The Upside of Anger

“Explain your anger, don’t express it, and you will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments.”Author UnknownI bet you didn’t know there could be an upside to anger. I didn’t know until I started researching the subject. We are taught from the cradle up that anger is bad, yet we live in a culture where anger is on display everywhere, everyday. Just turn on the TV or watch a movie; or better yet, get on a social media site online. Anger is being expressed everywhere, all the time. And there is a lot of unspoken anger in body language and eye contact, too. Wow, talk about a picture painting a thousand angry words. We live in an angry culture.

Handling anger is an important life skill, but most of us don’t handle it well. An angry outburst can destroy relationships and cause all kinds of damage that is often irreparable both to ourselves and to others. So what do we do when anger builds up and we don’t know what to do with it?

GotQuestions.org gives us some insight on the subject of anger from a biblical perspective:

Christian counselors report that 50 percent of people who come in for counseling have problems dealing with anger. Anger can shatter communication and tear apart relationships, and it ruins both the joy and health of many. Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. Everyone struggles, to varying degrees, with anger. Thankfully, God’s Word contains principles regarding how to handle anger in a godly manner, and how to overcome sinful anger.

Anger is not always sin. There is a type of anger of which the Bible approves, often calledrighteous indignation.” God is angry (Psalm 7:11Mark 3:5), and it is acceptable for believers to be angry (Ephesians 4:26). Two Greek words in the New Testament are translated as “anger.” One means “passion, energy” and the other means “agitated, boiling.” Biblically, anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems. Examples of biblical anger include David’s being upset over hearing Nathan the prophet sharing an injustice (2 Samuel 12) and Jesus’ anger over how some of the Jews had defiled worship at God’s temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-18). Notice that neither of these examples of anger involved self-defense, but a defense of others or of a principle.

That being said, it is important to recognize that anger at an injustice inflicted against oneself is also appropriate. Anger has been said to be a warning flag—it alerts us to those times when others are attempting to or have violated our boundaries. God cares for each individual. Sadly, we do not always stand up for one another, meaning that sometimes we must stand up for ourselves. This is especially important when considering the anger that victims often feel. Victims of abuse, violent crime, or the like have been violated in some way. Often while experiencing the trauma, they do not experience anger. Later, in working through the trauma, anger will emerge. For a victim to reach a place of true health and forgiveness, he or she must first accept the trauma for what it was. In order to fully accept that an act was unjust, one must sometimes experience anger. Because of the complexities of trauma recovery, this anger is often not short-lived, particularly for victims of abuse. Victims should process through their anger and come to a place of acceptance, even forgiveness. This is often a long journey. As God heals the victim, the victim’s emotions, including anger, will follow. Allowing the process to occur does not mean the person is living in sin. (Quote source and complete article at this link.)

Whether it’s the long term unresolved anger as described above, or the immediate anger of road rage, and our general impatience at having to endure anything we don’t like for longer then three seconds, anger is a major problem in our society today.

In an article titled, Anger Management: Your Questions Answered,” by the Mayo Clinic staff, they state:

Anger isn’t always bad, but it must be handled appropriately. Consider the purpose anger serves and the best approach to anger management.

Anger itself isn’t a problem—it’s how you handle it. Consider the nature of anger, as well as how to manage anger and what to do when you’re confronted by someone whose anger is out of control.

What is anger?

Anger is a natural response to perceived threats. It causes your body to release adrenaline, your muscles to tighten, and your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Your senses might feel more acute and your face and hands flushed.

However, anger becomes a problem only when you don’t manage it in a healthy way.

So it’s not ‘bad’ to feel angry?

Being angry isn’t always a bad thing. Being angry can help you share your concerns. It can prevent others from walking all over you. It can motivate you to do something positive. The key is managing your anger in a healthy way.

What causes people to get angry?

There are many common triggers for anger, such as losing your patience, feeling as if your opinion or efforts aren’t appreciated, and injustice. Other causes of anger include memories of traumatic or enraging events and worrying about personal problems.

