The Anger Problem You Need To Fight.

The Anger Problem You Need To Fight.

This article will be short, snappy and informative. Its intention isn’t to be engaging, but rather to deliver a weighty amount of truth concisely and directly. My hope and prayers are that after reading it you will take time to think, study and pray about anger and take active steps to tackle it where it is apparent in your life of which I am sure it is.

Anger is done by all of you. It’s not a part of you that is sectioned off and hidden. Anger has the ability to completely dominate your thoughts, behaviour, desires and beliefs. To say ‘I was just a bit angry’ is a fallacy in that your whole body, mind and soul was affected even if for a moment and even if on a minor scale.

Anger can burn hot or it can burn cold and can be everything in between. While you may not scream and shout the cold and freezing effects of your anger may burn stronger than the raging and foaming mouth of a lunatic. Anger is intriguing as it affects every single one of us. Even those who deny its reality in their lives. The difference may be the scale with small minor irritations (a frown, on side and large-scale physiological responses (increased heart rate, clenched fists, violent outbursts etc) on the other hand it may be small scale but deep reactions (bitterness, long period thought cycles, re-running the justifying your rightness and highlighting the opposing parties stupidity/foolishness/selfishness/whatever I would never do _____ etc etc.

Anger is body, soul and minds responses to what it feels is wrong. Where one feels no anger, one feels nothing is wrong with the world. It’s for this reason that anger affects us all. We all feel some things are wrong with the world in one way or another. Some of these thoughts and feeling are justified. Others are not. This is why one can feel angry at a traffic jam even when it has nothing to do with them or they are not the cause of it. To be angry is to be human as to be angry is to have a conscience. Our inbuilt nature that processes what is right and what is wrong. However, like the fall, our anger (underpinned by our ‘judgement system’) has become distorted. As such we can get angry at things, we shouldn’t feel anger over (such as traffic jams). This is not to say that we are incapable of being ‘angry’ over the right things, but rather a point of caution that we must be aware of in order to be ‘righteously angry.’ To not be angry is to see nothing wrong with the world which in a fallen world is a crime in itself

God is angry. The best anger is the best love. God’s anger fell on Jesus even though it was meant to fall on you. God’s anger disarms the power of sin in that he shows mercy to us by sending us the power to defeat sin. God’s anger will deliver us from the pain of others sins. His anger will be poured out on those who chose not to repent. God’s anger serves as a reminder to run the good race and fight the good fight.

Christians have the power to process anger like (see notes below) God, resulting in mercy and forgiveness where injustice has occurred and repentance and deeper faith where we recognise our anger has been unrighteously served (Being angry that we haven’t received the level of respect we think we deserve(entitlement), being upset for not getting what we think we deserve (entitlement again) etc)

The Gospel helps us tackle anger. Like all things the Gospel gives us hope in the area of our lives. Our anger can be reformed not because we have the ability to change but because God has the ability to change you.

Christians can do this by A) seeking more grace from the Lord in our anger and B) Taking our anger apart and putting it back together again.

  1. What is my situation
  2. How do I react?
  3. What are my motives?
  4. What are the consequences?
  5. What is true?
  6. How do I turn to God for help?
  7. How could I respond constructively in this situation?
  8. What are the consequences of faith and obedience?

The little frustrations are often the hardest cases. Not because they are so hard to get over but because they are so commonplace. Someone being inefficient. Poor phone signal. A hard to discern accent over the phone. Late trains. All these commonplace reasons to be angry often lead to complaining. Major sins are only minor sins grown up. Complaining has the same DNA as rage. Everyday anger is a major problem as it leads us to treat others are subhuman/inefficient/ semi being and by that very attitude, we act like a superhuman. This is what God calls pride. Our everyday anger is often about convenience and ease. These two things often being idols in our lives.

Anger at self is commonplace. Anger at self leads to acting in the role of an implacable God of which you set the standards to meet (and fail) OR the aggrieved victim( I’ve failed MYSELF. I’ve brought shame upon MYSELF. The person I should be is… The person the world should see is…) Questions to dismantle this anger include…

  1. What ladder are you climbing? (Are you the judge who’s opinion matters most? Do other people serve are judges?)
  2. Whose ladder are you climbing?
  3. Who can pick you up when you fall?

Anger at God is understandable but unjustifiable as he is God all the time. That’s all I’ll say on this one but just know you are not alone in this one (Jonah is a textbook example)

For more help…

Passages to study

  • James
  • The life of Jesus in the Gospel’s
  • The book of Kings (Idolatry is exposed and broken down really well)

Books to Read (Personal Recommendations)

  • Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation and Bitterness – David Powlison
  • How to Change – Paul Tripp

*I deliberated over the use of this word I prayerfully hope you take time to understand what I mean by this. Like God does not mean after regeneration you will process anger perfectly.)

