 The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it…

 By breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart.

Crippled

holygrail014

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2

I recently wrapped up a study in Isaiah that refreshed my soul. In particular, the verses above in the last chapter of Isaiah have brought me much comfort. What’s so startling about this passage is the contrast between who God is in all of His power and yet He is concerned with the broken. Heaven is God’s throne and the earth is His footstool, so could we ever build a house that would be fitting? Of course not. But even if we could, God is not interested in living in tents, houses, or temples. God is not interested in houses, rather, He’s interested in hearts- our hearts.

Isaiah is telling us that this all-powerful King doesn’t look to the mighty. He doesn’t look to the powerful. He doesn’t look to the wise. He looks to the humble, the broken. In fact, the phrase “contrite in spirit” is literally “crippled” (nekeh) in the Hebrew language. It’s the same word that is used to describe Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled boy (2 Samuel 4:4; 9:3). This word comes from the root word, nakah, which means, “to strike” and it often occurs in the context of fighting and war. So if a person is “crippled in spirit” it means that they have been wounded, and they need help, and they cannot make it on their own.

So what Isaiah is doing is giving us a picture of how merciful and gracious Jesus is toward sinners. He looks to the humble, the one crippled in spirit, the one who cannot make it on their own, the one who trembles at His word. That means that if you have been beat up by life, if you’re broken, if you’re falling apart at the seams, Jesus sees you. He sees and knows your pain. He comes to you. He comes to heal, to carry, to strengthen.

What good news for those beat up by the storms of life! Jesus sees and knows and cares. Humble yourself today. Tremble at His word. And take comfort that Jesus sees everything and He’s working through it all to bring you good.

Benji

Im + Anu + El = With Us God

immanuel1-2

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

“Immanuel, God with us.” This is what Isaiah and the God-fearing people in his day were clinging to. They were clinging to the promise that God would be with them. As the nation of Assyria trampled on Judah and all seemed hopeless, they had a promise that they could hold onto: God is with us! Immanuel!

And isn’t that the way it always is for God’s people? We always cling to God’s promises. Certainly Joseph and Mary needed this assurance of Immanuel, because in Matthew 2 King Herod wanted to kill baby Jesus. Joseph and Mary would need the promise of Immanuel, God with us, in chapter 2 because the most powerful person in the entire world at that time, King Herod, would put a bounty out on their baby’s head! So they needed this promise of Immanuel! And isn’t that the way it always is for God’s people all the time? “God with us” is all that holds us up when we feel like life is going to swallow us up!

One name in the Hebrew language, Immanuel, translated with 3 simple words into English, God with us, can give you all the hope you need this Christmas- Immanuel, God with us. In the darkest times of your life- Immanuel, God is with you. In those moments when you feel like life is falling apart- Immanuel, God is with you. When you are so overwhelmed with life and you think that you just can’t go on- Immanuel, God is with you. When you find yourself in situations that are just so overwhelming and you don’t even know what to do, where to begin, what to say, how to respond, and you just feel hopeless, and maybe even feel like dying- Immanuel, God is with you. When you are at the end of your rope- Immanuel, Jesus, God is with you.

And what I love about the name Immanuel is that it is made up of 3 parts in the Hebrew language. Immanuel is composed of the preposition “with” (im) and affixed to the preposition is the 1st common plural pronominal suffix (anu). And then the name “El”- which means God– gets attached to the end.

Preposition: Im = with

1st common plural pronominal suffix: anu = us

The name: El = God

The Hebrew grammar may be confusing or boring, but it’s one of the most beautiful words in Hebrew! And it just might be what you need for Christmas this year! Maybe the thing that you need for Christmas is a Hebrew preposition and the Hebrew 1st common plural pronominal suffix! And when you take a Hebrew preposition and you attach the Hebrew 1st common plural pronominal suffix to it and then you attach to it God’s name, what you get is a Hebrew promise that God is with you!