You also have unique anger triggers, based on what you were taught to expect from yourself, others and the world around you. Your personal history feeds your reactions to anger, too. For example, if you weren’t taught how to express anger appropriately, your frustrations might simmer and make you miserable, or build up until you explode in an angry outburst.

Inherited tendencies, brain chemistry or underlying medical conditions also play a role in your tendency toward angry outburst.

What’s the best way to handle anger?

When you’re angry, you can deal with your feelings through:

  • Expression. This is the act of conveying your anger. Expression ranges from a reasonable, rational discussion to a violent outburst.
  • Suppression. This is an attempt to hold in your anger and possibly convert it into more constructive behavior. Suppressing anger, however, can cause you to turn your anger inward on yourself or express your anger through passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Calming down. This is when you control your outward behavior and your internal responses by calming yourself and letting your feelings subside.

Ideally, you’ll choose constructive expression—stating your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

Can anger harm your health?

Some research suggests that inappropriately expressing anger—such as keeping anger pent up—can be harmful to your health. Suppressing anger appears to make chronic pain worse, while expressing anger reduces pain.

There’s also evidence that anger and hostility is linked with heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers and stroke. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, The Upside of Anger: 6 Psychological Benefits of Getting Mad,” by Dr. Jeremy Dean , British psychologist and founder/author of PsyBlog, he writes:

We tend to think of anger as a wild, negative emotion, but research finds that anger also has its positive side.

There are all sorts of good sensible, civilized reasons to avoid getting angry. Not only does it make you feel bad, it makes you do stupid things without noticing the risks and it can be self-destructive.

As a result civilized people do their best to suppress, redirect and mask their anger. Most of us treat our anger as though it’s unreasonable, unshowable and unmentionable. But like all emotions anger has its purposes, which can be used to good effect.

1. Anger is a motivating force

You sometimes hear people talking about using anger as a motivating force by ‘turning anger into positive energy’. In fact anger itself is a kind of positive energy and a powerful motivating force. Research has shown that anger can make us push on towards our goals in the face of problems and barriers.

In one study participants were shown objects they associated with a reward. Some, though, were first exposed to angry faces. Those shown the angry faces were more likely to want objects they were subsequently exposed to (Aarts et al., 2010).

When we see something as beneficial, we want it more when we’re angry. So, when used right, constructive anger can make you feel strong and powerful and help push you on to get what you want.

2. Angry people are more optimistic

It may sound like an odd thing to say, but angry people have something in common with happy people. That’s because both tend to be more optimistic.

Take one study of fear of terrorism carried out in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In this study those experiencing anger expected fewer attacks in the future (Lerner et al., 2003). In contrast those experiencing more fear were more pessimistic about the future and expected further attacks.

3. Anger can benefit relationships

Anger is a natural reaction to being wronged by someone else and it’s a way of communicating that sense of injustice. But society tells us anger is dangerous and we should hide it. What does this do to our personal relationships?

Oddly enough research has shown that hiding anger in intimate relationships can be detrimental (Baumeister et al., 1990). The problem is that when you hide your anger, your partner doesn’t know they’ve done something wrong. And so they keep doing it. And that doesn’t do your relationship any good.

The expression of anger, if justifiable and aimed at finding a solution rather than just venting, can actually benefit and strengthen relationships.

4. Anger provides self-insight

Anger can also provide insight into ourselves, if we allow it. A sample of Americans and Russians were asked about how recent outbursts of anger had affected them (Kassinove et al., 1997). 55% claimed that getting angry had lead to a positive outcome. On top of this one-third said that anger provided an insight into their own faults.

If we can notice when we get angry and why, then we can learn what to do to improve our lives. Anger can motivate self-change.

5. Anger reduces violence

Although anger often precedes physical violence, it can also be a way of reducing violence. That’s because it’s a very strong social signal that a situation needs to be resolved. When others see the signal they are more motivated to try and placate the angry party.

