Where in The Bible Does God Attend Anger Management Classes?

Editor’s Note: I love to bring in different voices to this blog. Today, you have the privilege of hearing from Seth Clarke. Seth is one of my best friends in the whole wide world. He works on staff at Ekklesia with me and is an excellent Bible student. Also, I don’t think there’s a bigger Disney or Dirk Pitt fan on the planet earth than Seth. Enjoy!  -Kyle

Belief-in-an-Angry-God-Now-Linked-to-Mental-Illness-2I was friends with a guy who got into the Hollywood scene. He originally attended seminary to become a pastor, but decided that Hollywood was the way to go instead. Then one day he tweeted, “Jesus telling people not to cast the first stone would have been cool, if his dad hadn’t told them to do it in the first place.

Unfortunately, this is a viewpoint that many Christians and non-Christians hold. Many think that the God of the Old Testament was angry; He wanted blood! He wanted vengeance!! HE WANTED TO WATCH THE CAST OF JERSEY SHORE BURN!!!…But then came Jesus, the God of the New Testament. He was all about peace, love, harmony, and organic foods.

God the Father had a crew cut, was clean-shaven, and fought in Korea. Jesus rocked the long flowing hair, beard, and listened to Simon and Garfunkel.

Both these views are skewed.

Lets sort out the first problem. God is Jesus. Jesus is God. You cannot separate the two. How do I know? He says so.

  • “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
  • “I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

So if God and Jesus are the same, why are they so different tempered? Did God have a change of heart during the 400 years between the Old Testament and New Testament? Did he attend anger management classes? Did he stop listening to rap music? Yoga?

No.

Understand that God never changes.

  • “For I am The LORD, I do not change.” (Malachi 3:6)
  • “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Also understand that God’s anger in the Old Testament is a righteous anger aimed at evil. It is good. It is just. It is the proverbial Superman to the world’s Voldermort. (Calm down my fellow nerds, it’s just an example.)

And we even see Jesus use this anger.

In John 2:13-22 people were using the temple to sell stuff and make money. Jesus got so angry that he yelled, over turned tables, and whipped people to get out! Can you imagine going to the store when all of a sudden a man starts yelling, knocking things over, then pulls out his Indiana Jones whip to scare people out? That’s scary enough by itself, without the righteous wrath of God!

So if Jesus and God are the same person and never change, then what’s the deal with God’s anger in the Old Testament? I would like to argue that God is actually a very loving God in the Old Testament. He forgives a countless number of times. He loves the people of the world. He wants them to succeed in life. He wants what’s best for them.

You want some examples? I’ll give you some examples.

Here are some in just the first book of The Bible:

  • God gave man the whole world. Literally. “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
  • God told man not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, not because he wanted to tell man what to do, but because he loves us and did not want us to die, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
  • God made woman so that man would not be lonely. (Genesis 2:18-22)
  • God agreed to spare an evil, vile, corrupt city of large population if there were merely ten righteous people in this city. (Genesis 18:23-32)

God demonstrates his love in other books of the Old Testament:

  • God freed the slaves of Egypt, who then complained, turned away from him, and worshiped idols, and he STILL forgave them. (Exodus 1-32)
  • God spared David. A king who had everything, who slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, tried to cover it up which failed, then killed her husband and made it look like an accident to try to cover it up again, then once the husband was dead he took her as his own wife. (2 Samuel 11 – 12:15)
  • God allowed the rich man, Job, to be tested but not killed, and then rewarded him with twice as many riches as he had before. (Job 1-42)
  • God continually offers redemption and grace to a stubborn and rebellious nation of Israel. (Isaiah 43)

But the biggest examples to me that the Old Testament God loves us are found in christophanies. Christophanies are God appearing in the pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Again, if Jesus and God are one, then Jesus existed before he was born in flesh. Christophanies occur in the Old Testament when God wants to appear before man in a physical form. God the Father cannot appear before man, for he told Moses “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Some examples of chistophanies can be found in Genesis 16, 18, 32, and Exodus 3.

