Hating Anger

One of the more disturbing battlefronts of sin in my life is that of anger towards my children.  Those whom I love the dearest can at times be on the receiving end of my worst outbursts.  God knows this special temptation for fathers and their children.  Through the apostle Paul, we are commanded, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).  He has given instruction about children and parents (plural) in verses 1-3.  But he narrows in with this specific challenge to dads (not moms) regarding anger in verse 4.  Why does anger so quickly flare up between dads and their kids? 

John Piper offers some sound instruction on this:

“In Ephesians 6:4, Paul begins by saying that fathers should not do something. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Of all the things Paul could have encouraged fathers not to do, he chooses this one. Amazing. Why this one? Why not, Don’t discourage them? Or pamper them? Or tempt them to covet or lie or steal? Or why not, Don’t abuse them? Or neglect them? Or set a bad example for them? Or manipulate them? Of all the things he could have warned fathers against, why this: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger”?

He doesn’t tell us why. So let me guess from what I know of Scripture and life. I’ll suggest two reasons. First, he warns against provoking anger because anger is the most common emotion of the sinful heart in when it confronts authority. Dad embodies authority. Apart from Christ, the child embodies self-will. And when the two meet, anger flares. A two-year-old throws a tantrum and a teenager slams the door—or worse.

So I think Paul is saying, there is going to be plenty of anger with the best of parenting, so make every effort, without compromising your authority or truth or holiness, to avoid provoking anger. Consciously be there for the child with authority and truth and holiness in ways that try to minimize the response of anger. We’ll come back to how.

The second reason, Paul may focus on not provoking anger in our children is because this emotion devours almost all other good emotions. It deadens the soul. It numbs the heart to joy and gratitude and hope and tenderness and compassion and kindness. So Paul knows that if a dad can help a child not be overcome by anger, he may unlock his heart to a dozen other precious emotions that make worship possible and make relationships sweet.”

He goes on:

“The point I am stressing is this: When Paul says in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,” don’t just stop doing things that provoke anger; start doing things that remove anger—overcome anger. Start doing things that awaken in the heart of a child other wonderful emotions so that they are not devoured by anger—the great emotion eater.

The main task in all this is that you overcome your own anger and replace it with tenderhearted joy. Joy that spills over onto your children. When the mouth of dad is mainly angry, the tender emotions of a child are consumed. In other words, being the kind of father God calls us to be means being the kind of Christian and the kind of husband God calls us to be.”

My pastor, Howard Dial, also wrote some challenging words on anger in his weekly bulletin article.

“A father’s love for his children is to be supernatural and expressed in hundreds of ways. Fathers, God can make it possible for you to be patient beyond yourself by not giving up when your children disappoint you. You won’t reject them or yell at them when they embarrass you in front of others. You will tirelessly answer questions. Fathers with four and five year olds have some special opportunities to show their love toward sons and daughters whose imagination is at its height, who are meeting the challenges of learning to get along with others, and who have boundless energy.

A father’s love is not arrogant. It doesn’t attempt to bully his children into submission by brute force, threats, and the refusal to say I am or “I was wrong, will you forgive me?” Men, we do have a struggle with our pride don’t we? How easily it can get a choke hold on us and keep us from humbling ourselves in repentance and forgiveness.”

I so desperately want to be a kind, tender-hearted, joy-filled, and holy father to Cali, Carson, and Katie.  But unfortunately, I just don’t have it in me.  I can’t do it . . . alone.  By the grace of God at work through the Holy Spirit’s application of the gospel to my life, I can shepherd the hearts of my children in such a way that does not unnecessarily provoke them to anger.  Please pray for me, that “all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander” would be put away from me, “along with all malice.”  That I would be kind to my children, “tender-hearted, forgiving” them, “just as God in Christ also has forgiven” me (Eph. 4:31-32).  May our home be a happy one because Christ is there and His love is experienced and displayed in extraordinary measure through the ordinary happenings of everyday life!

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Triple Dip

This year, June 17 has 3 significant meanings for me–none of which have anything to do with Icelandic National Day.  Most obviously for us Americans, today is Father’s Day.