If you’re still not convinced that anger might reduce violence, imagine a world without anger where people had no method for showing how they felt about injustice. Might they jump straight to violence?

6. Anger as negotiation strategy

Anger can be a legitimate way to get what you want. In one study of negotiation participants made larger concessions and fewer demands of an angry person than one who was happy (Van Kleef et al., 2002).

So there’s some evidence that anger can be used as a negotiation strategy, but it’s more complicated than that. You can’t just lose your rag and expect to win everything you want.

Anger is likely to work best when it’s justified, if you appear powerful and when the other side’s options are limited (Sinaceur & Tiedens, 2006Van Kleef et al., 2007). In the right circumstances, then, it’s possible to both get mad and get even.

Deadly sin or constructive emotion?

I say anger can reduce violence, benefit relationships, promote optimism and be a useful motivating force, but it can just as easily be destructive.

That’s the wonder of human emotions: happy isn’t always good and angry isn’t always bad (although it may feel that way). An unhappy person is also more likely to spot mistakes and an angry person is highly motivated to act. We need reminding that even scary and dangerous emotions have their upsides, as long as they are used for the correct purpose.

The likely features of constructive anger are:

    • that the person who caused the anger is present,
    • that it is justified and proportionate to the wrongdoing,
    • and it is expressed as the first step in trying to solve a problem rather than just venting bad feeling.

People seem to unconsciously understand the benefits of anger. One study found participants who were about to play a game requiring them to be confrontational were more likely to listen to angry music beforehand or think back to things that have made them angry (Tamir et al, 2008). They then went on to perform better in the task because they felt more angry.

Used right, anger can be a handy tool. But use with caution as people find anger the most difficult of all the emotions to control. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, The Last Word on Anger,” by A.C. Grayling, a British philosopher and author, he writes:

“Angry men are blind and foolish,” Aretino wrote, “for reason at such times takes flight, and in her absence anger plunders all the riches of the intellect.” When given expression it plunders all the goods and fruits of peace too, and is indifferent to the suffering of bystanding innocents. The angry man’s desire is to vent his heat, to appease himself by doing harm, not pausing to consider whether the greatest harm will eventually accrue to himself rather than his opponent. And when anger drives, such is the usual outcome.

The ancients debated anger extensively. For the Stoics it was an emotion of weakness, to be quelled as part of building self-mastery and detachment. In a sequence of three carefully considered “Moral Essays”, Seneca analysed anger, “the most hideous and frenzied of all the emotions”, and urged the classic Stoic remedy: the restraint of the heroic mind. Failing that, he said, “there are two rules: avoid anger if you can, and if you cannot, in your anger do no wrong”.

Others saw anger as an emotion capable of great power and good effect if wisely directed. “It is easy to fly into a passion,” Aristotle remarked, “anyone can do that; but to be angry with the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, in the right way, with the right aim; that is not easy.” His view is that knowing how to be appropriately angry is an essential part of the moral life – providing that it does not overthrow reason and become merely destructive in consequence. “A man that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good,” is Beecher’s modern Aristotelian gloss.

But in vitriolic conflicts there is neither appropriateness nor proportion, so the arguments of history and justice become lost in vengeance. Rabidly angry men want only to fight; they want to inflict anguish on their enemies, and then obliterate them. It is hard to imagine, even if great-souled people stood up on both sides and agreed peace and a modus vivendi, how such hurt could be assuaged. “No man is angry that feels not himself hurt,” Bacon said, and the trouble is that adversaries have invariably become such because of hurts, real or perceived.

Each side in an angry conflict, of course, wishes to win. But what would winning involve? Hard men think it involves breaking and trampling the enemy, killing him or driving him away either geographically or into a psychological diaspora of submission. But it takes scarcely any thought, so long as it is calm thought, to see that victory is never achieved until anger subsides and both sides gain at least some of their aims. (Quote source here.)

