Spiritual Life Checkup

by Dale Tedder 

Are you moving on to perfection? That’s a question asked to every ordained clergy person in the United Methodist Church. It’s a question of intent. It’s not asking if you’ve “arrived” but if it’s your intention to move in that direction. Our founder, John Wesley, believed it was important for Christians to be moving toward Christian maturity… toward the very likeness of Christ himself.

This is the time of year when we start thinking about changes we want to make in our lives. That’s natural since we are about to say goodbye to this year and hello to a new one. And, if we have any self-awareness at all, we know there are areas in our lives that, in some cases, need a little fine-tuning and in other cases, need complete renovation.

I recently read an article that said that we’re used to getting “physicals” so that we can determine how our physical health is. But, the author wondered, how often do we get “spirituals” to check out our spiritual health? About eight or nine years ago I put together a little pamphlet that I entitled, “Spiritual Life Checkup.” It consisted of a variety of questions to help folks in our Southside family assess how they were doing in their walk with Christ. It got a good response from those who took advantage of the opportunity of using it.

I thought it might be a good idea to pull that spiritual self-examination out of the archives, dust it off, tweak it a little, and make it available once again. As Minister of Discipleship at Southside, I sincerely want to educate, equip, and encourage you in your faith. I believe this is part of the process that God uses in our lives to move us toward growing in the likeness of Christ – both inwardly and outwardly.

John Wesley said there is no holiness (or Christlikeness) that is not social holiness. In other words, we seek to become more like Christ, not merely for ourselves, but also for the purpose of exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our daily relationships as well as serving and ministering to others.

Please let me know how I may serve you this year. Bible studies? Small groups? One-to-one discipleship? Spiritual direction? Pastoral counseling? I want, with all my heart, to be used of Christ in your lives. If there is any way in which I can help you move toward the likeness of Christ in your own life, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

PS – As soon as the new-and-improved Spiritual Life Checkup pamphlets are ready, we’ll let you know and make them available in the front office.

Grace and Truth,
Pastor Dale

Book Review: Anger & Stress Mangement God’s Way, Part 3

(This is actually an older post, but in the spirit of my new feature on book reviews, I’m “reprinting” it.)

Chapter Three: Learning to Be Good and Angry

Not much commentary on this chapter. Just a few good bullet points to mention…

What does not come naturally is dealing with our anger in a God-honoring way.”
 
1.) “The first aspect of learning to be good and angry is dealing with problems on a regular, daily basis.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
 
When we don’t, “Other things have been added to the original offense, and now [the angry person] is harboring a mountain of anger in [his]
heart
.

The following quote is good for parents or spouses. It’s also good for those in a counseling setting…

Whenever we see a person responding with an unsual amount of emotion and anger to what most people would consider a miniscule thing, we can be sure that person has had much unexpressed anger, simmering under the surface, from prior events. This person’s response to that one problem was really a reaction to that and many other things that he has not yet dalt with because he was not resolving his anger on a regular basis.”
There are only two ways to deal righteously with a conflict that we have with another person.”
  • One we can overlook the offense (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12; 19:11). …It is generally better to reserve confrontation for spiritual issues that are clearly sin issues, issues that will bring reproach on Christ and serious damage to other people.”
  • The second way of dealing with a conflict we have with another person is: When we experience their sin, then, as Matthew 18:15 says, we are to go privately to that person for the purpose of resolving the proglem. The purpose of that meeting should be only for promoting reconciliation and unity, not for criticizing or condemning.”

These two principles should be applied in our relationships with friends or colleagues and they should be implemented in our marrige relationships.”

I think this next point is a very important one.

2.) “The second aspect of learning to be good and angry is understanding that we can control and restrain the expression of anger. If we are Christians, we have the means to control the expression of our anger.

(The whole chapter is worth reading for the two examples Mack gives on pages 45-46)

We can and we do control our anger when the motivation is great. When we fail to control our anger, it’s because we don’t consider the takes high enough.”
In all places, at all times, we must recognize the fact that as Christians indwelt by the Holy spirit we do have the power to control our anger. We must realize that when we fail, it’s by choice.”
3.) “The third aspect of learning to be good and angry is taking time to examine the reasons for our anger. Whenever we start to become angry, we should immediately stop what we’re doing and think about what is happening.
The bottom line reason for much of our sinful anger is related to the fact that we have an agenda and someone or something is standing in the way of our fulfilling that agenda.
4.) The fourth aspect of learng to be good andangry is learning to harness the energy created by our anger.

Another good chapter. I would encourage you read this book. I would also suggest using it to counsel and/or mentor someone who may have an issue with anger. Or, perhaps, use it in a small group. It has many great questions… and digs into Scripture as well.

Blessings,
Dale

Book Review: Anger & Stress Management God’s Way, Part 2

(This is actually an older post, but in the spirit of my new feature on book reviews, I’m “reprinting” it.)

Chapter Two of Mack’s book was also very good (I have a feeling I’m going to keep saying that for each chapter.).

Picking up where he left off in Chapter One, Chapter Two is entitled, When Is Anger Wrong?”. He lists five more circumstances or situations when anger should be considered sinful anger.

