Sunday, July 24, 2016
Life does not always make sense. Sometimes, we got through difficult situations and wonder, "Where's God?" We may make plans that fall through, we may find ourselves in a place in life that is completely unexpected, or we may experience terrible loss and wonder "Why, God?" When we experience hardship due to our own sin or failure, acceptance of our circumstances is a bit easier, but when we are living faithfully and seeking God's will and the bottom still falls out of life, things become less clear and questions of God's love and faithfulness may surface in our hearts and minds.
A friend recently went through a difficult situation that made no sense to him, and when we talked, he told me,"I know all the verses, I have used them to comfort others, but right now I really do not need someone quoting Romans 8:28 to me." I understood just what he meant. Though we know that all things work out for good to them who love the Lord, we do not always see the immediate application and sometimes, the immediate situation does not feel like all things are working our for good. My friend wanted more than a verse that we have turned into a cliche, he wanted to air his frustrations, frustration with the situation and even, a little, with God.
Life is filled with ups and downs, some people seem to experience more ups than others and some seem to attract more downs. I do not understand this, and only trust that God knows what each of us needs to remain faithful. Though, lately, I have become a "cup half empty" kind of guy, when I look over my life, I have to admit that there is far more good and far more to rejoice over than not. In the last few years I have allowed certain specific events to cloud my perspective and I have edged toward being more pessimistic. It is when I read scripture and see God working behind the scenes in the lives of others that I get a true perspective on God's sovereignty, love and care. Studying through Paul's imprisonment in Acts 25 has been a tremendous help. Scripture causes me to take an honest look at my situation and know that God has never left nor forsaken me in the past and He will never do so in the future and He is not leaving nor forsaking me in my present either.
CAN I BE ANGRY AT GOD AND NOT SIN?
Sometimes when we pray for certain things or people and God tells us "no"or "wait", we can get very frustrated. When we do what we believe God directs us to do and things blow up in our face, we can begin to question God's promises, when someone we care about suffers we may question God's care. Is having anger towards God justifiable? Is there a way to express our anger toward God that is not sin? These are very tough questions, and to answer them we must look at scripture.
First we must ask, is anger sin? We are commanded by scripture to not let the sun go down on our anger, but, rather to deal with our anger. This requires acknowledging anger and facing it head on. Jesus was angry when He cleared the money changers out of the temple. God was angry when the children of Israel sinned in the desert.(For more on this, CLICK HERE) God cannot sin, God got angry, therefore anger is not sin.
Next, we have to wonder, is anger toward God sin? With all the promises God makes to us in His word about trusting Him, this can be shaky ground, but, the alternative is trying to deceive God by pretending we are not angry or being rebellious toward Him in a passive-aggressive or even outright, blatant manner, and we know what God thinks about rebellion, it is as the sin of witchcraft. So, anger toward God is not necessarily sinful, in and of itself, but the expression of that anger may lead us down a dark and dangerous path. A great example of God's servant showing anger toward Him is the prophet Jonah. Jonah was sent to preach a message of repentance to a people considered enemies to Israel. These people did indeed repent and Jonah was angry. Jonah sat and sulked in his anger toward God and God gave Jonah an object lesson to demonstrate His love for all people. When God asked Jonah if he was angry, Jonah responded, "Yes, I am so angry, I wish I were dead!" Jonah was very angry. God's response is very telling. God did not strike Jonah dead, God did not abandon Jonah or lecture him about being so bold as to defy the creator of the universe, God instead explained His great love to Jonah. Psalm 103:14 - For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. This passage demonstrates God's love and patience with us, as He recognizes our weaknesses.
Finally, we have to ask ourselves, How do we express anger toward God without sinning? Simply be honest with Him. Let me let you in on a little secret, He already knows if you are angry! God knows our hearts and thoughts. Some of us have been conditioned to fear God in the sense that we feel we can never express any emotion toward Him except gratitude and worship. We deceive ourselves when we ignore our anger and frustration during prayer, and we are attempting to deceive the One who is undeceivable. The best way to handle anger and frustration is to face it and address it in a respectful manner. Go to your Father, who loves you, and tell Him how you feel. God already knows, so, you are not addressing anger for His benefit, but yours. If we harbor anger and allow it to fester inside us, we will become embittered and sin, sometimes great sin, will not be far behind. Who among us, that are parents, would not want our child to come to us and tell us if they were angry or frustrated. No parent desires their child to harbor anger, neither does our Father in heaven.
Not long ago, I probably would not have taken this position, but having seen first hand the result of unacknowledged, deep seated anger toward God, I have reexamined the issue. Our spiritual life is a journey of continued learning and understanding God. As I have endeavored to take the path of true discipleship, I recognize that I must be teachable, this means reevaluating some things that I believe, in light of scripture, and making adjustments, as God leads.