Sometimes that’s all you have…. but it’s all you need. God is with you. Sometimes that’s all you have…. but it’s all you need. Immanuel. God with us. And it’s not just some theology. It’s not just a doctrine. And it’s not just a name that is composed of a Hebrew preposition and the Hebrew 1st common plural pronominal suffix attached to the name of God. It’s more than that. It’s a person! It’s Jesus! Jesus is Immanuel, God with us! That might be just enough to get you through whatever it is that you are going through today. Jesus is with you right now!

Sometimes all you can do is just keep saying over and over again, “God is with me. God is with me. God is with me. God is with me.” You might want to try that the next time you get stressed out or worried or scared to death. It’s true. Merry Christmas!

Like Father, Like Son- Pete Alwinson

like_father_like_son_thumb__68776.1446042971.451.416

I did not sleep at all last night. Not a wink. One of our kids was sick so I spent my sleeping hours repeatedly cleaning up vomit and scrubbing the bathroom floor, the toilet, the sink, etc with disinfectant and bleach. I suppose that’s what a good parent does. It’s what a good dad does. They sacrifice for their children. And that’s exactly what Pete Alwinson says in his new book Like Father, Like Son: How Knowing God as Father Changes Men

 

The adventure of sacrificial fathering begins right at birth when the welcoming of a totally dependent, fragile newborn rocks the new mom and dad’s world. Sleep deprivation, unfamiliar noises, and never-ending messy new jobs conspire with inexperience to keep parents off-balance. (p. 106)

 

That was my night last night: sleep deprivation, unfamiliar noises, and never-ending messy new jobs. But that’s what a father does. He sacrifices. He cares.

 

But please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to toot my horn here. I’m a sinner. I don’t think that I’m a “great dad.” I struggled to get up each time and help my son and then clean up all the mess. But I’m telling you this in order to show you that this is exactly what our heavenly Father does for us. We get sick with sin, we throw up everywhere, and He comes and cleans up the mess we have created with His grace. That’s what God is like. And that’s what Pete Alwinson’s new book is like. He keeps telling us what God the Father is like.

 

Now, a disclaimer must be noted here. I first heard of Pete about 6 or 7 years ago and I began listening to his sermons. Pete’s sermons are winsome, engaging, practical, and Gospel-centered. So when I began reading his new book, I had very high expectations. And he did not let me down. This book is typical Pete Alwinson (as much as you can know someone through their sermons!). And the last chapter, “The Grace-giving Father,” is typical Pete and worth the price of the entire book. And it will set you free! And isn’t that what you’re looking for in a good book?

 

Listen, I have grown tired of all the “manly father” books that give me a list of things to do. I’m tired of them because when I do the list, I get prideful. And when I don’t do the list? Depression. Sadness. Guilt. Shame. Like Father, Like Son is not one of those books. It’s a book that tells you the very simple secret to fatherhood: knowing God. That’s the key to being a godly, albeit sinful, father: knowing God the Father. That’s what this book is about. Pete describes the difference that knowing your heavenly Father makes:

 

Well, here’s the good news— you have a perfect heavenly Father! It makes all the difference in the world when you realize that God is your father, the most important father in your life. God the Father and God as Father is the truly irreplaceable Father. When we start relating to God as Father, it’s absolutely amazing how it transforms us and changes our lives for the better. That’s the bottom line thesis of this book. (p. 9)

 

As soon as I read that paragraph, I immediately thought of a something that A.W. Tozer said. So in the margin of my book, I wrote “Tozer.” Then a few pages later, Pete quoted Tozer’s very words: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

 

That’s why you need to read this book. That’s why you need to give this book to every man that you know- because what they think about God determines everything in their life. If they don’t know God the Father, they are missing out. It’s only as we know God the Father that we will ever be the men and fathers that He has created us to be. It’s when we find our identity in our relationship with our heavenly Father that we will begin to experience true freedom.

 

So what are you waiting for? It’s “Cyber Monday.” Go by this book! And get to know your heavenly Father- the One who sent His Son Jesus to live and die for us- the One who gave us His Spirit- the One who cleans you up after you stuff yourself with sin and make a mess of your life.

To learn more about Pete or to purchase his book:

http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/like-father-like-son-how-knowing-god-as-your-father-changes-men/

http://litfusegroup.com/author/palwinson

* I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.