Don’t Be a Wackaroo

Have you ever been so angry you threw something against a wall or smashed it on the floor?

Sadly, I have and most of you probably have as well.

It’s a human problem that dates back to the days of Cain and Abel. Cain was so jealous and angry with Abel that he killed him, probably with a rock or club to the head.

Some of you may be saying there is a big difference between smashing something against a wall and killing someone.

You would be right; there is a big difference…in consequence.

Both outbursts are types of violence. In the first case, the violence is acted out on an inanimate object and in the second case, violence is acted out on a human being.

What the two types of violence have in common is that the same emotion drives both actions. The emotion is anger or wrath.

Anger is also energy. The anger takes hold; sometimes suddenly and the energy explodes in an unthinking way. The emotion and energy attached to it serves to tear something or someone up.

The process was called venting and still is.

Back in 1941 psychologists recognized what anger was and rationalized that is was better to release the energy of anger by tearing up an object rather than a person.

Some clever marketer back in 1941 recognized there probably was money to be made off of anger and, so, invented the Wackaroo (pictured below from Life Magazine, 1941).

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The Wackaroo was a plaster cast in the shape of a human head with two little hands where the ears would be. The idea was to grab the Wackaroo when angry and smash it against something. In this way the energy of anger is released or vented and the person calms down. It was far better to smash the Wackaroo than a piece of fine China. It sold for 50 cents. For someone with an anger problem it could probably get expensive!

Ponder this for a moment. The Wackaroo is shaped like a human head. Perhaps if Cain had a Wackaroo he would not have smashed Abel’s head in with a rock or club.

Venting anger is the best the world has to offer. There is a certain pragmatic logic to smashing a plaster cast rather than a piece of fine China or, worse yet, a human being.

Psychology usually omits God and ignores the human heart condition that leads to sin. There are desires within the human heart that trigger violence. They usually revolve around not getting what we want or getting something we don’t want.

The last time I remember smashing something in anger I threw a clipboard that in turn smashed a coffee pot that belonged to my first shift co-worker. My outburst was tied to the fact I resented that I had to do some work the first shift didn’t get to.

I didn’t want to do the work and wanted to sit on my butt instead. What controlled the outburst was what I’ll call the idol of laziness.

Here’s what the episode looked like in detail.

  1. My desire was to sit on my butt rather than work. (This is what I wanted.)
  2. I resented the fact I had to do something left over from the first shift. (This is what I didn’t want.)
  3. The combination of not getting what I wanted (sit on my butt) and getting something I didn’t want (a little extra work) resulted in an explosion of anger-an action of violence taken out on a coffee pot.

The Bible never tells us to vent our anger. It tells us to put off our anger, and you don’t put anger off by venting or smashing a Wackaroo or coffee pot.

Consider this….

For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (Col. 3:6-8, NASB)

“These things” refers to the preceding verses.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Col. 3:1-5, NASB)

The apostle Paul was aware of our human condition; even the human condition that has been changed by being in Christ.

Paul is saying you now belong to Christ so set your mind on heavenly things (renewed thinking) because Christ is supposed to be our life. The old selfish self has died so we need to consider (reckon) all the things that amount to idolatry dead as well.

After identifying “these things,” he reminds us that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (those not in Christ) and that we, too, were just like them. Then Paul says to put aside those things that belong to the old nature.

When I smashed that coffee pot I renewed my mind by confessing my anger to God. Second, I confessed to the gentleman who owned the coffee pot and purchased a new one for him.

Then I had to deal with the heart issue of idolatry. I named it laziness and committed myself to avoid such outbursts in the future by repenting of the idolatry, recognizing that laziness was in competition to Jesus as to whom or what would rule my life.

Friends, the Scriptures never tell us to vent our anger by smashing a Wackaroo of any type. The Scriptures encourage us to put aside the old nature and service to idols and put on the mind of Christ instead.

It’s not only a better way; it’s the best way to honor our Lord and Savior.

Do Not Worry

tumblr_mxzps1v6d11r0un19o1_1280Three times in 10 verses Jesus tells us not to worry. (Matt. 6:25-34)

So, why do I worry from time to time and what do I worry about?

Furthermore, if Jesus tells me not to worry, then I have to believe there is a way to avoid it.

First, let’s define the kind of worry Jesus is speaking of.

Worry is synonymous with anxiety.

An online dictionary defines anxiety like this: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

From this definition we can make some observations.

  1. Worry or anxiety is defined as a feeling (emotion) that makes a person nervous or uneasy.
  2. According to the definition a person experiences nervousness when then think about an immanent event or something that has an uncertain outcome.