So why would God want to appear to us who sin against him daily? Simple. Because he loves us. Because he doesn’t want to abandon us. Because he wants to be with us. He is the Father who wants to be with his children, no matter how badly those children misbehave.

Therefore I would urge anyone who is reading the Old Testament to shift their paradigm and look at who God really is.

A God who loves us.

A God who created us. Not so we could be ruled over and punished, but be cared for and watched over.

A God who ultimately would send his one and only son to be brutally murdered, so our relationship with him could be restored once and for all.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Seth Clarke is a theology student at Calvary Chapel Bible College, musician, movie-buff, husband, and disciple of Christ. He’s currently devising a plan to join the cast of The Avengers but he’ll probably get beat out by Ben Affleck. Follow him on Twitter @Seth_Clarke.

Fool’s Gold

Tucker Stipe is a really great friend of mine (Kyle). We both studied together in the Ekklesia School of Ministry and were co-workers on staff at the church. Tucker’s now chasing after an M.Div. from Knox Seminary in hopes to one day plant a church in Miami, Florida. Some of us are called to bear the cross, others are called to the beach. I have always admired Tucker’s humble honesty in bearing his own soul. He is one of the most authentic people I know and you will see that in his writing. I know you will enjoy what he has to say in this guest post. 

Fool's GoldFool’s gold, everybody has fallen for it… hopefully as a kid and not as an adult. More likely someone is naive when they go down to Mexico and buy a “solid silver” necklace only to find their skin turning green from wearing it. Fake jewelry is so commonplace that no one thinks twice when they see a high school kid walk in with fat “diamonds” in his ears, because we all know he got them at Claire’s. It is the substance of the jewelry that makes the difference, not its outward appearance. Some things are genuine on the outside and yet devoid of that purity at their core which would make them so valuable. Enter case study number one:

The church of Ephesus was a great church with phenomenal leadership at various times in its life. But not all that glitters is gold. Jesus had strong words for this church when He had John write to them in Revelation 2. They were commended for being doctrinally pure, morally pure, and for persevering in their witness, but at their core there was a grave problem. They had forsaken their first love. The text is a bit ambiguous as to what love they had forsaken, their love for God or their love for one another. Perhaps Jesus left it vague for a reason. Jesus Himself, when He walked the earth, said the second greatest commandment was like the first, thus linking the two! Genuine Christian love is impossible without a love for Jesus. It seems this church had lost the sweetness that comes from a heart filled with the Spirit of Christ. The church clearly upheld the truth boldly, but without love the truth is nothing but a club with which to beat thy neighbor with.

I personally feel this tension greatly. I must admit that this would be a sin area in my life that the Lord has been teaching me and growing me in. I have often been so concerned with upholding the truth and remaining morally pure that I have forgotten the love of Christ that must compel the first two pursuits. What I have found is this, as Jesus captivates my heart more and more I have a greater desire to be pure and orthodox and yet my tenderness and kindness with people grows, I have a much greater patience with people because I am so grateful for God’s patience with me. True love cares about more than doctrinal and moral purity; true love cares about the spirit of the individual. And thus true love speaks the truth but with tenderness and care for the whole person, recognizing our own faults.

At times I think highly of my pedigree, which leads me to that prideful condemning spirit. Enter case study number two: Paul the apostle had to come to the point where he realized his resume was not impressive enough (Phil 3). It was not his pedigree that made the difference, it was his “love for Christ” (pardon the paraphrase). When Paul found his “first love” his shiny exterior became of little value to him, he even called it as good as dung! I must point out however that, that did not mean that Paul threw out his “good works,” but it does mean that he no longer put his confidence in them. Their role in his life changed. Rather than trying to uphold the law to perfection, he acknowledged that he never could and relied on the sacrifice of Christ for his salvation and the power of the Spirit for his sanctification.