Having said all this, I know that God is indeed faithful to His children, never leaving nor forsaking. I know that God does work all things out for good to those that love Him. I know that anger and frustration with God ultimately comes from a position of weakness, but I know that God knows we are weak and as any loving parent would, He helps us in our weakness. God also knows that we do not see the big picture. God sees the beginning from the end and knows the outcome of all things, we only see now, we cannot see even one second ahead. God understands our weakness as He knows He made us from dust.
God tells us, "Be angry and sin not." While we should not make a habit of being angry, facing anger and bringing it to God, in a reverent way, is the best policy. The most important thing to remember is that God loves you. God will deal with you from an attitude of love, as you honestly express your feelings to Him. God loves you, even when you are angry.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing Knoxville local Christian/folk band Ready For Rain. This was quite a blessing as Ready For Rain was able to both entertain and lead the audience into deep, meaningful worship. Ready For Rain performed mostly original compositions with a couple of modern worship standards thrown in for good measure. Already getting attention from recording labels, I imagine this group of young people will make a big splash in the music industry as well as being a major impact for the Gospel of Christ. It is tremendously refreshing to see young people so dedicated to God, on and off stage. Many of the band members are active in church music ministry, in addition to the many hours committed each week to RFR. Also refreshing is the level of musicianship demonstrated by each member. The Quality of talent is something you would expect from seasoned musicians with hundreds of touring hours under their belt, yet the average age of this band is only about 19 years old. Each member is a serious musician, but none takes himself too seriously as they are not afraid to cut loose with kazoos, in one particularly fun number. The versatility of RFR is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac as each member in the band could be a stand alone star, in their own right. I highly recommend Ready For Rain and encourage any readers in the Knoxville area to check them out live. If you are out of the Knoxville area, just wait and I am sure it will not be long before RFR gets a recording contract and hits the road nationwide.
MEET THE BAND
Jenna, a 17 year old phenom. Jenna handles violin/fiddle, viola, cello and soprano vocals. Jenna has won major awards for her high level of musical ability and despite having played Carnegie Hall, chooses to use her talent to glorify her Lord. Watching Jenna sing evokes images of a young Judy Garland. Jenna is a complete delight to watch perform.
Avery, guitarist, vocalist and spokesman for the band. Avery takes center stage with his acoustic guitar and engages the audience like a seasoned pro. Avery is an extremely talented songwriter, having written many of RFR's original compositions. Avery, a college freshman, has a heart for worship and is committed to leading others to the throne room of God. Avery's love for God is obviously demonstrated.
Matthew, 21 year old bassist, vocalist and ukulele player. While most bass players are content to stand in the background, laying down rhythm, Matthew is up front and active in each performance. Adding vocals and switching to ukulele Matthew shows versatility not found in most bass players. Having performed internationally, Matthew brings experience and talent beyond his years to RFR.
Robert, multi-talented musician and vocalist. Robert has mastery over guitar, mandolin, keyboard and banlo. Robert's crisp vocals combined with his high level of talent on every instrument he plays is sure to impress and entertain. Robert's commitment to Christ shows in his singing performance. As highly talented as Matthew is, he is not adverse to getting silly with a kazoo, bringing levity and fun to the audience.
Kyle, 16 year old drummer and sound tech. Don't let Kyle's age fool you, he is quite a talented drummer, who also plays in his church worship band. Kyle's passion shows in his joyful countenance. Keeping up with sound and playing alongside accomplished musicians is a testimony to the level of talent and commitment Kyle has at such a young age.
Jordan, 23 year old guitar aficionado. Jordan is the rock and roll of RFR, riffing on electric guitar and laying down technical leads. Switching to acoustic, Jordan is not afraid to demonstrate he has vocal ability, as well. Also, playing for his church worship band, Jordan has a high commitment to his faith and uses his grand talent to bring glory to Jesus Christ.
Audrey, 19 year old alto vocalist. Audrey's vocal talent shines whether she solos or accompanies other RFR singers. Audrey has performed in opera and had the lead in a production of Cinderella, yet her commitment to Christ has led her to RFR. Hearing Audrey perform is truly a treat to the ears. Her heart for ministry is evident in her stage presence, and in the that she is a member of her church worship team.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing Ready For Rain again. To experience the level of talent exhibited by these young musicians, utilized for service to the King, is inspiring. If you are looking for a band that can get you out of your seat, put a smile on your face and lead you to a place of adoration towards the Creator, you will find it with Ready For Rain.