Me Myself and I

Me Myself and I

Beyoncé’s hit song ‘Me Myself and I’ musically is a masterpiece. From the looped guitar riff to the bass guitar runs and I’ve not even made a start on the vocals…

But the song’s lyrics very early on presented me with a predicament. How does one guard themselves against self-deception? A quick look at scripture, church history and our world today shows we live in a world that vies for our attention and opinions constantly. If you are reading this the likelihood is your social media that brought you here. It can almost feel like living with the radio on. All the time. With the stations changing constantly. As a Christian how do we faithfully turn the volume down?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A ‘tactic’ that we are often told to employ when we feel the encapsulating noise of the radio is to force the volume down. We throw the radio out of the window (but it still plays). We try to break it but soon find out it is unbreakable. We try and put stickers over the speakers but the voices are still clear. Like Beyoncé said ‘My Myself and I it’s all I got in the end it’s what I found out… I know I’ll never disappoint myself.’ While watching Love Island this summer I was intrigued at the constant emphasis to ‘go with your gut…’ (Curtis knows that one went wrong lol)

 ‘You’re born alone you’ll die alone’, ‘There’s no bunk beds in the grave,’ ‘Don’t let anyone change you,’ are all phrases that help us turn the volume down by reminding us of our responsibilities. But my friend Victor once told me ‘Where one belief will save you at a certain stage of life in another it will kill you.’ Backing yourself and yourself only puts you in a position of ultra-determination of your life. Changing the motto to ‘Me Myself and God’ also is not the solution. While it shouts piety, in truth it’s rooted in a deep misunderstanding and often is where self-deception begins. 

Self-deception starts with listening to yourself more. 

Self-deception is the belief in a false idea where opportunities to pursue truth have been neglected, turned down or rejected. While speaking to a Mormon I was intrigued at the deep beliefs he had. His faith in Mormon beliefs was unshakable. Often my faith can feel flabby and prone to wandering. But a theme that I picked up on was the tragedy of listening to yourself and voices and messages and people that affirm you and yourself and those who agree with you. The truth is self-deceived Christians don’t know that they are deceived.

Photo by Riya Kumari on Pexels.com

Christians should run to the strong tower that guards us when we feel the noise is too much (Proverbs 18:10). Note it is the tower that defends us, guards us and keeps us. Not us. And in that strong tower, the Lord often instructs us to go out again into the noise and join with others to amplify his station which broadcasts the good news (Matthew 28:16-20). The God that teaches us that we are to lean into other believers in times of trouble wants us to fellowship with other believers (Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42, Jude 23). It is God that reveals to us that in our original nature we are wrong about him (Ephesians 2, Romans 5, Romans 1). We are in rebellion to the perfect one(Romans 5:3) and as such prove ourselves to be foolish (Romans 1:22, Proverbs 28:26). The poor in spirit who recognise their lack of holiness and lack of wisdom are the ones he pours out his spirit and wisdom (Matthew 5:3, James 1:5,14). To be a Christian, you have to repent and accept that you were in rebellion to God and as such foolish. Every time you confess your sins while saying the Lord’s prayer you ask for forgiveness, for being wrong. Our desires can change as our hearts have transformed from those of stone to those of flesh(Ezekiel 36:26). But what does this mean? Isn’t flesh a negative word in the bible? So does this constant examination still apply in the life of the regenerate? 

Yes (Self-deceived people don’t know they are deceived) 

Depression is something I have waged war with since I was 10 years old. But even as one who struggles with this many who also share this struggle know deep down at the heart of depression is a heart that listens to itself far too much. In my seasons with depression, I have often seen the world for what it truly is. Broken, fallen, and sinful. However, the station playing the good news of hope was muffled for one reason or another.

Frequently when I have faced seasons of spiritual depression people have, with very good intentions, told me subtly or explicitly to listen to myself more. Far too often depression is believed to be as a result of low self-confidence (In most cases this isn’t true but that’s a separate conversation) the world tells us we need to manufacture confidence in ourselves. Achieve more, do more, be seen more, it shouts.   

‘Focus on yourself’ , ‘Put yourself first’ and the like a such, as said above, at times are ‘salvific’, but in seasons of depression it is a rabbit hole that can in tragic cases lead to death (RIP Jarrid Wilson and other CHRISTIANS who have died in ‘sin’ yet will rise in Christ because of His finished work). 

The issue when I struggled with depression wasn’t that I listened to myself too much. The issue was that my beliefs were misordered. Through biblical counselling, I was taught the importance of looking up and out rather than in and in. Upwards to the hope that God alone can give. Out to a world in which I should serve rather than be served. In times of struggle, we can often look to people to our into us, serve us, accommodate for us yet the word commands us to live lives, not for ourselves and count others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). 