Ok, so, what do I worry about, or what am I thinking about when I experience the emotion of anxiety?

In late 2012, my wife was diagnosed with lymphoma. We both experienced anxiety to a greater or lesser degree because it was difficult not to think about the diagnoses and we were obviously uncertain as to what the outcome would be.

Her treatment was successful although there is no guarantee with this type of cancer that it won’t come back.

When I think about it now, the question that pops into my mind is, “what if it comes back?” The more I think about it and the more I think about the possibility of life without my dear wife the more anxious I get.

Yet, Jesus tells me not to worry.

There is more than one reaction I can have to that command.

  1. I can get angry. How dare Jesus command me not to get angry because I’m concerned with my wife and the possibility of life without her?
  2. I can seek medical attention because the anxiousness seems chronic meaning I must have some sort of disorder.
  3. I can look at the rest of Jesus’ teaching on the subject to discover how not to worry.

Reaction #1 indicates a lack of submission to Jesus. I may not articulate my anger toward him, but by being angry with others who give me biblical counsel, I indicate I’m really angry with God. Bad plan.

Reaction #2 holds some promise if my goal is to simply feel better. Perhaps some medication will do the trick and I’ll no longer think about lymphoma and the possibility of losing my wife. After all, if I have a medical disorder, a chemical imbalance of some sort, then correcting it with meds is simple common sense.

Reaction #3 is a bit of a challenge because it seems to fly in the face of a normal human reaction (#1) and medicine (#2). Nevertheless, I’m a Christian and I do want to follow Jesus, so I’ll study what he has to say on the subject.

Since I’ve decided to study what Jesus had to say about worry I looked at the context of his words in Matthew 6:25-34.

The passage is roughly in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the thrust of the sermon is how to live in the kingdom now. In other words, how is a Christian characterized in the kingdom of God and how should they live in the kingdom now?

This realization leads me to understand that when Jesus gave the teaching on worry there was no such thing as a medical disorder for anxiety.

Instead, there was a total reliance on God and his sovereignty in all situations.

This is made clear in how Jesus taught his disciples to pray:

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’ (Matt. 6:9-13, NASB)

Verse 10 is pertinent to my worry. It declares that God is at work and His kingdom (has come) and will continue to come. God is in control for he is absolutely sovereign. Furthermore, His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

This is a reminder to me that we live in a sin cursed world and as a result we suffer. We suffer because of our own stupidity and sin and we suffer because others sin against us, and sometimes we suffer simply because everything breaks down including our bodies.

I have come to realize that my wife’s cancer diagnosis was God’s will. I further realize that if it returns then that is his will as well.

I can reject that and get angry with God (and others), or I can humbly accept that God is Holy (perfect); sovereign (He can do what he wants for his purposes) and rejoice in the fact that my wife received Christ and belongs to Him, and thus if cancer takes her she will be with Christ forever.

There is more, but right away I see my thinking changing. Verse 11 hammers home the point we are dependent on God for everything including our daily bread and thus every day we live is a gift from him.

My study of Matthew 6 reveals that verses 25-34 are set up by verses 19-24.

After Jesus tells his disciples not to store up earthly treasures he says:

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (NASB95)

This verse is sometimes called the treasure principle. What do I treasure most? What I treasure most will direct my life. If my treasure is something other than Jesus then that treasure will dominate my thinking and my emotions.

In verse 24 Jesus gives the example of wealth as a person’s master.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24 (NASB95)

The prior verses (verses 22-23) indicate that which I focus on, think about, worry about is that which will dominate me. Wealth is Jesus’ example and symbolic of  our quest for security. Yet, Jesus makes it quite clear that our love for wealth means it is our master (idol) and not him!

That is a scary thought especially as we realize that idolatry can take other forms.

For example, my love for my wife can be greater than my love for Jesus. I can make her an idol in my worry about her. I can treasure what she means to me and what she has meant to me more than I treasure Jesus and my salvation found in him!

By the same token, I can elevate my son and his family (wife and g’kids) to a position of idolatry.

For example, I worry about the kind of world my grandkids are growing up in-a world that increasingly anti-Christian and anti-gospel. I can treasure them more than I treasure Jesus as I give way to a hundred “what if” type of scenarios in my mind.

In verse 25 Jesus says “for this reason” and that is a reference that goes back to verse 24 about which master will control my thoughts. Will it be some sort of idol or will it be Jesus and Scripture as a whole?

For this reason-don’t worry…because worry accomplishes nothing (vs 27) and it won’t add a single day to my life or my wife’s life or my son and his family’s lives.

