Anger Never Really Works

•May 15, 2016 • 5 Comments

Anger Never Really Works

For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:20

 

Perhaps the most important relationship lesson I’ve learned as a husband and father over the past couple decades is this: anger never really works.  Anger never brings about the desired result. Anger is never the best pathway to accomplishing the greatest good. Anger never ends up solving a problem with the best end result. And anger normally ends up making matters worse.

In many cases, one of the biggest steps forward a husband or wife could take in building their marriage would be to learn to control their anger. Anger may allow one to win an argument, but it will not help to develop a solid, intimate marriage that lasts for the long haul. This is true for both husbands and wives.

Anger is like a poison to a relationship. Anger will suck the life out of those around you. Anger quenches love and commitment. Anger can decimate a bond between two people that was once meant to be forever.

And we must be so careful not to use anger against our kids. Do you realize how many adults are in counseling now because of their parents’ anger issues from decades ago?  You can scar your kids for life without even realizing it.  Perhaps you are currently recovering from the anger your parents inflicted upon you from when you were a child.  Don’t be the parent who passes that on to your own children.  Break the cycle now.

For many families, yelling and screaming is just the norm. But it is also destructive, so don’t allow your family to engage in this type of interaction. Don’t accept that behavior as normal. Instead, learn to be firm and corrective with your kids while controlling your emotions and avoiding anger.

Are you bothered by what you see in politics and the social issues of our day? An angry response to our culture will never be an effective approach to bringing positive change. Instead, love and grace should be your “weapons of choice” when it comes to engaging the culture.  So many Christians alienate non-Christians because they react in anger rather than with love and compassion.  Jesus came to save the lost, not to judge them.  Shouldn’t that be our mission, too?

The Word of God puts a great deal of emphasis on this important concept. Consider the following passages of Scripture:

For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
     (James 1:20 – NKJV)

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.
     (Proverbs 29:11 – NLT)

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
     (Proverbs 15:1 – NKJV)

A man who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down.
     (Proverbs 25:28 – HCSB)

 

This character quality actually runs contrary to the mindset of the world around us. Our society seems to promote expressing anger while the Bible teaches us to control and contain it. I’ll side with the Bible on this one.

Many men buy into the lie that anger is “manly.” Don’t believe that lie. It is much more masculine to control your emotions than to let them run wild. And women certainly connect better with a man who knows how to be gentle and self-controlled.

Many women buy into the lie that they have to “get angry” in order to “get what they want.” Don’t believe that lie. Anger will only cause you to alienate those around you, and you may lose the respect of those who matter the most in your life.

Learn to control your spirit and put your anger behind you.

Anger never really works, anyway.

 


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Where is God When God Is Not There?

•April 4, 2016 • 28 Comments

Sad boy alone in a bare room

Psalm 13

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (NKJV)

 

One of the most excruciating experiences of human existence is to have to face an overwhelming trial while having a strong feeling that God just isn’t there for you in that dark hour. Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever had to walk through a valley of suffering feeling alone with no signs of God anywhere?

Do you know what it feels like to sense that God just doesn’t care what you are experiencing and how you are suffering?

Have you ever felt like God is there for everyone else except for you?

I have been a Christian now for over 35 years, and I have served in ministry for over 25 years. Through these many seasons of life I have learned a few things about these lonely valleys of suffering. Please allow me to share a few of them with you.

 

Important Realization #1:
Even when God is “not there,” He IS there.

I am discovering after having experienced many painful valleys that God truly is there even when I don’t sense His presence. He may not respond exactly the way I want him to, but that is always because His plan is much higher and more sophisticated than I could ever imagine.

He has an amazing way of working for my ultimate good through those dark moments, and relieving the pain momentarily would not allow Him to accomplish that bigger plan in my life. So the pain continues, and God is there, and His purposes are made perfect through those experiences.

 

Important Realization #2:
I almost never understand the reason for the suffering while I am in the middle of the storm.

God’s plans are so high and lofty that my small mind cannot even come close to comprehending them. If He was to try to sit down and explain why I am going through a particular experience, He would likely begin explaining to me some events that took place back in the 1500s. He would then trace it through the millions and millions of different lives that were all interrelated over the course of the next several centuries. And then that would bring Him to my life and the specific experience today which then also relates to the next century or two of time.