Your voice was, is and will always be the first in line when it comes to your decision making. It’s the loudest. The clearest. The most frequent. While my war has often been with depression every Christian’s war is with pride. Pride that is overt in the form of boasting or pride that comes from false humility believing us to be more deserving of what we have (Click here for more https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-kill-my-pride). A pride that places ourselves at the centre of our lives. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). A pride that denies the true response of ‘Lord let this cup pass but if not your will be done.’ (Matthew 26) A pride that ignores the call in Lord’s prayer of may your will be done. (Matthew 6). This advice is in direct opposition to the philosophy of the world. Why would you not put your voice first in line if you’re not at the centre of your world? As mentioned the belief that it’s ‘Me Myself And God’ while it sounds pious fails. Often scriptural promises are given to Christians as a collective. Christians need teachers to teach them how to study God’s word (Proverbs 4:2, 1 Tim 4:14). Christians need other Christians to exhort them. This comes often comes in all shapes and sizes. 

No (Christian freedom) 

Christians are called to persevere and hold fast to the true anchor. So this means holding on to the fact that regenerate people have a new nature fundamentally. A new heart means the ability for a clear conscience. Christians disagree on a lot. Imagine being a church member in Hong Kong right now. Where the Christian church is comprised of police officers, gov officials and protestors on two opposing sides. Christians in America, the U.K and the like feel the same. Civil war feels imminent. Yet Christian freedom is essential to the gospel. Christian freedom prevents the slippery road to legalism which in itself threatens the gospel by adding our subclauses. Christian freedom allows us to love unconditionally. As such because of our blood-bought freedom when we make certain decisions we can make them free of the constraints of doubt or constant external affirmation. A Christian mind, to quote Alaister Begg is not a mind trained to only think on Christian things but to think of everything through a Christian lens. So while often advice in the world has strands of truth, Christians should and must filter everything through the lens of the gospel to prevent following what ‘sounds right’ or is ‘partially right. ’

Because our voices are the loudest our mistakes, failures, and decisions are not usually because we listened to someone else. Rather it’s often because we trusted ourselves too much! Advice and counsel should primarily come through our friends and family. However, God often uses all sorts of people to speak truth to us. The old church member can be advised and encouraged in the world by the new convert. The newly converted apostle Paul rightly exhorted the apostle peter. The man who saw Christ in all his glory at the transfiguration. Pride says I will only listen to my friends and those who I feel comfortable enough to challenge. Humility recognises good counsel and truth comes from an array of sources, sometimes even from people we dislike. So while this is separate to the belief in ‘betting on yourself’ it is challenging the idea of trusting in yourself. To trust in Christ means to eliminate trust in self. This isn’t just in regards to sexual purity as it is often presented but also thoughts and fundamental beliefs that we hold to no matter how strongly we believe in them. Our trust in self is the root of self-deception. Our personal opinions alter over time. By virtue of change it means that we accept that we got things wrong or mistook our former opinions to be true. Whats not to say thats the case now. (As in right now, like now now on something you ‘know you’re right on’)

And so the point is that aim of the Christian is not to put our hands over our ears but rather to filter the voice. Not through a lens of what ‘sounds right’ but through a Godly lens of the word, biblical fellowship, and prayer. Listening to yourself ‘sounds right’ but misses out on the truth that often we don’t know ourselves as much as we know. We have hearts that no man can understand and as such our desires must be on the constant filter mode. We should constantly be adjusting the frequency of what voices we take in knowing that ultimately the perfect frequency is the one of God of which vertebrates through our friends, family and neighbours who come in all different shapes and sizes. 

How to Lament 101

How to Lament 101

Last month I had a breakdown. Physically, Emotionally and Mentally I felt broken and disillusioned with my life. As many who are reading this will know I am currently living in a country in East Asia.

I found myself crying uncontrollably. Weeping with no tears coming out. Screaming inaudibly. Paralysed with fear and crippled with inactivity I felt a strong comfort that I could end this now…

I truly believe God was the only thing that kept me ‘sane’

For a number of reasons, I felt completely disillusioned with being out here. I was utterly consumed with my life and how futile it had become. I live in a building with 39 floors. Next door to my building is 10 others of the same height. Next, to my complex are 100s upon 100s of similar sized manages. To enter Uni, I scan my face (Much like Edna’s famous iris scanner in Incredibles), and then the gate opens.

On a daily basis, I had no peace in my heart that my life was secure. I was convinced, over time, that I wouldn’t return back to the U.K. alive. I had no peace in my mind that others around me were safe either. I excessively checked in on a number of people to make sure they were okay. I excessively noticed every stare and picture. I couldn’t even tell myself that they weren’t looking at me, when the truth was, they were. Being black and male in the country I am currently in makes me stick out like a thumb. I’m above average height and much darker than those around me. 91% of people in the country I am in are of one ethnicity. Ethic minorities here themselves are rare. Black men even rarer.

My consuming thoughts on myself dragged my eyes from what was truly above. Dragged my mind from thinking on things above. Naturally, my behaviour followed suit and I was led into unrepentant prayerlessness, scriptural study and reliance on God. I distracted myself by working hard. I went to Uni from 9-9 but the peace I required couldn’t be found in distraction but only in God. My days could be ruined by a child pointing at me or noticing someone discreetly trying to take a picture of me. With such things being out of my control I felt a strong need to control what I could.

