July 18, 2019

Dear Friends,

You know who Dr. Bruce Banner is, right? According to legend, Bruce Banner was irradiated by deadly gamma energy while he was supervising the trial of an experimental gamma bomb that he designed for the U.S. Defense Department at a nuclear research facility in New Mexico. While the countdown for a test of the bomb was underway, a teenager wandered onto the testing field. Dr. Banner selflessly rushed to his rescue. After shoving the teenager to safety in a nearby ditch, Dr. Banner was struck full-force by the bomb blast. He survived, but was exposed to the deadly gamma energy.

As a result of his exposure to the Gamma radiation, in times of stress, Dr. Banner is transformed into the living engine of destruction known as The Incredible Hulk.

If you are old enough to have watched the TV show in the late 70’s and early 80’s, you know that what really transformed Dr. Banner into the Hulk was anger. Dr. Banner became Hulk whenever something made him angry. In fact, the famous quote from the TV show was “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

None of us has been irradiated with gamma energy. But that doesn’t keep us from experiencing anger. And in some cases, our anger makes us pretty unlikable too.

What exactly is anger? How do we define it or understand it? Here’s what the Anger Research Consortium of the American Psychiatric Association has to say on the subject:

Anger is a normal emotion with a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation and frustration to rage. It is a reaction to a perceived threat to ourselves, our loved ones, our property, our self-image, or some part of our identity. Anger is a warning bell that tells us that something is wrong.

Anger has three components: Physical and emotional reactions, usually starting with a rush of adrenaline, an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and tightening muscles.

The cognitive experience of anger, or how we perceive and think about what is making us angry. For example, we might think something that happened to us is wrong, unfair, and undeserved, and that fuels our anger.

And then there is our Behavioral response, or the way we express our anger.

There is a wide range of behaviors that signals anger. We may look and sound angry: turn red, raise our voices, clam up, slam doors, storm away, or otherwise signal to others that we are angry. We may also state that we are angry and why, ask for a time-out, request an apology, or ask for something to change.

Everyone experiences anger, and it can be healthy. It can motivate us to stand up for ourselves and correct injustices. When we manage anger well, it prompts us to make positive changes in our lives and situations.

Mismanaged anger, on the other hand, is counterproductive and can be unhealthy. When anger is too intense, out of control, misdirected, and overly aggressive, it can lead to poor decision making and problem solving, create problems with relationships and at work, and can even affect your health.

I think that description is helpful. But I think there’s a something missing in their thinking.

The Anger Research Consortium says that anger is a physical and emotional and cognitive and behavioral issue. And they suggest that the key to dealing with anger is to learn how to manage it.

The Bible takes us deeper than that. The Bible wants us to explore the root issue. What’s going on in our heart when we get angry? Since our behavior is a response to what we are thinking and feeling, the Bible takes us back to the fact that our thinking and feeling emerges from a corrupted heart that is most often controlled by a fundamental commitment to self. And heart that puts self above God and others is always going to produce in us destructive anger.

So instead of trying to learn how to control our anger, we need to see how we can address those root heart issues that lead to corrupted anger in the first place.

John Piper makes this observation about anger. He says “Anger happens. It’s spontaneous. It is not a rational choice. It is an unpremeditated experience. Something happens, and anger rises in our heart. What makes it rise when it does, and with the strength and duration it rises, is a combination of the evil we observe and the condition of our mind and heart.”

Here’s a quick quiz to help you think about anger:

1. Are you someone who “rarely or never gets angry?”
2. Would other people say you have anger issues?
3. How often are you impatient with others? Once or twice a month? Once or twice a week? Every few days? Daily? More than once a day?
4. Do you sometimes yell or raise your voice to get your point across?
5. Have you ever thrown something because you were angry?
6. Have you ever done damage to property because of anger (punched a hole in a wall or kicked something or…)?
7. Do you often find yourself thinking that other people are just a bunch of idiots, and that they just don’t get it?
8. Is anger sinful?
9. Do you have any control over whether you get angry or not?
10. Is it possible to have pure “righteous indignation?”