So, first, I can’t help but be especially grateful to God for my dad on this day.  He has been 070506-15.jpga rock in our family these three decades of my life.  For better or worse (though 90% of the time better), I see him in myself more all the time.  After I make up a silly song for my kids or say some jokingly sarcastic remark, Brook often says, “Okay, Chuck.”  Many of the greatest memories of my life have taken place with my dad.  I pray that God will give us many more wonderful memories together–outings, conversations, and even trials.

Second, this Father’s Day is special to me because it is my 5th one as a dad.  While my kids don’t really recognize the difference of this day over another, today does cause me to think about my children with great joy and proper intrepidation.  The happiness my kids bring me is unmatched.  However, the sobering responsibility I have as a father to bear the image of God to them in a unique way is also very weighty.  As John Piper says, “[Children] ought to see in their human father a reflection—albeit imperfect—of the heavenly Father in his strength and tenderness, in his wrath and mercy, in his exaltation and condescension, in his surpassing wisdom and patient guidance. The task of every human father is to be for his children an image of the Father in heaven.”  Cali, Carson, and Katie, your goofy dad loves you more than you’ll ever know.

img_4946.jpgToday is also significant for a third reason.  On June 17, 1997, after Brook followed a trail of carefully placed clues and gifts, I knelt down on one knee and asked my best friend to marry me.  10 years ago today, I happily offered the rest of my life to the love of my life.  Four days from now will mark the anniversary of when she actually said yes . . . just kidding.  For some reason she didn’t even hesitate.  What a journey the Lord has brought us on in this decade of life together.  So Happy Engagement Anniversary, babe.  I love you very much and never get tired of saying it.

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Seeing Fireflies

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Posted in Humor, Misc., Word Pictures | 7 Comments

Violaters Will Be Persecuted

Several years ago my wife and I made a trip to Chad, Africa with some friends of ours from our time in California.  Our friends, Rob and Vicki Anthony, had served as missionaries in Chad for many years before having to return to the States on account of health issues.  Soon after we met them, God opened the door for them to return to Africa.  In preparation for a move back, they needed to travel to Chad short-term to arrange for housing and do some preparatory logistical work.  So at their invitation, Brook and I decided to join them and explore what missionary life was like in a place like Africa.

The Anthony’s are a very fun couple to travel with.  We had many hilarious happenings during our long travels to and from Chad.  One such humorous memory occurred on our trip back home.  We were on an Air France flight from Paris to LA.  Right from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a miserably long flight (yeah, yeah, I know it still beats traveling by boat like they used to).  We were seated in the very last row of the airplane in the middle section.  At my preference, I had taken an aisle seat (easy escape to toilet). 

Shortly after takeoff we became aware that they were having power difficulties with about a 15-row section of seats on the airplane, which included our row.  So the TV, radio, and lights were in non-working condition.  I thought, “I don’t really want to watch a movie in subtitles anyways.  I’ll read instead.”  But as they started the movie, the announcement came through the PA system asking people in window seats to shut their shades to keep the glare off the television screens.  So I had to put my book away since it caused great eye-strain to read in the low light.  “Fine, I’ll just sleep.”  Not long after trying to doze off, a group of Germans began to congregate at the back of the plane in the aisle next to me.  It was immediately obvious that they had put down several beers before they ever boarded the airplane.  They were smelly, loud, and smelly.  This was in the middle of summer, so sleeveless shirts and sweaty armpits were in order.  The deodorant-less, hairy armpits of my German flight-buddies were right next to my head–men and women mind you.  

As they continued to drink and laugh, they became less stable on their feet.  The lady attempting to stand immediately next to me kept unapologetically falling on me.  Finally, she gave up and just sat slouching on my armrest.  I kept pushing against her with increasing force, but to no avail.  So I sat in 2/3 of my tiny seat leaned over toward my snoozing wife.  Now I can’t watch a movie because the TV doesn’t work; I can’t listen to the radio because it doesn’t work (and this was before the days of the ipod); I can’t read because the light is out of order and the window shades are pulled; I can’t sleep because of the stinky drunk people next to me; and I don’t have anyone who is awake and English-speaking to talk to.  So I basically just sat there, stared, and moaned about how miserable I was.  I know I should have been redeeming the time by praying, singing, meditating on Scripture, or using this minute “trial” as an opportunity to think hard about the REAL sufferings that many Christians are enduring for the gospel’s sake.  Instead, I just threw myself a wicked little self-pity party.