I feel more strongly than ever that Christians need to be a part of a biblically healthy church. If not for my church I say this without caution, I truly believe I could have taken my life. Having men and women who faced much worse forms of persecution take me in and fill me with hope through the word. Disciple me. Care for me. Share my burdens. I was reminded of the need not to ‘pray my situation away.’ Doing so would be returning to the U.K. but instead praying for strength for above to endure all that was going on around me. We do at times in life need to renege on decisions taking. I felt strongly this wasn’t one. Learning how to lament was something that I had never felt a need to do. Learning how to lament was something I needed to learn.

In the bible, there is a whole book dedicated to lamenting (Lamentations). Nearly 70% of the 150 Psalms are ones of lament. Lamenting and crying to the Lord for help in seasons of trouble is not lack of faith but true faith. Faith that regardless of the situations I will not grumble to men, I will not look to sin to fill my feeling of angst (former friends of mine in this area include masturbation, laziness and self-pity, ones I’ve noticed in my friends include overworking themselves to distract from painful experiences, turning to gossip, and disobedience in church attendance, all of which are for JUST reasons, pain is hard thing to navigate), but instead I will turn to the Lord in the ways he has commanded me to.

Through my struggle I learnt to…

Cast my anxieties onto him knowing he cares(1 Peter 5:7).

Not allow excessive anxiousness (Read last blog post on why fear in and of itself is not a bad thing) knowing he will provide all I need in more (Matthew 6).

Trust that regardless of what happens where I am, whether I lose my visa, whether I am questioned, whether I am imprisoned, I can trust that God is a God that never lies. (Numbers 23:19) That I am facing no persecution worse than Jesus did (His suffering was unrighteous mine isn’t) and that in suffering now, and in doing so well I am fulfilling the gospel (Romans 8:17, 1 Peter 4:15-16).

Learning to lament and admit your weakness is hard, but it is truly biblical.

Here are a few places to turn to help you start.

  1. Admit your need to pray and don’t disobey clear biblical instruction to do so.
    As someone who wasn’t raised in a praying household, prayer is not something that comes easy to me. Often, I have only prayed when I felt like it, preferring to study my word. However biblically Christians are directly commanded to pray and to pray often. Christians are commanded to pray through times of suffering. To pray always. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.” Admit you disobedience and turn to God when anxious and afraid.
  2. Pray through scripture.
    Learning to pray through scripture transformed my prayer life. Instead of my prayers becoming ‘restricted’ as I thought they may be. They became tangible, honest and imaginative. Click here to watch a short video on how and why you should.
  3. Seek others
    For many, this can be hard. But within a healthy biblical church, there will be others, in particular, older men and women who have experienced anxiety in a variety of ways. They may still be struggling with it but in discussing your pain with them you kill the feeling of isolation that often accompanies anxiety. Praying through scripture (in particular the Psalms) shows believer how emotive the Christian life can and should be in particular seasons. This world is truly fallen and broken. Soberness about the realities of life should humble us and turn us to the Lord.
  4. Repeat.
    Results aren’t instant. It is likely I will not shake off the anxiety I feel with being here. But through God, I feel equipped, hopeful, and able to endure this season regardless of what may come. Perseverance is not a beautiful image. Sweat, blood and tears are all things Jesus himself endured. He suffered from hematohidrosis, a medical condition in which anxiety causes sweating blood (Luke 22:44). To receive a peace that surpasses all understanding may require perseverance, petition and endurance in prayer and faithfulness. For others, it may be bestowed instantly. God is sovereign in this area. But in the area of prayer, we bear the responsibility to do so and to do so biblically.

Grace, Peace and Love,

Akwasi

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 1

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 1

Fear is good. Fear is what makes you look twice when you cross the road. Fear is what drives you to re-read essays, fear is what makes you go to the doctors for a health check. However, we can all think of one situation where our healthy fears and anxieties crossed this healthy threshold and began controlling us. And uncontrolled fear is where the article is centred.

Xenophobia (The fear of the unknown) is a common example of a fear gone wrong. A fear that in and of itself is healthy and understandable. Knowing what is coming in situations allows us as humans to plan, make strategic decisions and minimise potential dangers. However, as we see in cases such as immigration people’s fears that start off as healthy grow into ravaging beasts that cease control of their minds giving loose to puppies of destruction often named Irrational, Delusional, and Selfish.

Many of our fears are rooted in real life situations that genuinely hurt us or affected us negatively. I think back to the school of friends I know who failed tests in Year 9. Often, they themselves refer back to these moments as to where they turned their educational careers around. Their fear of not applying themselves is a healthy fear that they still carry, and they allow to control their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. However, cases like these should also carry a large yellow warning sign. Often this fear (fear of failure) can drive them to unhealthy anxiety, fear of feeling worthless if good grades aren’t attained, and attaching their worth to their grades and the like. Having a healthy control of our fears is imperative.

