The question is not "Do you get angry?" but "How many times today have you been angry?" Amazing how life and anger walk hand in hand. We learned early to recognize in our own babies the cry that came from need and the cry that came from anger. Married couples need only a few hours of marriage to discover this thing called anger. Unmarried people sometimes choose to remain that way because of anger. A simple drive to work, especially on a freeway, will introduce you to anger. My wife stays amused at the one-way conversations I carry on with other drivers.
Any of the talk shows on radio or TV grab your anger and give it no place to go. If you listen to Rush Limbaugh, you know unresolvable anger.
So what are we to do? Should we embrace anger and celebrate it or is it a problem to be solved? A quick look at Scripture:
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Eph 4:26
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;.… Titus 1:7
God’s anger burned against individuals as well as against the Jews as a nation in the Old Testament. We see Jesus experiencing anger in the New Testament, but where are the lessons for us? I will save that for later while we examine our own anger.
I learn a lot from the Apostles, though not always in the positive sense. In Luke 9, Jesus and his gang were headed toward Jerusalem. With much tension, they traveled through Samaria. As night fell, Jesus sent a couple of them as ambassadors into a village to find a place to sleep, but they faced rejection because they were Jews headed toward Jerusalem. Hate best described the relationship between Jews and Samaritans.
When they reported the bad news back to the troop, James and John, expressing their anger, asked for permission to call fire down on the village just like Elijah. How is that for apostolic evangelism? Jesus rebuked them and led them to another village, reminding them that he came to save and not to destroy.
Are You Talking About Me?
I chuckle at these sons-of-thunder guys until I realize that I am just like them. I often find myself filled with nationalistic anger over some slight I perceived toward my own country without pausing to realize that I am a pilgrim and a stranger in this world, "just passin’ through." Any nationalistic anger I feel is a repudiation of my heavenly citizenship.
An endless flight dropped me into a country in the very early hours of the morning. The weariness of the trip was compounded by long lines of people that now stretched toward passport control. The computers decided to take the night off, so the lines inched (or millimetered) insufferably. After about two hours of waiting, another plane landed and the passengers gathered behind us, except for one man who pushed down between the lines and shoved right in front of me.
Well, I am a non-violent man, but I certainly have a voice. "You can’t do that, mister. Go back to the end of the line with the rest of your plane!" He ignored me. I repeated, "Mister, you can’t do this…." Again, he ignored me. When it was obvious that he had established his position, he turned and beckoned toward the back of the line and his family of twelve joined him. I seethed. Weariness and anger are not comfortable companions.
Four hours after the landing, when I finally cleared customs and was on a bus to my next destination, the Lord got my attention and whispered, "Hey, Gayle. Tough scene back there wasn’t it."
"Yes. Did you see what that man did to me back there?"
"I did and it was not very nice of him."
"It made me very angry."
"Well, you would be, too, wouldn’t you?"
"Let me ask you one question? How would you have felt if he had pushed down between those rows and shoved in front of someone in another line?"
"Well, that’s life. Probably needed to learn a lesson."
"So you were angry only because he got in front of you."
"That’s what I thought. See you later."
Busted! My anger was totally self centered.
That brings up another frequent level of the expression of anger—rage. We are all familiar with the school shootings that have occurred in the USA and we are all deeply hurt. Everyone asks the question, "Why did they do it?" Television and newspapers have done everything possible to confuse the issue. It boils down to the fact that a youngster given little or no limits to his anger will find that his self-centeredness finds no fulfillment. Since "I want" is unsatisfied and limits are unlearned, selfishness meets its final fulfillment in rage. The one cause no one seems to have mentioned is demon possession. Ultimate lack of self control is a defining mark of demon possession.
In the same vein, not handling our anger swiftly (by sundown) will result in bitterness which is simply a form of controlled rage. It is spiritually deadly.
And Sin Not?
So, if anger is such a problem, how do we handle it and why was Jesus angry? Searching for that answer led me to some amazing discoveries.