With all of that being said on the topic of anger, the bottom line on the subject is found in the last statement in A.C. Grayling’s article above (not noted in the above quote) that is found in Proverbs. 16:32. I will end this post with that verse: He who is slow to anger…

Is better than the mighty . . .

And he who rules his spirit . . .

Than he who takes a city . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Christian’s Guide For Anger Management” (12:01) by Columbus Cody III:

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Journey to Joy–Celebrating Purim

“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century (quote source here).
As I was looking over a pile of books on a bargain bookshelf the other day, I came across a book titled, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.” What struck me the most about the title was it’s proximity to my stay in the city where I have been living now for almost exactly two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights as of this week. In fact, it runs right through the start and ending of the annual Jewish holiday and celebration known as Purim.”

I’ve written about Purim several times on my other blog, and the last blog post was published a year ago titled, Celebrating Purim 5778-2018.” Purim is a joyous celebration commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot by Haman, a vizier in the Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus, had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Old Testament Book of Esther.

An article published in JerusalemOnline,com on March 17, 2017, titled, What is the significance of the Purim story for our times?” by “Admin,” states the following:

In every generation, there is a Haman that rises who seeks to exterminate the Jewish people. For this reason, the Purim story is timeless throughout the generations.

The Talmud declares, “When we enter the Adar month, we increase in joy.” Indeed, there is good reason to be joyful during the Hebrew month of Adar for it is during this month that the Purim story takes place. On this holiday, which Jews around the world are celebrating today, the great grief that the Jews of Persia experienced was transformed into a day of happiness and celebrations. Haman cast lots in order to determine which would be the best time in order to exterminate the Jewish people. He determined because Moses died in Adar, the Jews would not have luck during this month. Therefore, he planned for a genocide to occur during this month. However, he also forgot that Moses was born during Adar. In the end, his plot ultimately failed.  For this reason, we celebrate….

But one might ponder, what is the significance of the Purim story to our times? We are living thousands of years after the Purim story occurred. Israel is now a state. Jews around the world now have a place to call home. In most countries, Jews are no longer living as a member of a persecuted minority group without a place to call home. In the West, Jews have been granted equal rights. And even the few remaining Jews in the Islamic world who don’t enjoy equal rights always have the option of making Aliyah. The Jews are in a better place today. So why is the Purim story still relevant for us?

The message of the Purim story is timeless for throughout Jewish history, there has always been those who wish to annihilate the Jewish people. If one listens to ISIS, Iranian and Palestinian media outlets, genocidal intentions against the State of Israel are broadcast routinely. Common themes in the propaganda orchestrated by these entities are that the Jews are not obeying the king’s rules and therefore must all be killed, just as Haman argued thousands of years ago. And not too long ago, Hitler was in power and committed the worst genocide against the Jewish people in human history. There are people who survived the Holocaust that are still alive. Indeed, in every generation, there are Hamans’ who seek to annihilate the Jewish people. However, like during Purim, the Jewish people always manage to survive and persevere despite all of the obstacles standing in their way.

Due to the victory of lightness over darkness, Purim and the entire Adar month is a joyous time. According to Jewish tradition, the excessive joy that the Jewish people experienced during Purim surpasses the happiness that Jews had experienced during other incidents throughout history for during Purim, the Jewish people were at an all-time low and G-d’s miracles were hidden from the masses. They lived in complete darkness. They were exiled from their ancestral homeland, the Jewish Temple had been destroyed, and thus Jews were no longer witnessing the miracles that were performed daily in the Jewish Temple. A king reigned who held a festive banquet where tools that were utilized in the Jewish Temple were displayed in a disrespectful manner. As the Book of Esther relates, the Jewish people at the time of the Purim story were scattered and divided.