Take the young teenage boy who is cheated on by his first love. His fear of being hurt like that again is justified, even should be advised. Relationships have a tendency to hurt us if we don’t establish healthy physical, spiritual and emotional barriers in place. Nonetheless, he too has a responsibility to manage his fears. Fear cannot allow him to view a whole sex in the same light. Fear cannot allow him to become selfish and self-absorbed on his ‘happiness’ or ‘self-growth.’ He cannot afford to allow his fear of being hurt to control his future relationships negatively by shutting down at the sniff of instability. He cannot afford to let fear control him. Doing so will prevent him from living a life as he is called too by scripture.

As someone who has struggled with self-confidence in many stages of my life looking to address my fears wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to do nor felt the need to. I had seen the effects of an unhealthy focus on past traumas and the like. There is a fine line between expressing trauma to help one understand and cope with present realities and constantly reliving past situations starving yourself of the oxygen of hope.

Sin is deceiving. Sin blindsides us most of all in the areas of our fears. Fear blinded Eve in the garden (Fear of missing out or FOMO) (Gen 3:5). Fear led to Saul disliking David. Fear of man led to Peter denying Jesus. Our fears can often be repacked by the devil as noble acts. All the men and listed above either believed their actions were noble or denied they would allow such a fear to control them. And thus, is a key point to take away. Identifying, knowing and dealing with your fears biblically is imperative in one’s mortification of indwelling sin.

Through the work of the spirit attacking unhealthy fears that distort correct views of God, ourselves and others are crucial. Without assigning truths to our fears we live in false delusions of our righteousness and correct decisions, many of which have been driven by our fears. We have to be aware of our propensity to let our fears snowball out of control. Often the fear of not getting what we desire leads to us either sinning to get it or sinning when we don’t get it.

Read part 2 on how the gospel plays a transforming role in how we address our fears and anxieties.

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

I write this today as realised its ‘Uncle Phil Day’

My dad left on the day of my first-grade graduation. I remember his car rolling out the drive and down the road with eager anticipation of seeing him tomorrow. As the minutes, rolled into days, and the days into months and the months into years many questions came and went. How will I learn to shave? Youtube. Who will I go to for male advice? My Uncle. Who will teach me to be a man? Myself. But one question has always lingered and I suspect will always linger. Why doesn’t he want me?

Separations and Divorce cases are complicated, but for many, like me, who have little to no communication with their birth parents the pain of this human abandonment is a lingering pain that is like a perpetual wound. Opening and closing. More and more callous with each wound. More and more battle-hardened by each reminder. Many deal with this pain in different ways. The world offers many solutions. Alcohol, Sex, Toxic independence, Toxic Co-dependency, Unhealthy work habits, food, Money, Isolation, Wanderlust all are traditional cures to the pain that human abandonment can cause.

Often our feelings of isolation play out in different ways in our personalities. I’m usually (My time away from home has mellowed me slightly) extremely extroverted. I find joy in spending time with others. Being surrounded by others in the past helped me mute the feelings of not being enough and feeling worthless. My sister is the opposite. Introverted and shy she finds pleasure in her own room with a small tight-knit group of people. Untrusting, beady-eyed and careful.

While in some areas of our lives God sanctifies us quickly in others he chooses to do so slowly. This painful acceptance and the long procedure is designed and fashioned to help us be transformed into his image. The pain is by no means meaningless. Humans have always been designed to live in a community it is after all to the man that God said it was not good for him to be alone. However, as time has gone on I have grown to realise that no amount of friends. No circle wide enough will fill the void of pain that I feel. The importance of turning our pain to God is a clear theme throughout the holy scriptures. The Psalmists teach us to lament to the God of our salvation (Psalm 51, 88 etc), Christ teaches us to cast our burdens onto him (Matthew 11:28-30). The apostles teach us to turn to him and pray to him in our anxiousness(1 Peter 5:7). Why?

As pain is fashioned and designed and solved by one being and one being alone and that is Christ. Turning your eyes to him in your pain. Facing him in the fire and knowing he has never abandoned you is where true faith and obedience is shown. Believing that this is a road you are on alone is a lie that many of us love to believe. Timothy was notably ‘fatherless.’ Many biblical fathers are fathers many of us would rather not have. Feelings of abandonment in Christ are purely that, feelings, as the reality is our union with Christ which is unbreakable and permanent.

Accept the realities of being abandoned in this world but never forget the truth of the union in this world and in the next. Thank God for his sovereign election and take joy in the means of grace God provides in the church through older men.

Older men have been a true blessing to me. Especially in my time here. Men who have taken me under their wing. Check in on on my pain and care for my needs even though they have earthly sons and daughters of their own. This is the blessing that God has provided to me through his gift of the church.

Blessings peace and love,

Akwasi

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

The Culture Shock Diaries #004

Shame, Shame, Shame

Everyone has to tackle shame in one way or another but the gospel truly deals with our shame in a way that the world can not.