Art some level, all of us have an “inner Hulk” we have to deal with. The issue is not that we get angry. The issue is that we are sinful human beings who get angry. And when you mix anger and sin together in a human heart, the results can be deadly.

The Bible has a lot to say about how we deal with anger. But let me offer just a few thoughts here.

Tim Keller says all of us should look at the things that make us angriest and ask ourselves these questions: What am I defending? What am I protecting? What am I treasuring here?

Most often, we’ll find that what is causing us to feel angry is a good impulse gone bad – some good thing that has become too important to us, something we’re caring about too much, that we’re trusting in, or that we’re depending on more than we should.

Keller asks, “What is the opposite of anger?” The opposite of anger, he says, is not self-control. It’s humility.

Let me offer a few ideas on how to deal with the anger you may find in your heart.

1. Bring your anger issues into the light. Confess it. Come clean. Stop the cover up. Those closest to you already know you have an issue here. Give up on your strategy of image management and denial. First, admit to yourself that this is an issue in your life. Second, confess to God that you have sinned against Him with your anger. And third, confess to people in your small group or folks you can trust that this is an issue and you need their help and their accountability.

Sin looses its power in the light.

2. Look past your behavior. Look at your heart. What’s going on there? What are the triggers? What are the things you care about too much? What is the hurt you’re trying to protect yourself from?

3. Renew your mind. Hide God’s word in your heart. Do a word search on the word anger in the book of Proverbs. Find verses there to memorize. Memorize James 1:19-20. Memorize Colossians 3:8.

4. Cultivate godly character. You can’t just put off anger. You have to put on godly virtues. Memorize Colossians 3:12, where the Bible tells us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And find a way daily to demonstrate kindness toward the people you’re most often angry with. Do something kind for those people, and watch what God does.

And if you find yourself getting angry because your acts of kindness aren’t being appreciated the way you think they ought to be, do a few more acts of kindness. And rejoice knowing that God is pleased by what you’re doing.

6. Believe the gospel again. The gospel humbles your persistent pride. It’s hard to be angry at others when you’re meditating on God’s love for you in the midst of your own rebellion and sin.

Finally, if anger is an issue, deal with it. Get help. Talk to someone at church. See a counselor. When anger is ignored, it can quickly turn violent or even deadly. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t give the devil and opportunity. Don’t ignore it. Own it. And get some help addressing it.

Our final Summer Kid’s Fest day is next Wednesday morning. Don’t forget to bring crayons and glue sticks. And invite some friends to join you for the last big get together of the summer!

Thanks to all of you who are working on one or more of the transition teams as we prepare for our move to our new church home. Our plans are to make the transition the week of August 19. Our first Sunday in our new building will be August 25. We’ll wrap up our study of 1 John that morning, and begin preparing for our dedication service on Sunday, September 8.

Please continue to pray for all the details of the transition. And pray that God will, by His Spirit, continue to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace as we deal with some of the stressful issues related to the move.

Finally, at the risk of repeating myself, let me just prepare you for something each one of us is likely to experience as we make the move to the new building. You will undoubtedly notice things in the new space that will cause you to think to yourself “that’s not how I would have done that!” Whether it’s a design choice, a color choice, the way something is laid out – there are any number of things you’ll notice that you may find annoying or not to your liking.

Can I encourage you to purpose in your heart to spend time celebrating and thanking God for all the things you are going to love about our new church home, and not to allow your focus to be on the relatively few things you may think should have been done differently? Let’s not allow the devil any opportunity in our move to sow division or bitterness in any of our hearts.

If “God is love”(and 1 John tells us that He is), and if Heaven is a place saturated by His love, where we will spend eternity as perfect persons living with other easy to love perfect people, how should we think about God’s love for us and our love for one another during this brief life now lived among thoroughly IMPERFECT persons (such as ourselves)?

We’ll explore that this week.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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