It is all by the grace of God worked out in our hearts that allows us right relationship with God and one another. We cannot forsake our “first love.” The trouble with this type of sin is we are really bad at seeing it in ourselves. Often like the church in Ephesus we need someone to point it out to us in true love. If you dare, I challenge you to find someone who knows you and is around you a lot, give them permission to be brutally, lovingly honest and ask them if you come across as high-handed, demeaning and condemning as you stand for moral and doctrinal purity. Then be humble and just listen; pray that God would give you eyes to see yourself the way He sees you. Don’t rebut or make excuses, just listen! It is only in real authentic community that you can get this kind of “real talk”.  If you think you don’t have anyone who would be qualified to speak into your life in that way, step one is bearing your soul with some people. This is where I am. Having moved across the country and only being here for about a month I need to bear my soul with brothers. God is asking me to reassess my life for Him and His people and to put no confidence in my flesh, but without a community to help me navigate these things I am sure to end up off track.

My fear is that I would look at myself 40 years from now and see a man jaded by ministry and who has lost his passion for making disciples and seeing lives transformed. If my confidence is in my flesh and my love is centered anywhere other than love for Lord and neighbor, then ministry will become a burden and I will continually be frustrated. Without community this slide is a guarantee, but God has called us into fellowship to guard us from this and to lead us to a pure confidence and love.

Tucker Stipe is a man who is after God’s heart. He longs to see the city of Miami transformed by the gospel. His driving passion is to know his Savior and to make disciples. Tucker blogs at gospelcolumn.com on the gospel, life, family, etc.  You can also follow him on Twitter @tuckstipe.

Expectations and Identity

For a change of pace I thought I would ask my lovely wife, Rebecca, to share something on the blog. Being married to me already is not that easy but add on top of that the task of being a pastor’s wife—Rebecca has her work cut out for her. Here she shares how she handles people’s expectations and where she finds her identity.

As someone who doesn’t enjoy a lot of anonymity at church (and when not known by name, referred to as “Kyle’s wife”) I often face the temptation to take on the burden of my own and others’ expectations of who I should be. The pressure and stress this can cause is not from God. Rather, it can lead to pharisaical mask-wearing that steals the joy of a raw and real relationship with God and other Christians.

When we are burdened by our own expectations it is because we are trying to achieve something in our own strength. To discern where our hearts lie in this area we need to ask ourselves continually, who am I trying to reflect?  Am I trying to create an image rather than reflect His image?

This kind of thinking reveals a discontented heart in the way God made us. Not that we don’t work hard to grow and be more like Christ, but the difference lies in the heart and mentality behind what we are trying to achieve. Are we trying to be perfect, philosophical, funny, or look hip, etc. for our glory? Or are we humbly accepting Christ’s forgiveness for our failures and persevering in this life-long process called sanctification?

When we are focused on meeting the expectations of others a few things happen: One, we begin people-pleasing, pure and simple. Instead of living to please God we choose instead to make an idol of man. This does NOT mean we are not accountable to others or that we should not listen to godly counsel. But again, who are we trying to please?

This kind of mentality leads to surface relationships with the people around you. I have never met a person that longed for surface relationships. As people made in God’s image we desire depth, not platitudes. And to do this requires showing people your heart, your hurt, and even (yes) your sin. We are not perfect. We cannot be perfect in this fallen world. Be we can be raw and real, allowing others to see the process of sanctification in our lives.

God’s expectations for our lives, in comparison to all others, are really quite simple.

We are to follow Him.

This means loving Him, worshiping Him, and obeying Him. Living to promote an image that we have created or that we are trying to live up to in the eyes of others is sin. We have been made in His image, for His purposes, for His glory–quirks and all.

When we try to convince ourselves and our peers that we’re always great, we never make mistakes, we don’t have sorrows and difficult seasons in life, we essentially deny God the glory He is due. We forget that His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Paul, in fact, declares that he will boast all the more in his weaknesses, because it shows how great our God is, that He could redeem and use us sinful, weak people.

Oftentimes our expectations for our lives and others’ expectations are not in line with God’s priorities for our lives according to His Word. We become Perfect Peggy and Susie Smiles-a-lot in the company of others when in reality God would prefer humble, broken, and contrite hearts before Him, because until that day when we see Him face to face sin is a reality. But praise Jesus, we have a gracious Savior. It’s because of Him we can be genuine and have real depth with our God and His people.

Don’t hide. Don’t feel as if you have to put on your good Christian mask as you stroll into church on a Sunday. God cares about our hearts.