Mary Willson’s workshop on shame and discussing this issue this with a few spiritually older and mature men was especially helpful in forming and working through the importance of processing shame in a biblical and gospel centred fashion.

My biggest struggle with sin comes in the form of dealing with the shame of failing or ‘losing face’. This always involves falling short of a standard sometimes biblical but often man centred. At times this has led me to deep deep despair. Even of life itself at times. Sometimes this would even promote further cyclical failings as I tried, unsuccessfully, to right my wrongs on my terms and not biblical terms (Sometimes the best thing you can do is do nothing). Many of us place and create standards for ourselves but often these can be “unrealistic and crippling” in the words of Mary Willson.

Mary discussed how her ‘unrealistic model’ was aiming to be the person who could ‘remember everyone’s names’ with ease. For me, it was being the friend you could always call on. Moving abroad forces you to face your shortcomings in one way or another usually quicker than if you had been in your comfort zone. For me failing to answer a friend’s phone call felt like a major major failure. Even when one would call me in the middle of the night (time difference issues) I would answer in fear of losing face. Failing to live up to my own standard created in me false justifications. Failing to answer meant I could mean missing a distress call, a sickness alert, a death. Failing to answer meant failing to care for those nearest and dearest which meant failing to love my neighbour as myself.

As you can see, man-centred, unrealistic standards, often lead to quiet idols which we start to equate with our level of piousness. For me, this led to increasing fear and isolation and me feeling isolated when I subconsciously pinned my standards onto others and they failed to meet my created standard.

The gospel answers this call to shame. Our feelings of shame point to the cross. They point to how we truly are fragile beings. Reset by David Murray reminded me of this principle again. We cannot do anything and everything. We have limitations. We are designed to sleep, eat and rest. Total reliability cannot be expected of any of us.

I will leave you with 5 bible focused ways that may help you deal with shame. But the real answer to all feelings of shame (self-inflicted or man inflicted) is the same. The gospel.

  1. Come out of hiding – Bring what we want to hide into the light starting with God and ending with those that are relevant (Close friends and mentors and sometimes medical professionals. To me this looked like talking to old friends and speaking with elders at my church and wise older men)
  2. Put your feelings of shame to work – Identify the feelings of your shame – Are they God honouring or self-created unrealistic standards? Have you failed on an exam you worked hard on? Or do you feel shame for lying to others about the poor grade?
  3. If your shame comes from failing biblically, repent and trust in God’s full acceptance of you in Christ – God is scandalously patient with us. He initiates salvation. He finishes it. We play no part in it, yet often we act as if it is our responsibility to work for it and not work it out with his spirit working through us (Phil 2:12-13). This requires, constant daily, work. Focus on the means of grace.
  4. If your shame comes from failing in the eyes of others turn that shame away from man centred approval and towards God – God has a way of turning our man felt shame away from man’s criticism towards God’s word. Fix and deal with any effects of your shame primarily vertically with God but then horizontally with others. In the words of an elder at my church, he told me of how often ‘time is needed’ when he has broken his wife’s trust. While it is uncomfortable being reminded of the effects of your sin, use this to fix your eyes again on how gracious God is in forgiving and reconciling you to himself. This should trump any feelings of guilt/lack of reconciliation with others.
  5. Set Christ as your model for honour – ‘https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+34%3A4-5&version=ESV’
The Culture Shock Diaries #002

The Culture Shock Diaries #002

When Will You Come for Your Daughters and Sons?

Kim Burrell
When – Kirk Franklin, Kim Burrell, Lalah Hathaway

One of the biggest lessons my time in China has taught me has been the meaning of living as an exile”. An exile is “one removed from his or her homeland for a reason.

As a Christian while the Glory of God is on display to us all around us (Romans 1:20), so too are reminders of how fallen and decrepit and broken this world is. Death, illness and hope deferred are all daily reminders of the sadness that a life on earth is accompanied with.

And this is why Solomon reminds us that is better to go to a funeral than a feast. Good times are signs of God’s glory. Bad times are signs of our perpetual thirst for his grace. A thirst that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns. But the question that is left is what about now?

Life as an exile on earth is first a recognition of where home lies (Heaven), and then a desire to live appropriately for the given season. Moving from the U.K. to China for me meant leaving behind friends, family, comforts, dreams and many more things. It meant leaving behind everything that I knew and that was precious to me. But it also afforded me an opportunity. A chance to strip away everything my faith had relied on before, and be met face to face with myself and my depravity and thus my ever increasing need for a saviour (This is coming in #003).

Being black in Asia carries extreme perpetual reminders of how far from home (England) I am. I don’t have an oven, I’m stared at perpetually, I can’t read everything I see (Which for a know-it-all can be quite distressing). At times I have found it much easier to sit indoors than face the fanfare, pictures, and whispers that may come from me taking a stroll around the block. But this, while a painful lesson to learn like all afflictions, it points to much bigger narrative.

Daniel is the clearest biblical display of what being a model exile looks like. For lack of time I can’t go into his story today but the bible project has a great video him which you can check out here.