His plan is so complex that He would lose me on the second or third sentence. So there is no way we could ever truly grasp an explanation from the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Most of the time I never really “get” why I am suffering until a much later time in my life. Sometimes it can take months, sometimes years, and sometimes I never really have a full understanding. Some things will only make sense when I get to heaven and have a chance to ask God personally. But for now I must trust Him.

 

Important Realization #3:
God always has a purpose, and that purpose is always good.

There is no such thing as random pain without meaning. God uses pain to speak into our world and into our lives directly. He teaches us things through pain that we could never learn through a seminar or book or podcast. Some people reject God, because they can’t think of a reason why God would allow pain or suffering. But just because we can’t think of a reason for the pain does not mean that a good reason does not exist. (Sorry for the double negative there.  I hope you get my point.)

God’s ways are perfect, and His love for us is without end. And every single millisecond of suffering is always for a good purpose in our lives. Always!

 

Important Realization #4:
It’s ok to doubt God, but never deny Him.

By reading the verses from Psalm 13 above, we can see that even David at times felt like God was nowhere to be found. But he never got to the point where he denied God’s existence. As a matter of fact, he goes on to say in the very first verse of the next Psalm that “the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

It’s ok to doubt, but don’t allow yourself to sink to the point where you actually deny God’s existence. That will only end in disaster for you. Instead, hang onto God’s hand as you ride out the storm.

In that dark night of suffering, just close your eyes and hold His hand. You will make it through if you hang on. If you let go, all bets are off. So hold tightly to the Rock.

 

The Bottom Line.

If you’re reading this blog post, it is not by random chance. God drew you here to receive these words. He wants you to trust Him. He wants you to know that He loves you, and He is there for you no matter how you may feel at this present moment.

Just close your eyes and hold onto His hand.

He will bring you through the darkness.

Run TO God and not AWAY from Him.

Never jump off the Rock in the midst of the storm.

The sun will shine tomorrow, and you will again experience the amazing blessings of the God who loves you.

Trust Him.

 

 


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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

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I Tried Christianity, But It Just Didn’t Work for Me

•March 16, 2015 • 21 Comments
Taste and See That The Lord is Good
Over the years, I have heard many people say something like this: “I have tried Christianity, but it just didn’t work for me.” My observation has been that people who say this generally attended church for a short time period, watched what was going on, and then decided they weren’t really interested.
But there is a big problem with “trying” Christianity like this. You see, Christianity isn’t meant to merely entertain us or stimulate us intellectually. Sure, at times it may do these things for us. But that is not the essence of the Christian Faith.
That “trying” approach puts a picture in my mind of a person walking down the city sidewalk until he passes a bakery. He stops in front of the bakery to peer through the window at all the delicious treats. He sees brownies and cupcakes and a wide assortment of fabulous pastries. He can even smell the scent of cinnamon and chocolate wafting through the air.
So, he decides he will give it a try. He leans forward and licks the glass. He then leans backward and feels like he has somehow been cheated. He tasted what he saw, but it just didn’t seem to be satisfying. So he walks away unimpressed. He “tried” the pastries, but they just didn’t seem to do anything for him.
I would invite you to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). But I don’t want you to remain standing on the sidewalk. Jesus said he has provided an open door (Revelation 3:8) for you into a relationship with Him. Don’t just lick the glass. Open the door and walk inside to experience all the fullness of God himself.
My suggestion to you is that you don’t just “try” Christianity. I want you to jump in with both feet.  Call on God right now to ask for forgiveness of your sins, and commit your life to Him … fully (Romans 10:13).
When you truly turn your life over to Him, He will change you forever.
I promise.

 

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

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Spiritual Fitness Training: The Importance of Stretching

•February 10, 2015 • 10 Comments

Importance of StretchingNot long ago I read a book called Fitness After 40. It was an intriguing book that helped me to understand pretty much everything that has gone wrong with my body over the past couple decades!

The list of changes was quite lengthy, but one of them had to do with the way we tend to become less and less flexible in our muscles and joints as we grow older. Every athletic coach I’ve had over the years has always told me how important it is to stretch, but this book seemed to flip a light on in my mind as I began to understand just how important stretching is for our bodies … over time.

In a similar way, we must also remember to stretch SPIRITUALLY as we grown in the Lord over time. And when we stretch spiritually, it always has to do with our faith. God wants us to stretch in our faith.

Paul lays out an amazing list of Bible personalities in Hebrews 11 who demonstrated their faith in powerful ways. This passage has come to be known as the “Faith Hall of Fame,” and we can find many examples of how to live by faith.