Nevertheless, in this atmosphere, the hidden miracles of the Purim story occurred [Note: including how it came to be that Esther was chosen as queen]…. And all of these hidden miracles enabled the salvation of the Jewish people. Despite the dire state that the Jews of Persia found themselves in, the Jewish people held onto their faith and managed to succeed in preventing genocide on the 14th and 15th of Adar due to Esther’s ascendancy to the throne. It was a complete reversal from darkness into light, mourning into joy and death into life.  As recorded in the Book of Esther (9:1) “And it was turned around, the Jews prevailed over their enemies.” They managed to do this by uniting as a nation and returning to the faith of their ancestors in droves. Thus, Purim teaches us an important lesson today. Whenever the Jewish people are united and follow their faith, no enemy can defeat them.  Therefore, today if we remain united and follow G-d’s laws, the modern day Hamans’ can conspire but all of their plots will ultimately fail. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Why Purim is Significant to Christians (no author name is given), a section titled, How Purim Relates to Christians,” states the following:

How Purim relates to Christians

First and foremost, Purim is a story of God’s faithfulness. The Book of Esther recounts His faithfulness to the children of Israel when they are threatened by the second most powerful man in the ancient Persian Empire—Haman. The lesson is simple. God is faithful to all His.

It also is about God turning bad situations into blessings. Because of the Jewish people’s faithful prayers and fasting, Queen Esther is given the courage to intervene with the king and disclose Haman’s plans to wipe out the Jews. In a declaration, the king gives the Jews the right to defend themselves and rob their attackers.

In spite of relying on divine leadership and strength, God isn’t mentioned once in the Book of Esther. This reminds many of us that faith in God has nothing to do with religion as much as it is a personal devotion to the Lord that should so infiltrate every part of our lives. Esther and Mordecai didn’t need to openly announce that they were depending on God. Doing so was so much a part of who they were that it would have been obvious to those who knew them.

In Israel, Purim is marked by dressing up in costumes, a universal symbol of merrymaking, and holding grand parties. While not the biggest or most important of Israel’s holidays, it is without question the festival that is most noticeable and accompanied by the most public merriment. (Quote source here.)

Purim is a celebration of God’s faithfulness and deliverance, and God’s faithfulness and deliverance extends to Christians, too. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Those of us who are Christians can celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim along with the Jews not only because of God’s faithfulness and deliverance in their lives and throughout the history of the Jewish people, but also because of God’s faithfulness and deliverance in our own lives, too.

So, with Purim only a couple of days away, let’s celebrate, because for those who truly believe . . .

God . . .

Is . . .

Faithful . . . .

YouTube Video: “Celebration” (1981) by Kool and the Gang:

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Be The Change

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. (Quote source here.)
Yesterday I posted a blog post on my other blog titled, All Things New,” that is themed around the changes that have occurred in my life over the past decade. One of the things I noted was how much I have changed during this past decade. While the external circumstances of my life changed dramatically over this time period, the internal changes for me personally have been, well, quite remarkable.

In continuing with the theme of change from All Things New,” here is what the apostle Paul had to say about “pressing on” in Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT):

 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

It is hard to move forward when we allow the past to hold us back. In an article titled, Leave the Past Behind,” by David Zerfoss, Owner of The Zerfoss  Group, Chair of Vistage International, and Executive in Residence at Queens University McColl School of Business, he writes:

Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations, and it shows up in our attitudes. Whatever that thing is from the past may never have really existed, yet its power lives inside us and keeps us from moving forward.

Listen to people talk throughout the day, and take note of where their conversations are grounded—in the future, in the present, or in the past. Where would you guess most conversations draw from?

The answer is the past.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18–19

Some of us take our past—and, therefore, stress—with us everywhere we go, towing it along behind us. Why do we do it? It’s familiar to us. It’s that warm and fuzzy bag of stories we like to take out and share with our family, friends, and coworkers. This comfortable past is often our “best friend.” It’s who and what we know best. It’s like a worn-out easy chair or an old pair of shoes that fits us and feels just right. But God commands us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18), lest we miss the new thing He is doing right in front of us!