The ‘pain’ of exile in China has reminded me of the real pain that I should feel about being removed from heaven. At times, I have let this feeling of isolation speak to me too me too much. I have desired at times to go home on my own terms. I have also gone the other way, desiring to feel my void of emptiness my the pleasures of the world and through human relationships. But like all idols they crack under the pressure of a weight they were not meant to carry. I have had to learn to rely on God more than I have ever ‘needed’ (I say needed as I have always needed him).

David Murray’s Reset has been of great help to me. I initially started reading it to help a friend who mentioned they had anxiety. Unfortunately for me and my ego I realised it was I who was in desperate need of the book instead. He talks about how he was hospitalised through stress, not once but twice. I will talk on this book much more once I have finished reading it but for all my fellow exiles what is important to remember that in all our trails and afflictions on earth (2 Cor 1:3-7), we are truly called respond like Job.

A) He knows where we are ‘But he knows the way that I take’ (Job 23:10a)

B) He knows what he is doing ‘When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.’ (Job 23:10b)

How married can you be?

How married can you be?

 

He met her when he was 16. After first glance, he knew she was the one for him. She had bright eyes, she had smooth skin, she was soft spoken. He liked the way she treasured God above all else. She experienced similar feelings. He had a chiselled jaw, he was funny, and he had a heart that cherished God and his Word. All the things she had imagined in a life partner.

 

10 years later they are in Paris. In front of the Eiffel tower, he slows down. She looks behind. He goes down on one knee. A ring is produced. A kiss seals the deal.

 

20 years after they first met they’re both 36. Together they overcame the ‘one year hump.’ A miscarriage they battled through together. Parental support? Six feet deep. Breast cancer had come and gone. But through all their issues, they remembered their vows. He remembered the wife of his youth. Daily, she was reminded that he tried to love her as Christ loved the church. Insecurity and lies from the deceiver always loomed over the horizon for them. But God had kept them as he had promised to. ‘What therefore God has joined together let no man separate’ (Mark 10:9) was the caption to the wedding kiss picture that featured on the mantle piece, above the fireplace.

 

Tired he sits in his car. Work, troublesome teens, and an aching back have taken its toll on the now 45-year-old man. He knows what waits for him inside is not going to fill him with happiness. A wife on the bottle is not what he pictured all those years ago. Previously he has walked into wet soaked bed sheets, broken glass on the floor and pyramids of bottles at the door. The times where the neighbours would knock to say his wife has fallen drunk in the street had passed. Now he fears her committing suicide in a drunken haze. Recently she seemed to have forgotten the part where she promised to ‘love and cherish him.’ He prays and cries out to God to give him strength while he locks his car.

 

Are they more or less married?

 

Impossible question? Poorly defined? The truth is that marriage is an unbreakable position, from a Christian perspective, only sexual immorality can break it. Sin makes us question the relationship we have with God. Sin prevents us from seeing God clearly (Matthew 5:8). Sin is the issue. But it doesn’t change the facts of the relationship we have with him. He saves Christians by grace and grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). He keeps Christians until the final day (Philippians 1:6). Christians love him because he first loved them. (1 John 4:19). He saves Christians while they are enemies to him (Romans 5:10). Those he justifies he glorifies (Romans 8:30). When a Christian becomes born again the promised Holy Spirit enters him or her (Ephesians 1:13-14).

 

“You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory”

 

When a Christian becomes born again, the heart that is ‘wicked above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9), is removed, yanked out, and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Much like the married couple saying their vows all those years ago, as Christians, God took us into an irreversible realm when he placed his spirit in us. For a Christians to lose their salvation God would have to take back the gift he gave us (Ephesians 2:8-9). He would have to remove the mark, take back the Holy Spirit, cancel his deposit, revoke the guarantee, overlook the inheritance and lessen his glory. The bible and scripture are clear. A Born again Christian cannot lose their salvation. The prodigal son is kept on return.

 

However, many often challenge this truth. ‘What about those who continue to bask and live in sin?’ ‘What happens to those Christians who stop following Jesus?’ ‘What happens to those who walk away from Jesus?’ These are often questions that believers have when it comes to this topic. But we must accept the realities in this situation. Not all that wear the badge of ‘Christian’ live up to the definition of Christian that scripture provides. A Christian isn’t one who attends Church. Or one who was baptised at birth. A Christian is one who fully accepts Jesus as the only Saviour for their sins and thus possesses the Holy Spirit. (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). So when confronted with the questions aforementioned maybe its wise to consider this question. ‘Were they really saved in the first place?’ John said in his 1st Epistle ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.’

adult affection baby casual
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our hope for the married couple will always be that they reconcile and remember their vows. That he holds fast to look after her in sickness and in health. And she works to love him as the bible commands. But the reality is that the vows they took all those years ago are not changed by their present circumstances. The same way that Christians do not ‘lose their salvation’ due to isolated acts of sin. Marriage in a Christian sense is sealed by vows. To perpetually break them would indicate maybe one didn’t mean them when he or she said them. God for God secures salvation. He is not a man or woman, he will not turn back the good work he has started in you as he is working for his glory not yours.

