There is a lot of anger in our nation right now. Maybe you’re feeling angry and anxious. How can we get control over our anger? In mid-July I attended a conference for ministers at my alma mater, Great Lakes Christian College. As I headed to Lansing one afternoon to attend the afternoon session of that conference, I heard a story on the radio about an altercation that took place at a Dimondale Quality Dairy store. A 77 year old man started scolding a 43 year old man for not wearing a mask. The store clerk wouldn’t serve him, which made the younger man even angrier, and the guy ended up stabbing the 77 year old man four times because he felt judged and insulted by the older man. He then drove to Grand Ledge where a female officer stopped him. He charged at her with two knives and a screw driver. She yelled at him to stop, and when he didn’t, she shot him. He died at the hospital in Lansing.
In a recent Facebook post by a friend of mine, Shannon Caroland, he shares about a friend of his in Lansing who was carrying two heavy bags of chicken feed, one on each shoulder, when the mask he was wearing began to slip past his nose. Someone 50 feet away started yelling and cussing at him. They followed him into the parking lot and started taking pictures of his car where his wife and toddler were waiting for him.
Whether you’re talking about face masks or riots or politics, people seem beset with anger, and it’s causing a lot of unnecessary harm and danger. I want to encourage us to think about how we talk and interact with each other, because our remarks are often like a ripple effect on a pond. I remember being at the gravel pit one summer day that was on the farm where I grew up. It was a calm day, and I was the only one out there standing on the water’s edge looking over God’s peaceful and tranquil nature. It was beautiful…and so still. Then I threw a small stone into the water, and I was so impressed by the ripple effect that resulted from that one stone entering the water. It wasn’t a big stone. It was little, and yet the water rippled from one edge of the gravel pit to the other like a target that got bigger and bigger.
Our conversations have the same effect. They cause ripples in the world that impact people for either good or bad. It might feel good to make a snarky remark, but like a ripple in the water after a stone is thrown, it leaves an effect. Your words impact people, leading to something that’s beautiful and helpful or leading to something that’s hurtful and maybe even tragic.
James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James sure does give us some wisdom there. Anger can produce a lot of craziness, but not a whole lot of helpfulness if we’re not careful.
As my friend Shannon puts it, maybe we shouldn't stir up the narrative that anti-maskers are just stupid and selfish and need to be put in their place. Maybe we shouldn't stir up the narrative that people who believe in masks are Socialist sheep who want to strip you of freedoms and your rights. Maybe we should remember that everyone is going through their own struggles.
Be kind. Be compassionate. Don't be the cause of the ripple that ends up in tragedy. Let’s get control of our anger by being part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Before I wrote this article for the church newsletter, I had a time of personal devotions, using the little booklet Our Daily Bread as a guide. Even though there is snow on the ground and it is cold outside, I know Spring is around the corner, because the Spring quarter of Our Daily Bread begins in a couple of days. The phrase daily devotions refers to the spiritual discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading in daily devotions can take the form of a structured study using a devotional book or a simple reading of certain passages from the Bible. Some people like to read through the Bible in a year. Prayer in daily devotions can include any or all of the different types of prayer—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession for the needs of others. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions. Others prefer to pray as they read the Word in an interactive manner, listening for God to speak to them through the Bible passages and responding in prayer. Whatever the format of daily devotions, the important thing is that our daily devotions, as the phrase implies, be truly devoted to God and occur daily.
Why is it important to spend time with God in daily devotions? Psalm 36 tells us, I have a message from God in my heart....Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep....How priceless is your unfailing love, O God....For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. If we truly yearn to experience the light of our Lord, we need to be with God every day.
Someone once said, “The gospel brings us to God; devotions keep us close to him.” James wrote, Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8). When believers spend time in their daily devotions, they are seeking to draw close to God’s heart, to understand more about him, to live by his principles, and to hold on to his promises. That is why followers of Jesus will want to find time for daily devotions.
Want some help with devotions? Pick up your free copy of Our Daily Bread in the church entryway, or go to odb.org to have your devotional time digitally.
As we look forward to 2020, the church’s leadership desires to see our ministry theme focus on having a clear vision of what it means to be an intentional church. Throughout the year, in various ways through the preaching, teaching, and serving ministry of CCC, we will look at what it means to be a church that ministers intentionally. Whether we are ministering to preschoolers, children, youth, young adults, older adults, or to our community, the following 6 ideas for our church will be talked about and lived out:
God bless you as you become intentional about connecting people to Jesus and one another,
Ann Landers, a wise lady from yester-year, once gave a list of New Year’s resolutions for her newspaper column. Many people disregard the value of making resolutions, but count me in as one who believes the New Year is a perfect time to reflect on what you desire to do and to be. The Apostle Paul mentioned a goal worth pursuing in 2 Corinthians 5:9 when he says, “We make it our goal to please Him….” Excellent! Let your New Year’s resolution list start there. Here are some other goals worthy of your consideration as suggested by Ann Landers:
Happy New Year and God bless you in 2020,
hould Christians smoke weed? Beginning in December residents of Michigan will be able to legally buy recreational marijuana because 56% of voters approved it in last year’s election. It’s expected to become a multibillion-dollar industry in the state. Medical marijuana dispensaries are already in use, but finding a store in which to purchase recreational marijuana may be more difficult (at least at first) since 79% of Michigan communities (including St. Johns) have banned such businesses from opening. As I was watching the news a couple nights ago, however, they told a story about a new trend at wedding receptions, where in addition to the alcohol bar, now the weed bar is starting to become popular. Offering weed to wedding guests is becoming a trend, apparently.
Some Christians are wondering if they should buy weed. The bigger question is just because it’s legal, is it right or good? People already are allowed to purchase alcohol; pot smokers see weed in the same way. They enjoy it, and as long as they are not hurting anyone, they should be allowed to consume it, despite whatever downsides there are. Many social experts and most law enforcement, however, do not believe recreational weed is going to be good for society, public safety, mental health, family life, kids, and future generations. We don’t know yet the damaging impact a stoner culture is going to have, or how much of a gateway it may become to addictions and worse things as more people smoke it, vape it, eat it, and apply it more frequently and in higher concentrations.
The way I see it is basically the same way as the drinking of alcohol. God says we should not get drunk (1 Cor. 6:10), but nowhere do we read in the Bible that drinking alcohol is forbidden. A Christian may have liberty to drink without getting drunk, but it still may not be wise or beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23), which is why I've chosen not to drink. Science shows that when a person drinks alcohol they lose some measure of self-control, which can open up a person to harmful influences and sinful behaviors. That’s the reason why God doesn’t want us getting drunk.
The Bible tells us to always remain sober-minded and self-controlled (1 Peter 5:8, Titus 2:1-14). Drinking wine in ancient times was recommended in a medicinal way (1 Timothy 5:23), so a case can be made for the appropriate use of medical marijuana. But can a person take a hit without getting high? Isn’t the purpose of recreational use the same as getting drunk? If I were not a Christian, perhaps it wouldn’t matter so much what I did. But as a follower of Jesus—as one who identifies myself by Christ—my purpose isn’t to gratify my sinful desires; rather, it is to glorify God in everything I do. I can’t do that buzzed.
I want to honor God with my body and mind (1 Cor. 6:19-20, Romans 12:1-2). I want to set a good example for others (1 Tim. 4:12), especially children who may be swayed by my influence. I’d rather be filled with the Spirit than filled with intoxicants (Eph. 5:18). I want my joy to come from God, not drugs.
Living an intentional life with you,