I am convinced of the servant-hearted, others-centered nature of Jesus. How does anger fit into that nature? As I studied, it hit me. Whenever Jesus expressed anger, it was in behalf of others. Whenever I am angry, it is because someone gets in my way.
When Jesus looked angrily at the Pharisees in the synagogue of Capernaum, it was because they cared nothing for the man with the withered hand who was about to be healed on the Sabbath. They cared only for their traditions and their power. When Jesus turned over the tables in the Temple, it was not because they were selling—the sales of animals and changing of money was a genuine service to the people—but because they had developed a monopoly and were gouging people, which prevented their worship and prayer rather than serving them.
When Jesus expressed his anger toward the apostles, it was because they were preventing mothers from bringing their children to him to bless them. Again, his expression was in behalf of others. How perfectly that fits with His nature and how thoroughly it shames me in mine.
When the Bible exhorts me to "be angry and sin not," perhaps it is urging me to learn to match my angers to that of Jesus and away from the source of all sin—my self-centeredness. When the Bible tells me not to let the sun go down on my anger perhaps it urges me to grab the insight about my folly before it becomes bitterness whose roots stay and grow and grow.
If I learn to be angry only when Jesus is angry and be at ease when He is at ease, life will be much better for me.
So how do we conquer anger and not sin? First, the great anger-beater is forgiveness. When I forgive I also give up the right to be angry. The person I forgive becomes the object of my mercy rather than my rage or vengeance. Whomever I do not forgive becomes my controller. Freedom from most bondage (including anger) is wrapped in this secret healing ingredient called forgiveness.
Since the Bible tells us to be angry and sin not, let’s assume that it is a very dangerous emotion and even consider it a sin. That unlocks our best answer. To confess our anger immediately deprives it of power over us and permits God to do his healing by forgiving us and cleansing us from unrighteousness.
Knowing at least some of the realities of my heart, it is rare indeed for my anger to be profitable in any way. Anger by its very nature creates adrenaline. That adrenaline in us creates energy which looks for an outlet. For some people, that outlet is physical violence. For others it is emotional violence. There is nothing wrong in having some system of profitable exercise (a good time to mow the lawn) to deal with the real physical problem. I am convinced that the jogging craze in America has handled more adrenaline than we know.
However, remember that the quickest way to safety is confession. If you recognize your anger and confess it and ask forgiveness, the plug is pulled on its power over you.
Another way to make anger profitable is to immediately pray for the person with whom you are angry. The only warning is that you must pray for them the same kind of prayer you want prayed for you.
If you find your temper on the quick side, then keep yourself constantly exposed (keep the veil pulled) to God so he can shine his Glory (Mercy) on you and change you into his likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). This means you quickly talk to God about your problem and ask for help.
Anger is so dangerous that Jesus pushes it to the level of capital punishment.
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:…. Matt 5:22
So, since anger skirts so dangerously close to sin and can (if not confronted and handled by sunset, result in bitterness) destroy our usefulness, wisdom compels us to avoid all events and situations that make us unnecessarily angry. Wisdom compels us to quickly confess and get forgiveness. Wisdom restores our souls as we pray for our enemies. Wisdom compels us to forgive others. Anger need not be in control. Let wisdom reign.
— Gayle D. Erwin
Since our last newsletter, I and Servant Quarters lost a long-time friend. Mike Nelson of Evergreen, Colorado went to be with the Lord. Often in my travels, people ask about him because of the powerful effect Mike had on their lives in Bible college as he taught on grace. His wife Jody and their three sons—Jonathan, David and Brandon—will continue to live near Denver. Mike was 48.
If you thought I acted snooty lately by walking past you and not speaking, it was because I didn’t see you. By the time you get this, by the wonders of modern medicine, I should have a new lens or two and then if I don’t speak to you, well….
Servant Quarters moves to a new office this month (June) if all goes well. Since we visit you rather than you visit us, not many people make it to our workplace. But we have been on the edge of desperate for a while and now we will have a little elbow room. Our new physical address? 68777 Summit Ave. in Cathedral City, CA. Now, that is an address worth moving for.