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 2

Fear, Anxiety and the Gospel Part 2

If you haven’t read part one this will not make that much sense make sure to check out part one here!

As touched upon earlier, our fears play a key role in our sanctification and growth. Without a healthy sense of fear it is near impossible to have a healthy work effect. The book of proverbs is filled with warnings and instructions that are to push us from pride and too repentance and wisdom.

But as mentioned an unhealthy sense of fear does the opposite. Instead of pushing us towards holiness it drives us the other way. Fear causes anxiety. Fear causes dreams to end before they start. Fear kills.

Let’s take the example of a man named Ben fearing isolation and work through some steps biblically he should take to challenge such a fear.

  1. Accept and decipher that this is a fear.

Isolation is a scary reality. Human beings are said to start hallucinating after 48hrs of with no social communication. Yet the Gospel in itself can be an isolator. Isolation from certain social activities and so on. Accepting the fear of isolation will allow one to…   

2. Process through your thoughts, feeling and behaviours surrounding how severe an issue your fears are.

Fear of isolation may leave Ben unable to be alone. Fear of isolation may cause Ben to work hard. However what fear of isolation cannot do is take control of him and his personhood. As mentioned, we must be aware of how we react when our fears a) lead us to sin to attain what we want or b) cause us to sin when we don’t get it. Taking into account how fear affects our decisions is pivotal.

3. Process our thoughts about God, ourselves and others and bring them under to leash of God’s word through the holy spirit.

Being alone is a reality of some stages of human life. Countless numbers of David’s Psalms talk of how alone he feels. The pain of being alone, failed expectations and confusion is not something that God is unaware of. But what is beautiful about the Psalms and something we should emulate is the need to direct our fears vertically. In addition, we need to train our minds to process fearful thoughts biblically. Such as… I am afraid but God is sovereign and to live is Christ and to die is gain. Biblical verse memorisation is key in this area.

4. Look for signs of growth rather than overnight quick fixes.

God has chosen for progressive sanctification to be exactly that. While we should never have a mindset of powerlessness to sin. And one of optimism and joy. With time comes maturity and understanding that God is the grower of our spiritual fruit and he grows us at a rate in accordance to his will. Confirm your election through the means of grace he provides, mainly, a local church and stay sober minded and hopeful that in time a day will come where sin will be not be a thing.

The Culture Shock Diaries #005 – Dealing with Dark Times

The Culture Shock Diaries #005 – Dealing with Dark Times

‘I have learnt much more about the grace of God in times of darkness than in times of prosperity’ – Tim Keller

I feel this blog will slowly move into a reflections/review/thoughts page of a lot to the Christian material that I tend to consume in certain periods. Currently times are 马马虎虎 (google it). But as Tim and many others have made a point of and reminded me of is that we learn far more about God’s grace in periods of struggle and pain than in abundance and riches.

I am a firm believer that Christians can go through long long seasons of darkness, sadness and confusion. It could even be argued that it is inevitable. Being an exile in a foreign home can be disorientating. Death and injustice is the marker of this world. Even within the church, tensions lead to lack of unity and reconciliation can often look untenable (and sometimes it isn’t until Christ returns’

Jesus was truly abandoned so those who put their trust in him will only ever feel abandoned.

On the cross Jesus became a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13). For our sin he became sin, by absorbing the wrath of the father, that should have been poured on us (2 Cor 5:21). He forsook all he had ever known in order to become the propitiation for the sins we committed (Romans 3:23,25). His real isolation from the father and spirit, brought us into right standing with God and into union with him (Romans 8:1, 1 Peter 3:18). While many believers and Christians feel isolation (Psalm 22), it is, and will always be a false illusion and misrepresentation of the truth of a God who will ‘never leave us nor forsake us’ (Hebrews 13:5, John 14:6)

Not all dark times are meant to ‘go away’ many are designed to sanctify you.

Accepting that dark times are meant to form you, not break you, while being hard to accept, is a real and true reality of life. Lost relatives, failed job applications and long term decisions ‘gone wrong’ are all things outside of our control. Things we are unable to change. Things that remind of us God’s sovereignty, even in times of strife. Dark times allow us to lament. Dark times allow us to learn about God’s grace clearer than in sunny times. Dark times teach us the importance of finding our joy in Christ and Christ alone.

Turn to God in your complaints

Tim Keller has an amazing sermon on this topic. In his look at Psalm 88, one of 2 Psalms where the Psalmist only speaks of his sadness, Keller wisely points out how the Psalmists complaint is to God, and this is where our complaints must find a home. In God and God alone. This proves our belief that he is the one that cares. He is the one who listens to our prayers. He is the one that has the power to, if in his will, to turn our situation around.

Grace, Peace and Love

Akwasi