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Christians, Christ and Christmas

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Christmas is a season many people look forward to all year.  On December 26 social media is filled with posts stating there are only 364 days left until next Christmas.  For children, Christmas expectations include school holidays, Santa Claus and presents.  For adults, Christmas is associated with family and friends, good cheer, joy and peace on earth.  That leaves me pondering why Christians are therefore so frumpy every Christmas season. It appears that more Christians are melancholy and exhausted than joyful and refreshed.  Could it be that God uses Christmas and the blues that often come with it so Christians will be given an opportunity to do some self-evaluating each year?

So take a moment and evaluate your Christianity this Christmas season.  Are you thankful or depressed?  Are you angry or filled with joy?  Do you love people or are you weary and avoiding others?  Does the Christmas season make your heart even more full of Christ or does it leave you feeling empty?  Be honest now!  Perhaps you can be more honest by answering those questions this way: how do your actions regarding Christ match up with joy in Jesus?  If you only sporadically attend church to worship with other believers, if you are avoiding relationships with other believers, and if there is no joy in doing for others at Christmas you are probably not doing as well spiritually in your heart as you try to convince yourself you are.

Indeed, we live in a dark time.  Taxes and health insurance are consuming more and more of our salaries.  Politicians and leaders are often corrupt and unrighteous. Relationships can be treacherous. Families deal with hurts and pain. Jobs are demanding and toiling. II Timothy 3 paints a dismal picture of these last days we live in, saying many people will become “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  (II Timothy 3:1-2)  Verse 5 says we are to avoid people characterized by these traits, and yet I don’t see many Christians who prioritize bringing their children and families up around God-fearing and God-shining believers.  Rather, we pour our time, energy and efforts into the secular culture, activities and lost world around us.  But in the midst of these dark last-days characteristics is one last phrase.  It says people will be “holding to a form of godliness but denying its power.”  (Vs. 3)  In that phrase lies one of Satan’s top strategies against believers.  It is Christians to be associated with church, committed to being good and acknowledging God while denying the very power of Christ and His kingdom in us! 

I confess that keeping “a form of godliness” is a temptation I must continually ask for God’s grace to recognize and resist.  I have been in ministry 35 years.  I am very familiar with church.  I love God. I know how to “be nice” and exhibit a “form of godliness.”  But it takes the Holy Spirit to make me a disciple of Jesus Christ that lives radically for Him and bears fruit.  The power of Christ in me makes me spiritually dangerous to Satan and his plans rather than sweet yet harmless.  The power of Christ makes me bold in proclaiming Christ and His salvation rather than simply being nice and fretting over a chance to mention our church.  The power of Christ provides spiritual authority rather than causing me to embrace thoughts of gloom and being a victim. The power of Christ leads to bold and life-altering continual worship rather than to prioritize other things and a lifeless praise to Christ.  Too many of us have accepted a “form of godliness” rather than tirelessly pursuing a radical expectation of the power of Christ and His kingdom in and through us.

So how does that fit into Christmas?  The Christmas season reveals the condition of our hearts spiritually if we will honestly evaluate our emotional, relational and mental condition.  It is time that we quit pointing our judgmental fingers at society because they say “Happy Holiday” or sell cards that say “Merry Xmas.” Society often perceives and relates to Christ and Christmas in the same way it perceives Christians.  If we are “holding to a form of godliness but denying its power” then the world and the lost are given no reason, example or purpose in pursuing or understanding the higher meaning of Christmas and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I am guilty!  I suspect every American Christian with our entitled living, our wealth, our pursuit of pleasures and personal happiness, and our independent, self-made attitudes is guilty to some degree as well. But I am aware of it and am fighting it with all my heart.  That is a great place to start.  I pray and acknowledge my need daily.  In my weakness I am being made strong.  In my suffering I find and praise God’s glory.  And this Christmas season I am filled with an awe and joy in my Lord that far surpasses the sufferings and difficulties of this dying world.

Christians, Christ and Christmas!  Saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” won’t change my melancholy, my thoughts, my attitudes, my actions or my spiritual impact!  But seeking, trusting and walking near to Jesus and all His power through the Holy Spirit allows me to experience the true joy of Christmas, and to proclaim to the world around me “the Christ of Christmas!”

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Anger Expressed God's Way

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                Anger has been a recognized and culturally accepted issue among many men.  Our culture is now defining “angry women” as a positive contemporary movement.  In my office, anger is one of the most destructive forces I have witnessed in marriage counseling.  We all have a certain image of anger that relates to outbursts, force and even injury.  But what if I were to tell you that even the most gentle people also tend to harbor and respond to anger in common patterns that ruin relationships?  What do we do with this anger issue we see tearing apart our friendships, homes, churches and even our nation?  I want to take a brief, general look at a complex issue, hopefully to prompt every believer to take steps to consider this critical subject of anger more closely in the days ahead.