Again, God is in control and absolutely sovereign. The only question is whether or not will I trust him even “IF” my wife’s cancer comes back or something happens to my son and his family?

Job, who lost everything including his family told his less than helpful friends, even though he slay me yet do I hope in Him (Job 13:15). How can my attitude be anything less?

As I further study the passage, I come to realize that in my worry I’m not thinking theologically. What I am doing is reacting emotionally to the things I fear; loss of family-indeed an emotional train wreck if I give in.

When Jesus says, “do not worry” I believe this to be a gentle rebuke-a pastoral rebuke from my Savior who loves me and understands my human weaknesses and is sympathetic. (Heb. 4:15)

Jesus wants me to repent from a me-centric view of life to a God-centric view of life. (Matt. 6:33)

Jesus assures me that God will take care of my needs (according to His will, Matt. 6:10 and not necessarily my desires) and then points to my essential problem when I worry-a lack of faith (vs 30b).

When I see Jesus reminding me of my main problem I imagine him looking at me in the eye, perhaps with his hand on my shoulder and as he says I have little faith he encourages me to have more faith in him and our Father in heaven. The only question is, will I hear his voice and listen to his counsel?

In other words, Jesus forces us to look at him in our anxieties. He reminds us that he came to take care of our biggest problem and that he will eventually restore all of creation and reverse the curse that causes cancer and fills the world with every kind of danger.

Jesus is right. My faith is weak. I need to strengthen it. My worries and anxieties are opportunities to do so and the only way I can do that is to train my mind to think theologically when I’m reacting emotionally to the things I fear the most.

Two links to helpful sermons on the subject of worry and anxiety on Sermon Audio:

Jesus’ Remedy for Worry & Anxiety

Treasure & Anxiety

The Proactive Parent

Two weeks ago, in one of my sermons in the series on parenting, I noted the need for a parent to be proactive.  My point was simple, yet not so simple; if you are going to be raising your children as a Christian you must “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  That means you must have a plan.

The command, “bring up,” is a present imperative.   It is not something you relegate to others, but rather; as the parent you take upon yourself.  It is your responsibility.  To shift that blame to others is simply to show that you had no real plan or goal in your parenting.

I came across an article a few weeks ago that I thought was helpful toward this need to be proactive.  It is a secular piece but it is a good one.  It speaks to how one couple began to examine their goal, which was to eat dinner with their children — something that was not actually happening despite good intentions.

To resolve this they began to ask “Five Whys” and the end result was consistent dinners!  They began by identifying the problem, not eating with the kids.  Then they began to ask why.  Here are the Five Whys:

  • Why that [the problem] was true.
  • Why are we getting home so late?
  • Why had we ignored all those tasks?
  • Why were we arriving at work right before our first meetings, rather than earlier in the day?
  • Why were we leaving the house later than we planned?

The key was the first question.  Then all they had to do was be honest and ask the next four questions.

Now to you, the parent.  What are the areas that you are seeing deficiencies in the training and disciplining your children?  Write each problem down and then, over coffee or whatever, start to ask the whys.  You will quickly begin to see where things need to be adjusted and just as quickly you will be able to develop a plan.  Try it!

You can read the whole article here.

Pharaoh or Cyrus? The Cure for Unrighteous Anger & Anxiety

Our pastor one recent Sunday made reference to social media and the presidential primaries of this year.

He pointed out that many evangelical Christians seem to have placed all their hopes on one of the candidates.

His goal was the remind our church that no matter who wins, our hope must be in Christ. No matter who wins the presidential election, we will always be let down because sin-flawed people are running the country.

He also said we need to be good citizens and vote in the primary for the person who best represents our values. In other words we should do what we can, but do not stress over the results of the election. [Read more…]

Impatience-The Respectable Sin

“This is getting annoying” said a woman to a female friend. Both were standing behind me in a lunch line at a training conference we were all attending. Our training track was the advanced one and most of the attendees were certified biblical counselors like me.

The woman was referring to the length of the lunch line and the short distance she and her friend had to travel from their seats to get to the line.

She was also referring to an incident that happened the previous day.

The person giving the announcements had made an honest mistake when dismissing the group for lunch. As a result one lunch line was much longer than the other so one group needed more patience than the other. I happened to be in the shorter line that day so the mistake didn’t affect me in the slightest but it clearly annoyed her given her complaints to her friend.

9781600061400My thought was this gal should know better especially because she was a biblical counselor trained to help people biblically deal with their impatience and short anger fuses, lack of forgiveness and complaining hearts.