Okay–none of that really has to do with the purpose of this article.  I only give you this background to show why my “funny” memory is actually funny to me.  When you are that tired and everything seems to be going wrong, circumstances that are not normally funny become quite hilarious.

Apparently, there was a Frenchman who could not put the cigarettes away for that length of flight.  In spite of the pre-flight announcement that smoking in the lavatories was “strictly forbidden by law,” somebody was doing it anyway.  So about halfway across the Atlantic, the following announcement began to be repeated continually in French first, and then “translated” into English:  “Please remember that there is to be no smoking in airplane lavatories; Violators will be persecuted.”  I told you, it’s really not that funny; just a French flight attendant mistakenly saying “persecuted” instead of “prosecuted.”  But it was very funny to me at the time.  And whoever was smoking in there apparently wasn’t getting the message, because they kept repeating the message over and over for about an hour.  I just had this picture of some guy exiting the tiny toilet in a cloud of smoke and being faced with people hurling anti-smoking insults at him, spitting on him, spilling their little 6 oz drinks on his smoke-saturated shirt, and tossing rock-hard airplane rolls at his head.

The flight attendants knew there was somebody smoking in the lavatory because a smoke alarm had been set off.  After walking through the CDG airport, I’m pretty sure just the smell off of any passenger’s clothes might set the alarm off.  But smoke alarms work like this I guess:  at a certain level of smoke, something triggers the detector mechanism and the alarm sounds.  There is an acceptable level of smoke, but when that level is exceeded, the alarm goes off.

The Bible says that “all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).  There is an acceptable level of religion in the world.  Religious people are tolerated to a certain degree.  Humanity can peacefully co-exist with a certain measure of Christianity.  They reason, “It is okay for you to go to your church and read your Bible and pray over your food.  What’s good for you is just not what’s good for me.”  But there is a threshold of tolerance–that accepted level of devotion to Christ.  When we cross that accepted level of zeal for Christ and truly lay down our lives in devotion to Him, walk in obedience to His commands, and live with hearts transformed into His likeness, then alarms begin to sound.  And for those who trigger the alarms, the Air France translation holds true:  “Violators will be persecuted!”

So the question I ask in self-evaluation is this:  Does my life emit enough fumes, smoke, and heat to trigger any alarms in the coach cabin of this world?  Is my “Christian life” lived at or below or even well under the acceptable level of zeal for the Lord?  Am I so engrafted into this world and its ways and its thinking that I am no real threat to the pagan culture?  Is my life smelly enough to even be persecutable?

Our church is using Kent Hughes’ book, Set Apart:  Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life, for the summer care group study.  The author is calling the church to reclaim Her distinctiveness in the world and accept the painful costs of that commitment as well as enjoy the lasting fruit.  On the book’s jacket, he writes, “Evangelical Christianity is becoming increasingly worldly.  Materialism, hedonism, violence, sexual misconduct, pluralism, and divorce are becoming as common within the church as without.  As a result the church is losing its distinct identity as a people set apart to reach the world.”  He clearly makes the biblical case that a worldly church cannot impact the world.  We must be distinct.  That distinction, which is salt to a decaying society and light to a dark world, will also bring with it hostility.  The truly and visibly righteous will be persecuted (Matt. 5:10-12). 

So again I ask myself, “Am I persecutable?”  Do my unsaved friends, neighbors, and family members find total comfort and ease around me?  Or is there a right level of animosity, not because of my abrasive personality, but because of the offense of the gospel and its visible display through my good deeds?  May we who love Christ live in such a way as to far surpass the accepted level of devotion to Christ that the culture has established!  When we do, be sure that “violators will be persecuted.”

Posted in Discipleship, Evangelism, Persecution, Travel, Word Pictures | Leave a comment

Thank God for Vultures!