When people talk about or think about their past, it seems to take on the characteristics of a real-life being. The past cannot breathe, talk, think, or do. However, it is immensely powerful and can take over our future—if we let it. It’s like the sirens on the shore, luring you toward the rocks over and over again. Focusing on the past will certainly limit your choices for the future.

For a lot of people, I know the past holds a difficult childhood, an abusive marriage, or a financially draining job loss. Yet no matter how painful our past may have been, for some strange reason we often choose not to let go. In order to get on with our future and simplify our lives, we must choose to make a clean break and leave the past behind.

There’s an engaging Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is apologizing to Charlie Brown for missing a fly ball during a baseball game. She’s sorry she missed the fly ball and says it’s because she started remembering all the others she missed. “The past got in my eyes,” she says.

Many of us know people who are very reasonable—they have very good reasons for why they can’t move forward in life. Take for instance a person who has endured multiple bad relationships or marriages. He is certain that because of these relationships, he’s stuck in the terrible spot he’s in today. Isn’t it difficult to watch that person once again become attracted to the same type of person with whom he just ended a contentious relationship?

Carrying the past forward to the future will provide us with only one thing—incremental change—in our lives. “Unreasonable” people make a choice to create transformational breakthroughs, without “reasonable” ties to the past.

Each of us has a powerful choice. We have the ability to create our own simplified future by starting with a blank sheet of paper and a heart surrendered to God’s will for our lives.

Choose to leave the past behind, and begin living a life filled with new possibilities! (Quote source here.)

And in another article titled, Moving Forward,” by Trey Bradley, speaker and evangelist, he writes the following in two sections titled in his article titled, “Forget the Past But Never Forget the Past,” and “Don’t Settle”:

Forget The Past But Never Forget The Past

When Paul spoke of moving forward [see Philippians 3:12-14 above] he said that he was going to forget what was behind him. Paul definitely had a past and a dark one that surely haunted him often. We all have a past and the enemy often uses this to try and distract us or stop us from being effective in the kingdom. As Paul stated we must leave the past behind and recognize that it does not define us anymore. We have a new identity and a new name in Christ. The old person is dead and we have been raised to new life in Christ Jesus so we cannot allow past mistakes to keep us from moving forward. It is the past! Done! Forgiven! At the same time we must never forget the past as far as remembering where God has brought us. We must never forget where we come from! By always remembering how the grace of God brought us through in the past, we will be reminded that this same grace will get us through our current circumstance that is keeping us from moving forward. God came through before and He will come through again. He freed me from that sin in the past, and He can free me from this sin that I currently struggle with so I can and will move forward by His grace.

Don’t Settle

Many of us often settle for less than God’s best for our lives whether it’s our own spiritual walk, relationships, or career path. God has offered a feast at His table, and we often settle for scraps that fall on the floor. I find it interesting how Paul is in prison for following Christ and could have easily just gone into cruise mode. He could have just given up and quit by assuming that God must be done with him. However, he was not willing to settle based on his circumstances. He vowed to continue to move forward toward the goal and had a desire to know Jesus in such a way that he never had before. He knew that since he was not dead, that God was not done. If Paul can move forward while in prison than we can move forward despite what our circumstances may be. In fact your circumstances just might be the vehicle in which the gospel will go forth in your circle in ways that it never has before. Let’s not settle and think that our current circumstance is reason to just ride things out until the end. Keep moving forward.

Trey ends his article with the following statement:

It is so easy to allow apathy to set into our hearts, minds, and emotions but we must keep moving forward. I want to have the heart of Paul and never let myself become stagnant regardless of what my current situation may be. Let’s continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead. (Quote source and complete article at this link.)

Those are good points to remember–continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead (with enthusiasm!).

We all have things in our past that we wish we could change, and often they are very major things that have had a huge impact on our lives and even our relationships. But whatever those things are, we should not let them hold us back or stop us from moving forward. Paul was in a prison cell at the time he wrote those verses above in Philippians 3:12-14, and he didn’t let that hold him back. Moving forward in not just something that is external; it is also, and even more so, internal. It’s an attitude as much as an action. So, in closing, let’s remember to . . .