On the same day but later, I was supposed to meet my wife at the other campus where she was in a different track with friends. We were supposed to go to a store for something during a break and then get back to the training before the night session started. [Read more…]

Lying Can Be a Good Thing?

“Lying is nothing unusual in small children. In fact, it’s a sign of healthy mental growth.”

So states an article titled Children’s Lies Are a Sign of Cognitive Progress in the Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps the key paragraph is this…

“Child-rearing trends might seem to blow with the wind, but most adults would agree that preschool children who have learned to talk shouldn’t lie. But learning to lie, it turns out, is an important part of learning in general—and something to consider apart from fibbing’s ethical implications. “

The article is written from standpoint of psychology research. The clear drift is that children that lie are more successful in life and lying is a skill–something to consider apart from fibbing’s ethical implications as stated above.

So parents, when little Jimmy or Jenny start lying let’s recognize “the good” and be happy they are well on their way to success in life by learning an important cognitive skill.

Don’t be concerned about ethics, the self-centeredness inherent in lying, the manipulation involved or the victimization of others in lying to get what they want. These are minor concerns compared with the larger picture that your children are learning an important skill in how to read others. [Read more…]

December 25: The Theme of My Song

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Matthew 3:13-17

Though no one could have known all of this at the time, Jesus was the priest who became the sacrifice, the king who took on the form of a servant, the prophet who himself was the Word of God.  He was Immanuel, God with us –Son of God, Son of Man.

But the death and resurrection of Jesus only makes sense through the lens of his birth.  God’s eternal Son, who was present at creation when God made man in his likeness, humbled himself and took on flesh, born in the likeness of man.  The Maker knitted him together in Mary’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully forming each tiny part in the depths of her waters.  God saw his unformed body.  Every day ordained for him was recorded in his Father’s book of life before a single one had come to pass.

dec 25And now he has come.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Excerpt taken from Behold, the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey.  (Pg. 178)

December 24:  The Hearts of Many Revealed

 

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Luke 2:22-35

He worked in the temple because he believed God was near.  He knew God was near.  He knew this because God had visited him, telling him he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And at his age, it would have to be soon.

Then she [Mary] and her husband [Joseph] took up their boy.  It was time to purchase his release with more blood.  As they moved toward the place where he would be redeemed, they passed an old man with searching eyes and purpose in his step.

dec 24Simeon’s joyful hope was in the promise of a glimpse of the Christ, but God had something better in mind.  Simeon actually got to hold him.  This mumbling member of the old guard took this new life into his arms as his words rose to a cry of praise.

…They had brought Jesus to this place to redeem him, but before them stood a man proclaiming that this baby would, in fact, redeem them.

…Jesus would  reveal the hearts of all mankind.  The light of the world would shine in every dark corner of every dark heart, exposing every dark secret.  And this was a world that had grown quite fond of darkness.  It was no surprise that he would be opposed.

Excerpt taken from Behold, the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. (Pg. 168, 170-171)

December 23: One Star Lit for Them

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Matthew 2:1-12

One of the Magi moved forward and produced a purse of gold, laying it at the child’s feet. Another came with a flask of myrrh, then another with a box of frankincense.  Unaware that they were funding a hasty trip to Egypt necessitated by Herod’s paranoia, they gave these gifts for no other reason than to honor the one born King of the Jews.

dec 23He wasn’t even their king.  Israel’s God was not their people’s God.  And yet, they had come because the thought of a God of mercy with healing in his wings awakened in them a desire to be close to the One through whom that healing would flow.  They followed the star, and after countless miles of sojourn, they found the king.

Since the fall of man, God’s promise to redeem and restore has permeated the air and found its way into the lyrics of kings and criminals.  It has been anthem of the helpless, blind, lame, and guilt-ridden—a song of hope in the night, rolling in from some distant country with the trace of a melody known by heart.

…Then all at once, as with the fall of a curtain, the night fell silent, and the audience went back to their homes.  Bethlehem went back to being ordinary town it had been for as long as anyone could remember.

But the world would never be the same.

Excerpt taken from Behold, the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. (Pg. 164-165)

December 22:  Where The Lambs are Kept

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Luke 2:8-15

The shepherd’s life was ironic.  Their job was to care for the animals that would be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people.  Yet because of their handling of these dirty creatures, they themselves were unclean and thus prevented from keeping the ceremonial law.  And because they were ceremonially unclean, they were often regarded as untrustworthy, irreligious, and poor in reputation.

dec 22But why had the glory of all glories appeared to the lowest of the lows?   [Read more…]