Living on a busy road in semi-rural Georgia like we do, it is pretty common for the lives of white-tailed deer to be snuffed out on our street by the bumpers of fast-moving cars and trucks.  The drivers are left with some costly body damage and the deer are left with fatal body damage.  A few days after the deer have met their end, the decaying processes set in.  Then later as the stench begins to rise into the air, the vultures show up.  I used to complain about these nasty little scavengers.  But with just a little thought about the design and function of these birds, my tune quickly changed. 

My “inspiration” (that’s a stretch) for writing about vultures came from an all-too-typical deer death on Corinth Road.  A nice sized Bambi was hit three days ago a mile down from our house.  Its lifeless body lay there for probably 48 hours before the vultures picked up the putrid scent.  When our family went out for a pizza dinner yesterday evening, 8-10 dirty birds were just beginning their own smorgasbord of venison.  Then not but about 20 hours later, I drove by the crime scene again.  The vultures were still there working on a few scraps, but there were absolutely no visible remnants of that deer.  That is truly amazing to me.  I guarantee our county workers do not dispose of road kill deer that quickly.

God knew what He was doing when He made the vulture.  Their ability to live the grotesque lifestyle they do screams of divine design.  Their entire diet consists of the decaying, disease-filled carcasses of road kill.  What would sicken and possibly kill us by just touching it, these birds eat for their survival and to their satisfaction.  God made the vulture with a stomach that can tolerate the deadly germs and bacteria they ingest.  They kill bacteria like anthrax, cholera, and botulism during the digestion process, eliminating those threats to us.  God made their heads featherless so they are more easily cleaned from the disease-filled blood that gets on them.  He made them to frequently stand on the ground with wings spread out so as to bake the bacteria off their wings and sanitize them with the heat of the sun.  God made the vulture with a very unique sanitation system for its feet called urohydrosis.  Basically, the vulture defecates on its own legs, with the uric acid killing the bacteria it picks up while resting on its rotten food. 

My intention with this is not to gross you out–though I likely have accomplished that for many, including my wife.  I draw attention to the ugly vulture as an example of the intentionality that is evident in God’s creation.  No creature is an accident or the product of chance plus time, but the unique and purpose-filled creation of a God who made all things, great and small, to declare His glory.  So the next time I run by a venue of vultures gorging themselves on a dead deer, I will remember to worship the Lord for His wisdom in creating this bird that protects me from deadly diseases and makes this world a better place.  So please join me in thanking God for vultures.

Posted in Creation, Word Pictures | 3 Comments

Battle in the Bush

I don’t know why I haven’t seen this until now since over 4 million people have already viewed it.  This is pretty amazing.  And don’t worry, no animals were harmed (fatally) in the making of this movie.  If you are a big fan of water buffalos, keep watching for the happy ending.  Thanks, JK, for the head’s up on this.

Posted in Creation, Humor | Leave a comment

Meandering through the Musical Maze, chapter 2

In my last post, I discussed the criteria I use when evaluating potential songs for corporate worship.  Today I want to disclose some of the ministries that most consistently produce music that falls within these criteria.  While I may not be in total agreement on every fine point of doctrine with these folks, they each have a high view of God, the Scriptures, and the Gospel which is seen clearly in the music they write.

Sovereign Grace Music.  The music division of Sovereign Grace Ministries (formerly PDI) is constantly producing gospel-rich, biblically-solid, and culturally relevant music for churches.  Their stated mission is as follows:

“We are committed to developing a biblical understanding of worship, and to producing songs that exalt God’s Word, works, and worthiness.  Because God’s glory is too great to be confined to any one style or culture, we seek to draw from the rich heritage of the past while utilizing the best musical ideas and technology of the present.  Moreover, each song we release is designed to be faithful to Scripture and musically suitable for use within the local church.”

Sovereign Grace Ministries was founded by pastor and author, C.J. Mahaney.  His long-time ministry partner, Bob Kauflin, is the primary worship leader and songwriter featured in their music.  They have done a great service to the church by producing a plethora of rich, Christ-centered music over the last two decades.  Some of their songs that we have used include:  “Not to Us,” “The Gospel Song,” “Before the Throne of God Above,” “Be Praised in All the Earth,” “I Will Glory in My Redeemer,” “Your Great Renown,” as well as re-written versions of “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” and “Fairest Lord Jesus.”