Continue to run the race . . .

Leaving the past behind . . .

And pressing ahead . . . .

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” by Hezekiah Walker:

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A Truth We Almost Forgot

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”Jesus Christ (John 8:32)
I love getting great bargains on books and I got one yesterday when I found a new copy of book for less than $2.00 at a Spring blowout sale. The book is titled, Jesus Now: God is Up to Something Big,” (2016), by Dr. Tom Phillips, Vice President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Executive Director of The Billy Graham Library.

The introduction to the book on Amazon.com states the following:

God is moving today!

God desires to draw all people to Himself. He is awakening the world through the reconciling love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. What if the Lord was already awakening you, your family, your church, your city? Are you willing to let His Spirit, without warning, sweep through your own life?

In “Jesus Now,” join Dr. Phillips as he explores:

  • the themes and patterns of previous revivals that are becoming apparent today.
  • the unpredictable, untamed purposefulness of God to draw His church to Himself through ordinary and anonymous Christians.
  • how the power of prayer has found extraordinary new expression within Christians who have raised the name of Jesus above a denomination or ministry.
  • human impediments to God-initiated and sustained spiritual awakening.
  • ten principles to discern current revivals.
  • how to seek and follow Jesus, who has promised to do far more than you could ever imagine or request!

God is up to something big. What is your place in His great awakening? Because of Jesus, our churches, nation, and lives will never be the same again. (Quote source here.)

At it’s core, a revival is about a personal journey taken by each individual involved in it. The definition of revival according to Dictionary.com is: (1) restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength, etc.; (2) restoration to use, acceptance, or currency; (3) an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion; and (4) an evangelistic service or a series of services for the purpose of effecting a religious awakening. (source here).

There are many stories in this book about revival and “the refreshing winds of the Spirit” that have broken down racial barriers, denominational barriers, and “the most remote, insensitive hearts and the many shades of prejudice and hate that segregate us from each other and from God” (page 22). Here is one of those stories on pp. 22-23:

One Sunday Dr. Phillips preached a sermon about love, the love of Jesus that embraces all people, all of God’s children–“God is love” (1 John 4:8) at a small white church in a small town in Mississippi.

He states, “I made it clear that anyone coming into the sanctuary would not be stopped, but be welcomed. After the service, I was standing at the front door greeting the people as they left. One deacon, a white gentleman, said to me, “I know what point you were trying to make, but I still love you anyway.”

Yet, something else happened. I noticed that younger people seemed to appreciate the sermon. In fact, the younger the person the more he or she said, “The things you said about Jesus loving all people, regardless or race, are real. It’s what God says.”

That day, I began to see the differing perspectives of the older and the younger generations. The former tended to have remote, insensitive, fearful hearts. Young people, on the other hand, were more open to following the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

How willing are you? How willing am I to do the same? My hunger for personal revival and spiritual awakening across our land is as strong as my desire to be used in the reconciliation between blacks and whites, all peoples. I have seen African-American and Asian pastors from Philadelphia confess to each other their racism and then break down weeping. I’ve seen pride broken, sins confessed, and lives restored in the most calloused hearts and in the most unlikely parts of the country” (Quote source: Jesus Now,” p. 22-23).

Revival is truly a personal experience, and at the very heart of revival is the issue of love. I came across a couple of blog posts on this very topic written by the same author, John Enslow, titled, Love Brings in Revival or It’s Nothing,” and Cold Love Prevents Revival,” published in 2016. You can click on either title above to read the entire posts. I’m including some excerpts from those posts below. The following is taken from Love Brings in Revival or It’s Nothing:

The fact will always remain that revival is not birthed in doctrine, knowledge, understanding or anything of the mind. Love itself is the only force that can bring forth revival. And why is this? Because God is Love!

Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love.1 John 4:7-8 GW

I know it would seem safer to rely on prayer to bring in revival. Or our enlightenment in theological study would seem safer. But revival isn’t birthed from my doings or my knowing; Love brings in revival or I have nothing. It’s not that revival isn’t based on the Truth of God, nor that we don’t have to humble ourselves and pray to see our land healed. But unless Love is the center of our revival, it isn’t true revival. We might have a resurgence of study, but that isn’t revival. We might even have a surge of prayer, but this isn’t revival. Love brings in revival!…

Love requires faith in His keeping power. It’s impossible to manage Love. Love relies on trusting Him who is Love and who shepherds our hearts. To experience revival, we must leave the safe boat and trust in God’s ability to keep us on top of the waters.

I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation. This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep His love is. You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God.Ephesians 3:17b-19 GW

Jesus said that Love, not knowledge, is the characteristic of a genuine disciple. For the Law and the prophets hang on two commandments: Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the core of Life and Love brings in revival, which is a renewal of Life. The amazing thing is that very few of the people quoted about revival even mention Love. Maybe this is why we see so little true revival. No one is willing to be vulnerable enough to love….

If I want to see true change and true Life, I must buckle my seat belt and hang on for the ride of my life. Love alone brings in Life. I can maintain my life all the way to the grave, but unless I am willing to cast my heart into the Hands of Love, I will never actually experience Life. Unless Love is the basis of my church, it’s just another business. Unless Love is the core of my revival, it’s just another community service project. And unless Love is the Source of my reformed theology, it is just another Bible study. Quite simply, Love brings in revival or it’s nothing lasting at all.

And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.  —1 Corinthians 13:13 AMP (Quote source here.)

The following is taken from the second blog post titled, Cold Love Prevents Revival”:

Most Christians know that unless we experience a revival in this world, we will never see change. We are not going to vote in change, change is going to happen through revival. And I showed how loving our neighbor is just as important as our renewed love for God. The two great commandments that encapsulate the whole of the Law and the Prophets is to “Love the Lord your God and to Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can’t have one without the other.

Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love.1 John 4:7-8 GW

I see the biggest hindrance to an end time revival is cold love.

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of most will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”Matthew 24:12-13 NKJV

Our world seems to be on a crazy train where lawlessness is exponentially leaping beyond all of our previous bounds. And in the middle of our greatest need for revival, the enemy is assaulting us from within our own hearts. He knows that unless we have love for one another, we will never see revival. What better way to prevent this than to tempt us towards cold love.

“For the love of most shall wax cold.” The love that Christ refers to here is AGAPE love – God-sourced love. And because of the increase of wickedness, those who should have God-sourced love will wane, but he who endures (in love) until the end will be saved.

Wickedness rises when those who should love, resort to self-protection instead. It’s self-love to self-protect, and I say this as one who has in the past closed the doors of my heart to not be hurt again. But this is not God; on the contrary, it is satanic hatred. I have learned that I can’t close off my heart to the world in self-protection and not also close it off to God, who created that world. Unfortunately, when I do this, I begin to accuse and hate Him as the source of the problems. Only with an open loving heart can I face a fallen world with His grace. While everything in me says, “Protect, retreat, fortress!” the actual solution is to open up and love….

I have to be open to loving, both God and others, for revival to come. If I am in the cold love of self-love, I prevent that revival from coming through me and touching those around me.

Revival is LOVE! Revival happens when we have abounding love for God and open love for others. I might be tempted to withhold my love, prevent my love from happening, and remain safe in a loveless corner, but only Love sees revival. As scary as love is to embrace, being loveless is so much more frightening! (Quote source here.)

Genuine love for others and for God is the key to our own personal revival. Without it, we are, as 1 Cornithians 13:1-2 points out rather clearly, nothing. And we can’t fake real love, either. That should give us pause for thought in how we treat others (as in all others).

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus from John 13:34 NKJV: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you…

That you also . . .

Love . . .

One another . . . .

YouTube Video: “Others” by Israel Houghton:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here