 

Hebrews 11:6 says,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

 

Faith is absolutely central to the Christian experience. We enter into a relationship with God through faith (Romans 10:9-10), and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is a big deal!

And faith is powerful! Jesus said that if we will have faith as a grain of mustard seed, we can pray and see mountains cast into the ocean. I wonder how small my faith must look in that type of comparison!

As you read this, I’d like to suggest to you that it is likely that God wants to stretch your faith. And just like physical stretching, spiritual stretching is not easy. Stretching requires us to push beyond our normal level of comfort.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing feats when watching MMA fighters on TV. It’s stunning to see how a fighter can effortlessly swing his foot over the head of his opponent with no thought at all. But one thing I know about that fighter is that he took many, many years to stretch those muscles so that he could get to that level. And the stretching in his gym was always designed to push him beyond what felt comfortable.

And so it is with our faith. God wants to stretch you beyond your normal comfort zone. And that is where you will begin to see growth and progress like never before.

 

An Important Point:

It is likely that God wants to stretch your faith today.

 

Consider the following when it comes to the ways God may want to stretch you:

  • God may want you to DO something.
  • God may want you to STOP DOING something.
  • God may want you to GIVE something.
  • God may want you to SAY something.
  • God may want you to STOP SAYING something.
  • God may want you to SELL something.
  • God may want you to BUY something. (presumably for a person or ministry in need)
  • God may want you to START something.
  • God may want you to END something.
  • God may want you to LOVE someone.

 

The chances are great that God likely wants to stretch you today!

When it comes to your spiritual fitness, don’t forget to stretch!

 

 


 

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

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4 Reasons You Need to Work on Your Spiritual Fitness

•January 26, 2015 • 2 Comments

Spiritual Fitness

1 Timothy 4:8
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

 

We certainly live in a health-conscious world. Everywhere we turn we see advertisements for fitness equipment, nutritional supplements, health food, gym memberships, and more. Many people are obsessed with taking care of their bodies – and it’s for a good reason, because our lives depend on it!

But even though our physical health is important, Paul reminds us in the above passage that our spiritual fitness is even more important than our physical fitness. We don’t want to neglect our bodies. But even more so, we must not neglect our spirits.

 

Here are four reasons why your spiritual fitness is such a crazy-big deal:

 

1) Your eternal life depends on it.

The life we spend on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life we will enjoy with God in heaven someday. At least this applies to those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and have called on God to rescue us. (Romans 10:13) If you have not yet turned your life over to God and committed to following Him, I plead with you to make that commitment in your heart right now. We must not lose sight of the fact that life on this earth is temporary, but life after death is permanent.

 

2) Your current happiness depends on it.

When I was young, I used to think that Christianity was all about the “next life.” But over time, I came to learn that the Christian faith also has everything to do with enjoying a joyful, meaningful, happy life NOW. There is no greater life than a life that is lived walking with God … TODAY!

 

3) Your family depends on it.

If you’re not willing to take care of yourself spiritually for your own sake, I would still implore you to take care of your spirit for your family’s sake. Your kids need to see you walking with God. So many parents spin out spiritually in front of their kids, and their kids end up suffering greatly as a result. Your siblings need to see you walking with the Lord. Your parents will benefit when you are doing well spiritually. Your cousins and grandparents and nieces and nephews will be blessed when you are well spiritually. And it could be that you will be the only “Bible” that they will ever “read.” So do not neglect your spirit.

 

4) The world depends on it.

I often wonder how many unbelievers trip over unhealthy Christians when they are stumbling away from God. This world needs to see Christians who are healthy, passionate, and genuine. We are God’s vehicle for His message of love to those who are lost. But we must be healthy if we are going to effectively deliver that message in a way that will change lives forever.

 

Physical fitness is important. But spiritual fitness is even more important. So make plans to strengthen your spirit today!

Does God Always Heal Every Sickness, Disease, or Illness?

•November 29, 2014 • 10 Comments

 

I am a big believer in the doctrine of healing. I have experienced God’s healing in my own life, and I have witnessed God healing myriads of people over my past couple decades I’ve been in ministry. I am greatly comforted by verses like the one in James that gives us a great hope in the power of prayer:

James 5
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

 I do believe that God heals, but I also believe that healing is not always the only path that He chooses for us. Sometimes His perfect plan for our lives is to allow us to suffer and experience disease, illness, and hardship. The reason for this is that He can often teach us things through suffering that we would never be able to learn through a book or seminar, or through comfort and prosperity.