On their website they have many CDs available for purchase and sheet music offered for free download.

Getty Music.  This is the ministry of Irish composers, Keith and Kristyn Getty.  Their mission is “to revive the art of hymnody for a new generation.”  From their website:

“There are two reasons we write modern hymns.  First, it is to help teach the faith.  What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and ultimately how we live, so it’s so important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us.  The second reason is to try and create a more timeless musical style that every generation can sing, a style that relates to the past and the future.”

The 100+ “modern hymns” they have written are a real gift to the church today.  These are the types of songs the church will likely be singing until the Lord returns.  Their music provides that rare combination of well-crafted lyrics and simplicity of melody that gives them their enduring quality.  Some of the songs we have sung include:  “In Christ Alone,” “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” “Speak, O Lord,” “See What a Morning,” “Father, We Have Sinned,” and “Let the Earth Resound.”

Their website has CDs, songbooks, and down-loadable sheet music available for purchase.  Their latest CD, “In Christ Alone,” has been recently made available in many Christian bookstores in the U.S.

Indelible Grace Music.  This is the worship ministry that grew out of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), a college ministry connected to the PCA.  Their main emphasis is on writing contemporary melodies to old hymns.

“Our hope is to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace . . . We want to be a voice calling our generation back to something rich and solid and beyond the fluff and the trendy.  We want to remind God’s people that thinking and worship are not mutually exclusive, and that not everything worth knowing happened in the last three years.  We want to invite the Church to appreciate her heritage without idolizing it.  We want to open up a world of passion and truth and make it more than just an archaic curiosity for the religiously sentimental.”

Songs we use include modern versions of:  “Sovereign Grace O’er Sin Abounding,” “A Debtor to Mercy Alone,” “Whate’re My God Ordains Is Right,” “From the Depths of Woe,” “Jesus, I, My Cross Have Taken,”  “Come Ye Sinners,” and “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”

Their website has some great articles on worship as well as their free downloadable hymnbook.  They also have CDs available for purchase.

Other Resources:

cyberhymnal.organ extensive online database of hymns.  It is searchable by title, tune, topic, composer, or meter.  The audio samples are quite annoying, but there is no comparable “one-stop-shopping” place for hymns out there.  We have found a number of great texts here that we have written updated tunes for.

grassrootsmusic.comhelpful online store to find new and indie artists.  They have many mp3 samples available to hear new groups.

worshipmatters.comBob Kauflin’s weblog on worship.  Great resource for insight and discussion on worship-related issues.

songselect.coma resource from CCLI for churches and worship leaders.  You can search the massive database of registered songs, hear samples, see lyrics, and get chord sheets and lead sheets in the key of your choosing.  This site is comprehensive, and therefore a mixed bag.  Some songs that pop up in searches are ridiculously flawed theologically.  But I have found a number of great tunes here as well.

Grace Hymns topically arranged hymnal of older, biblically-rich texts.  There are no musical scores provided for the hymns, only the meters.  We generally just use a more familiar tune with the same meter or write our own melody for the unknown texts.

Worship Leader Magazine/Song Discoveryvaluable resource to know what is going on in worship leading and song-writing.  Sort of the “Christianity Today” or worship leading.  You won’t agree with too much of what you read, but you at least know what trends are out there.  The Song Discovery CDs contain new worship songs from a variety of sources.  Most don’t fit well within my criteria, but there are those occasional gems on there that pleasantly surprise me.

I certainly don’t limit my song-searching to these resources, they have just proven to be the most consistent suppliers of good congregational worship music.  If you have any other good resources for worship leading I would be very interested to hear of them.

*UPDATE – Reformed Praise is another great modern hymn-writing group.  I became familiar with this ministry a few years ago while the founder, David Ward, was a student at SBTS.  They have since overhauled the website and have made their music more easily accesible.  I had kind of forgotten about Reformed Praise and lost it from my favorites menu when my computer crashed last year.  So thanks for the reminder, Stomps

Posted in Reviews, Worship | 2 Comments