1.) “Our anger is sinful when it involves brooding or fretting.” What does he mean by “fretting?” He writes…

Fret is not a word we use much anymore, but it means to constantly think through distressing events in one’s mind while giving those events a negative slant. To put it in the words of Proverbs 30:33, fretting involves churning your displeasure into anger in the same way that milk is churned into butter. It means constantly dwelling on some personal slight, until what started as a small annoyance is built up into an enormous offense.”

Been there… done that. How often have you played and replayed an incident in your mind and by the time you were done, you were fuming… you were much, much angrier than when you first began thinking about it?

He writes, “…every time we play it over in our minds, the recording gets a little louder and a little stronger.” A little bit later on the same page he adds, “Like all sin, over time it begins to control [our] thinking.”

2.) “Our anger is sinful when we keep a running record of how we have been mistreated.”

Mack points out that “1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love does not keep a record of wrongs that have been done to it.”

I wonder how many of us carry around little score cards to keep up with everyone who offends us – each and every time they offend us.

Mack goes on to say that “Keeping a record of wrongs leads quickly to bitterness.”

I believe that this really is a self-destructive behavior. I also believe it leads to pity-parties with a woe-is-me attitude… with conversations with ourselves that sound like this: “Everyone is out to get me. Don’t believe me? Here’s my list.” No good can come from that.

3.) “Our anger is sinful when we pretend that we are not angry.”

Basically, this is an issue of truth-telling vs. lying. But Mack has an interesting take on how this plays out… especially in marriages. He offers the following example and draws out a principle…

Over a period of time [of counseling a woman about a marriage issue] I discover that she is not responding in a biblical way. I know that her husband was responsible before God for what he did to provoke the problem, but I also know that she is responsible before God for prolonging the problem by her unbiblical response. There are some people who provoke trouble, and there are others who prolong trouble. In either case, whether a person is a provoker or a prolonger, that person is sinning.”

He adds…

If someone sins against us, he is wrong; but if we respond sinfully, we are wrong as well. The other person’s sin does not excuse our own.”

Which are you: A Provoker or a Prolonger?

So, how do we act in a responsible manner regarding our anger? Mack shares this good advice…

To control my anger, I must recognize and acknowledge its presence and not play justification or denial games. I must put away lying and speak truth to myself, refusing to use euphemisms that tend to lessen the seriousness of my anger.
“…I must recognize that to be hurt or upset or slightly annoyed is only different in degree from being furious or enraged. I must understand that whether I’m slightly annoyed or infuriated, I’m handling the pressures of life in an ungodly way. Having done that, I find it helpful to go on to say, ‘Lord, you already know that I’m angry for the wrong reasons and being tempted to respond to it and express it in ungodly ways. I’m confessing this to you and to myself. I take full responsibility. Please forgive me and please help me to understand what would be a godly response, and then help me to actually respond in a biblically constructive way.”

4.) “Our anger is sinful when we return evil for evil or attack the person with whom we are angry.”

There are three ways this can happen…

A.) The anger can be expressed verbally.
B.) The anger can be expressed passively.
C.) The anger can be expressed physically.

5.) “Our anger is sinful when we attack or hurt a substitute.”

This basically means that we’re sinning when we take the anger we feel toward one person and unleash it on another person.

Chapter Three is on, “Learning to Be Good and Angry.”

SDG,
Dale

Book Review: Anger & Stress Management God’s Way, Part 1

I just started reading Wayne Mack’s Anger & Stress Management God’s Way. Good reading so far. Wayne Mack is a very fine teacher of biblical counseling and I enjoy how his writing reflects his experience, as not only a counselor, but also as a Christian working through various issues himself. (By the way, you ought to check out his website. Lots of helpful material can be found there.)

(This is actually an older post, but in the spirit of my new feature on book reviews, I’m “reprinting” it.)

Here are a few highlights from the first chapter…

In the first chapter Mack discusses the fact that anger can be righteous or sinful. He makes the point, and I agree, that all too often we claim that our anger is righteous when in reality, it’s not. My observation is that we usually attribute “righteous indignation” to ourselves but seldom give that same benefit of the doubt to anyone else.

Here are a few characteristics of sinful anger that Mack discusses…

  • Our anger is sinful when we become angry for the wrong reasons. (he notes that in many cases these wrong reasons have almost everything to do with selfishness and/or self-centeredness on our part. Very true.) I think that it also has to do with unrealistic expectations on our part. When we think we’re due something, and don’t get it, we can really fly off the handle. Mack calls these “the rights” that we tend to believe we’re entitled to. He gives a long list on pages 17-18 of these “rights”… and asks the reader to identify himself or herself in that list. I showed up too many times to be comfortable. YIKES!
  • Our anger is sinful when we allow our anger to control us. I really agree with the following words… though they condemn me…

“…we usually find it easier to allow the emotion of anger to control us, rather than maintaining control of our anger. How often have we heard someone say (or said it ourselves), “I was so angry, I just couldn’t help myself!”? What is this person saying? In reality, they’re excusing themselves for being out of control, and from the actions that resulted from their anger. They’re claiming no responsibility for what they did because they were at the mercy of their anger.”

  • Our anger is sinful when it becomes the dominant feature of our life. He continues, “If other people’s first impressions of us are that we are touchy, irritable, or easily annoyed, then we may have a problem with sinful anger.”

I’ve only read one chapter thus far, so it may be too early to officially recommend the book. However, I have read many other books by Mack and believe that his books are usually worth the time and effort and, more often than not, yield much fruit in my own life.

Blessings,
Dale