                First, we need to understand our general personality or temperament makeup and how it affects anger.  Let’s start with a broad (and overly simplified) observation that people fall into two general categories: strong-willed/problem-solvers/leaders and compliant/people-lovers/responders.  (There are actually 4 recognized personalities types.)  Let’s focus more broadly into two general categories of people that we will call the goal-seekers and the people-lovers.  Goal-seekers are “doers,” problem-solvers, leaders, administrators, planners, conflict-solvers and accomplishers; think doctors and nurses, bosses, church overseers, business owners, coaches, administrators, workaholics and “fixers.”  People-lovers are gentle, relational, inspirational, merciful, supportive, servant-oriented and peacekeepers; think assistants, healthcare workers, workers with children and senior adults,  church deacons and those “everyone loves.”  Some well-known goal-seekers were/are Coach Bill Belichick, General George Patton, Martin Luther, Bill Gates and Donald Trump.  To bring it closer to home, in our church leadership and staff we would agree that Louis Simpson, John Gill, Larry Shields and I are goal-seekers.  Some well-known people seekers were/are Mother Teresa, President George W. Bush, Billy Graham, Oprah Winfrey and Joel Osteen. (Okay, I didn’t say I endorsed everyone on these lists. Haha).  In our church leadership and staff the people-seekers are Doug Burton, Mike Cowart, Justin Green and Paula Compton.  Understand that goal-seekers still love people and people-seekers still accomplish goals.  But we tend to be leaders or responders based on our personalities: strong-willed or compliant.

                Identifying our basic personality or temperament is the first step in understanding how we tend to express and react to anger.  The strong-willed goal-seekers often express and confront when angered.  They are naturally inclined to “blow up” through yelling, pushing, or aggression, or being opinionated, blunt, forceful, tactless, demanding and repetitive.  The compliant people-lovers often deal with anger by stuffing it down, leading to being taken advantage of, physical ailments, avoidance, resentments, withdrawal and eventually the super-sized blowup.  Other compliant people-lovers deal with anger by transporting it.  They do so by stuffing it down and transporting it either to another time or to other people by not keeping their commitments, being sarcastic and critical, making excuses, avoiding issues, playing the victim and acting out their anger on those more vulnerable or helpless.  These negative responses commonly see strong-willed goal-seekers “confront.”  The compliant people-lovers either “stuff” or “transport” their anger.

                EVERY HUMAN CAN NATURALLY RESPOND TO ANGER IN ALL THESE NEGATIVE WAYS.  But our personality/temperament makes us especially prone to respond in the ways I have described above.  Did you know that anger is generally a secondary emotion?  Anger is usually a response to primary emotions of hurt coming from 1) relational or emotional neglect, desires or damage, 2) unmet personal desires, goals or expectations and/or 3) personal insecurities, sense of failure, or a lack of self-worth.   I think it is healthy for adults to pray and identify those incidents in childhood or adolescence that were never resolved and have been used by Satan to “kill, steal and destroy” us.  Unresolved hurts and a lack of biblical instruction and wisdom often results in anger, especially toward those relationships closest to us.  This can easily become a pattern our sinful flesh turns to.  The Apostle Paul stated in II Corinthians 10:3-4 that we are to , “. . . demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  That means that when we are angry we are to look at the emotions/thoughts that are raising a “red flag” about something in our heart.  Then we are to take those thoughts captive to obedience to Christ.

                So should we ever be angry?  Absolutely.  Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  That instructs us not to sleep until we let God identify our personal unmet needs or longings, and then to take those captive to faith and obedience to Christ.  It means a husband or wife, angry at their spouse, controls their anger and then determines what they are feeling so angry about.  Do I have an unmet longing for respect from a parent/parents?  Do I have the unbiblical belief that my spouse is to serve me rather than walk beside me?  Do I have feelings of inadequacy at work or among friends that leads me to demand I am to be revered at all times at home?

                Anger is an opportunity to evaluate how I am responding to friends, coworkers or family who hurt my feelings or make me feel inferior.  Am I withdrawing, growing resentful toward others and more angry at myself?  Do I struggle with ulcers, headaches, depression, panic attics and such?  Do I procrastinate and delay performing tasks asked of me to get back at others?  Am I critical and slanderous toward people who I feel hurt me? Do I withdraw and clam up in order to hold a sense of power over someone?  Or do I take my anger out on my children?

                Natural anger is destructive, carnal and used by Satan to kill, steal and destroy relationships.  Spiritual and mature responses to anger start with stepping back and admitting the anger.  Then we are to identify the primary emotion and consider its cause.   And finally, we are to biblically respond by faith in Christ and obedience to His commands and instructions.  And by the way, when anyone is hurting the helpless, the innocent, or the child, Christians should feel a righteous anger and act on behalf of the victims.  If Christians see other believers mocking or disobeying God and not keeping His commands, those who are spiritual but experiencing anger should deal with their anger first, and then gently confront the other believer with their sin, show loving acceptance of them, and seek to restore them when they repent.  Jesus was angry toward the greedy leaders of the Temple and reacted strongly, turning over their money tables and throwing them out of the Temple.  Jesus exposed the godless religious leaders, publicly comparing them to whitewashed tombs, clean-looking on the outside while holding death on the inside. 

                Christians, we should all seek to understand how anger can lead us to righteousness and growth in Christ.  “Be angry and yet do not sin . . . !”  (A great book on this topic is “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy” by Chip Ingram and Dr. Becca Johnson.)

Craig Lile


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