In my hands (and hopefully yours) are three new and very exciting CD albums. One is by a newcomer named Jim Sitter and is entitled "It’s the Scars." As I listen, I feel like I have made a gold find. The songs are new, listenable and singable. I highly recommend it. $15 from Appleseed Records, 7590 Hwy 238, Jacksonville, OR 97530.
Also new is the CD entitled "In My Father’s House" by an oldtimer, Richie Furay. Richie’s skills that brought him gold records in the rock world have been converted and anointed to bring gold to us. Already, songs from this album are being sung in churches I visit. $15 from Calvary Chapel Music, 9725 W. 50th Ave, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.
A third album had me glad I was by myself as I listened so I wouldn’t be embarrassed singing along. Lyrics and music that you will remember. Creative. What? "Sacrifice of Praise" by Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel. Also $15 for CD, $10 for tape from Calvary Chapel Music. These three CDs are traveling with me this Summer.
Servant Quarters will be glad to get these for you if you cannot find them.
I am enclosing a copy of a letter I received from a visitor to our church when you spoke. I was greatly moved and encouraged by it and thought it would warm your heart.
A Pastor Friend
I have started this letter to you several times over the past several days, deleted the entire thing and started again to try to better convey my thoughts. While I do have considerable biblical knowledge, over the years I have made a concerted effort to distance myself from "religious" people. I do not want to be associated with the hypocrisy that has enveloped every church and religion that I have known. I am used to attending churches where ¾ of the congregation are elderly, hymns are from the late 1800’s and sung in muffled voices.
For many families, Easter becomes a time when you attend a church service you ordinarily would not. While visiting relatives our family attended your service. Simply put, I was moved. The music and singing was not like anything I have heard at church before. The guest speaker was fabulous and I could relate with every word he spoke.
Attending your service gave me hope that maybe someday I could again become interested in a church family.
Thank you for your gift of books to our ministry in the prisons at Airway Heights, Washington. It was a significant gift and much appreciated. I have spent the last number of years in prison chaplaincy teaching and doing one-on-one in the special management unit commonly referred to as "The Hole."
The first book of yours I read was The Jesus Style. It was handed covertly to me by an inmate who asked that I read it and comment on it to see what value I thought it had, since it had changed his life and he wondered if I might want to share it in the meetings.
I have been reading, underlining and teaching out of this book for the last couple months since your gift arrived.
I want to tell you that it has been met with an unbelievable response from the inmates. It is clear to see that this is your heart and how you view ministry. It so coincides with my view that the cultural church has missed completely the call to make disciples of all men and to imitate The Jesus Style you so clearly teach. This book has put in my hands the format to teach the requirements of how Jesus wants us to live.
The style of your writing as well as the content comes from a "grace" position which I appreciate. So many of the men have come out of a legalistic background where the church has put demands on them they can not meet, nor have they understood grace.
In the box we received were a few copies of That Reminds Me of a Story which I read with great enjoyment and found you have a great ability to weave humor into all of your experiences. I also commend you for the anonymity when you speak of others. You never speak in a critical way, only bringing the reader to pause and think of some of the events as well as answer the questions you ask at the end of the chapter.
I wonder if your organization has the ability to provide more books for our ministry. I do not want to presume on your generosity, but would be grateful if there is a benefactor to your ministry who might help in this area. I work face-to-face with 60+ men in the lock-down in praying and counseling with them. I am able to package for them a Bible (which the prison does provide) as well as books so that for the 22 hours they are locked in each day with nothing, they can be reading and learning. This is a powerful opportunity to put in their hands the tools to consider the claims of Christ.
The books were sent.
I drive fleet cars for a subcontractor to a large corporation here in Corvallis, Oregon, tending to the many cars’ needs, and the radio is a companion that sometimes talks too much and must be shut off in order to sort my own thoughts now and again. When I remember to, I plug into KHPE (107.9 FM locally) at 9:15 am to hear your 15 minute broadcast.
Your sessions are 100% always a plus to my day and teach me and delight me, and I also am very happy to have begun reading the different articles available on servant.org.