Paul had a problem with his eyesight that God never healed. When Timothy was sick, Paul told him to drink wine (not go to a healing service). The Lazarus who was raised from the dead eventually died later. Paul says that he had a thorn in the flesh which he prayed for God to remove over and over again, but God never removed it. Job suffered because God had a whole bigger purpose for him than mere comfort on this planet. And Job’s suffering was not the result of a lack of faith.

Some of the greatest blessings in this world come from God’s power in the midst of trials. God changes us, molds us, strengthens us, and builds us through hardship. And there is nothing like the experience of being comforted by God alone in that dark hour.

Over the past twenty-five years that I have been in ministry, I have seen people hurt greatly by the false teaching that God always wants to heal every malady. This is because that belief can cause a massive amount of guilt and disillusionment for the afflicted in those times when God actually chooses not to heal. The implication is that the suffering Christian just didn’t quite believe enough or is hiding some sort of sin. I have seen Christians destroyed in their faith over this erroneous teaching.

We must realize that sometimes it’s just not God’s plan to heal or to fix a problem quickly for us. And that’s ok. He still loves us. He still has a plan. And He still has a profound purpose for that pain that can end up blessing us beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Often God chooses to heal! But sometimes He teaches us more and draws us closer when we walk the dark mile of suffering. But to experience such blessing, it is important that we run to God and not away from Him in the midst of the storm.

For an epic example of how God can bless even in the midst of a tragedy, check out this post:

“Experiencing God’s Grace — Even at the Death of a Child”


 

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Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

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A Christian Response to the Ferguson Disaster

•November 26, 2014 • 6 Comments

 

Like others, I have been shocked and horrified by the events surrounding Ferguson this week. It is so sad to see such anger which boils all around us.

But one of my greatest concerns is that no seems to be truly listening. Many people are arguing, but no one appears to be actively attempting to understand the perspective on “the other side.”

 

Most people merely listen with the intent to refute rather than to understand.

Therein lies the problem.

 

James 1:19 says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (NKJV) Imagine how this approach could bring healing to our nation.

But it’s not “those people” who are the problem. It’s also the rest of us. How are we communicating our own perspectives through Facebook, Twitter, personal conversations, and other means? Are we seeking to understand, or are we only seeking to be understood?

On one side, many are infuriated that a white cop would kill a black man who was not carrying a weapon. On the other side, many are enraged that a police officer is being judged for shooting a man who was attacking him. But neither side really seems to be listening to what is really going on in the heads of those with whom they disagree.

I’m not going to pretend that I “get” the other side. But I am committed to listening to what is truly going on and doing my best to solve the true problems as I see them.

Proverbs 18:13
To answer before listening– that is folly and shame. (NIV)

Proverbs 12:15
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. (NLT)

 

A wise person listens to both sides. An arrogant person stops listening because he thinks he’s already got it figured out. The fact that our country is in such upheaval is a clear sign that someone is not listening – or truthfully, that NO ONE is listening.

I heard a great quote from Richard Branson this week from one of his business books. He said, “I never learn anything by listening to myself.”

I have found that it does not profit me in my relationship with my wife if I demand to be right and continue to fight “to the end” until she agrees with me. When we have a disagreement, it is much more helpful for me when I stop trying to prove that I’m right and start listening with the intent of understanding her perspective.

Often when my wife and I get into a conflict, the issue we are fighting about is not even the true issue. To get to the true issue, we both have to work at listening.  And it does take work!

Jesus taught a “power-under” approach to affecting and infecting our culture rather than a “power-over” approach. He didn’t call us to fight or to subvert others into submitting to our position. His perspective was to love and to serve.

Rather than throwing your hands up in despair and disgust for those who are on the other side of this issue, I would encourage you to take up Jesus’ approach: love others with everything that is within you.

Don’t be rude. Don’t put others down. Don’t mock. Don’t slander.

Just love. And listen.

 

 


 

I’d love to hear your comments about

 

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your feedback!

 

 


 

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Chris Russell (send me a Facebook friend request!)

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)

http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/

_____________________________

For further reading, growth, and encouragement, check out some of these great sites and blogs:

Church Leadership

Church Outreach Blogs

Kirk Cameron

Bible Study Tools Blogs

Desiring God Blog

The Gospel Coalition Blog

Al Mohler

 
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