My wife and I have two small children, and Gayle's love of children introduces the good ways to love them and reminds me of the things I know but fail at. I am moved by the thing that Jesus is doing in your life. You (all of you all) and Gayle are really needed in this world and I just wanted to thank you.
Please keep on teaching so my children will be able to see Jesus in me and want Him because He tastes so sweet. My eyes water at all the things I've done poorly, hastily, harshly (unnecessarily) etc. while I type this.Kenn R. Stump
I'm not sure if you'll remember me, but I used to attend Carbondale A/G in Tulsa, in fact attended there for around 16 years. For most of those years I was sometimes affectionately known as "Mr. Royal Ranger" as I was their Senior Commander, as well as serving various Sectional & District positions.
About four years ago God moved us to the Houston area, and I went to work for a NASA contractor, so we live near the Johnson Space Center in Friendswood, TX. Not long after we got here I realized that I was missing my copy of The Jesus Style. I kinda’ hazily remembered loaning it to someone, but couldn't remember who. After interrogating most of my family and close friends I decided that it was lost to me and I would have to replace it.
Well, time got away from me until this last week when I determined to come up with a copy somehow. Unfortunately every bookstore I checked with kept telling me they used to carry it, but it was now out of print and they didn't have any more either.
So, we decided to see if you were utilizing the Internet, and tonight found your website. I've printed out an order form and will be mailing it to you, with a check of course. I've also downloaded your screen saver and plan to utilize it at the office. I'm pretty bad about doing "little" (you should see how far in my cheek my tongue is now) things to get people's attention from time to time so I can talk with them about their personal relationship with Jesus.Ed Taylor
I was listening to Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes WZXV 99.7 out of Rochester, NY and you were talking about the Name of Jesus. I have been witnessing to quite a few JW's and the info you had was great. You remind me so much of my uncle Ed Button in looks and sense of humor.Russ Piraino
We met Saturday evening during your trip to speak at the Hauser Community Church in Coos Bay. You knew we'd traveled some distance to come and hear you speak (yes, it was WELL worth the trip, thank you!). Now, I think I'd like to tell you WHY we made the trip.
I didn't mention to you that I'm a fairly new Christian. Recent, and quite total upheaval in my life. I was the set of yahtze dice, God shook the cup and spilled everything out all over the place. OK, pick up the pieces; leave some behind.
Aside from watching my dad (Alzheimer's disease) 24/7 for three years (and, you know, in dog years that's 21!) I took a part-time job. Let's think of it as a hobby, just for fun.
So, three mornings a week I found myself in the car driving an hour to work. Desperate for something on the radio. Turns out this perfectly good radio, at some point went haywire, only TWO stations would come in—both Christian! Well, I've never heard God speak to me (like lots of folks say they do), but this seemed a lot like a signal of some sort. OK, I get the hint; pick one. Well, one was singing, fine. The other was talking, something kinda’ got my attention. It was you. Go figure!
You made sense. You made me laugh. You taught me things I needed to know. You gave me stories that I could relate to others, ripe with messages about things like grace, mercy…things that matter. So, thank you.
Life is pretty good these days. Here's another hug for you! Blessings, your personal chamber of commerce in Lebanon Oregon.
Linda and Brant Carter--
Response to our radio programs has been very gratifying. We get, of course, the most response where we are on daily, such as KAPL (Applegate Christian Fellowship) in Jacksonville, OR,
WZXV (Calvary Chapel of the Fingerlakes) in Rochester, NY and
WCVK in Bowling Green, KY.
The article on THE GOVERNMENT was so appropriate for our day. It is wonderful to know that His shoulders are broad enough to take care of all the cares, and one day we shall be with Him to spend the rest of eternity.
God gives strength at 70 to continue our service to Him and to our beloved Latinos.God bless you richly, my friend and colleague.
Sam and Mona Balius
Servant Quarters, Vol. 19 #3
Published about six times a year.
Available by request.
PO Box 219
Cathedral City, CA 92235