Ephesians 4:31 and My Quiet Anger

A few weeks ago I began taking Bible Memorization seriously again. This is actually something I should have done a long time ago, and became convicted about it while reading “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges. He does an excellent job of explaining how the memorization of Scripture helps us apply Scripture to life (or combat specific sin) so it’s a spiritual exercise instead of a mental one.

Reading “The Pursuit of Holiness” along with another book by Bridges “Respectable Sins” helped me realize certain areas of spiritual weakness in my life. One in particular was the sin of what I like to call “quiet anger” which means frustrations in life lead to a few seconds of annoyance [1]. By itself this isn’t a very serious problem…however every time something like that happens (especially if it comes from the same source) that quiet anger grows.

the Lord used Ephesians 4:31 to show me the danger of my quiet anger

Ephesians 4:31 Let all Bitterness (quiet anger) and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speech be put away from you with all malice

the interesting thing about this passage is Paul’s saying all of the violent forms of anger find their source in bitterness. It’s not normal for someone to suddenly display wrath, most of the time it starts as small frustrations.

With the Lords help I’ve begun quoting Ephesians 4:31 to myself whenever that quiet anger arises, and even verbally rebuking this attitude of frustration when it was out of control. I did this because part of me knew someday that habit of putting away quiet anger would be tested…and last Friday was that day.

One of my biggest needs right now is a vehicle so last week I contacted Baptist Mid Missions about getting an electronic transfer of the funds necessary to buy one, and started setting up a bank account in Barrouallie. A lady at the bank helped me figure out what was needed, and then I came with the necessary documents last Friday.

Unfortunately since banks in SVG have been used in the past for money laundering by foreigners the application process took a lot longer than expected. Particularly frustrating was the fact that I had to leave the bank three times in order to have new documents printed at a fellow missionaries house, and then bring them back [2].

Coming to their house the third time I was not in a very good mood to be honest, but that’s when the Holy Spirit brought Ephesians 4:31 to my mind. That truth along with an understanding of God’s Sovereignty [3] helped me remain calm and patient instead of growing in bitterness

I would memorize Scripture as a child to get a badge in Awana’s or a sticker, which is a good thing because God’s Word was hidden in my heart. But today I do it for a much better reason; to make sure when Satan’s temptations come, in the power of Christ I can stand firm.

I am not exactly sure what would have happened if Ephesians 4:31 wasn’t on my mind, but I do know without it I would be one step closer to wrath.

  1. eye rolling, deep sighs, muttering to myself  ↩
  2. new information was needed in addition to the original paperwork  ↩
  3. It was the plan of God that all this happened  ↩

Social Media Shouldn’t Be About My Self-Pity

Image purchased from Fotolia.com
Image purchased from Fotolia.com

Anyone who suffers from confidence issues, or low self-esteem like I do [1] knows what a pity-party is, but allow me to enlighten those of you who are unaware.

A pity party is when someone responds to something they are struggling with (a bad day) in a very dramatic fashion so others pay attention to them and give encouragement (pity).

Growing up I wasn’t able to find self-confidence in the normal ways [2] which made me view myself as someone who wasn’t as important as everyone else or worthless.  Of course this isn’t true, but it was easy to believe sometimes.

To be honest I’m not sure when it happened, but one day a friend hearing me refer to myself as worthless said that I wasn’t, and gave me a compliment. Almost immediately my heart was filled with happiness…and I wanted to feel that way again.

Desiring compliments or encouraging words from others is a very good thing, but soon I began connecting those encouraging words with calling myself worthless, and so a cycle of pity-parties began.

The thing about pity (encouraging words from others because we are hurting) is it brings an almost immediate feeling of happiness. That emotional boost is something a person can quickly become addicted to.

Sadly over time I worked gaining the pity (love) of others down to a science.

  1. By referring to my self as worthless (man I’m so stupid, ugly)
  2. By telling people I can’t do things
  3. By isolating myself from others and looking incredibly sad
  4. By telling people I was okay while making it obvious I wasn’t on purpose
  5. By doing everything in my power to let people know how sad I was

As a teen I would have been the World Heavyweight Champion of Self-Pity, and would have worn the championship belt at all times (to get the pity of others of course).

Thankfully today the Lord has shown me the selfishness of pity-parties that focus only making other people think about my problems [3]. But there is still part of my heart that wants everyone to feel sorry for me when I’m having a bad day.

Yesterday for me was when one of those days when very little seemed to go right.  There weren’t any huge disasters, just a lot of small setbacks, and after the tenth or fifteenth one my emotions had gone from annoyed to furious.

There was a huge temptation for me to just get on Facebook and type “having a bad day” because I knew within minutes friends would send encouraging notes, and pray that things would go better. But I kept myself away from the computer (it was the source of my frustration anyways) and off social-media.

Now please don’t think I’m saying venting on Facebook is wrong because I’m not. Instead this is something I PERSONALLY cannot do since I know the habit of turning to online friends for pity when things go bad is hard for me to break.

Another reason I didn’t vent on Facebook is experience has taught me pity is a poor excuse for true love or acceptance. See there is a difference between someone saying “John your one of the smartest people I know” after hearing me give an english lesson, or saying the same thing after I call myself dumb.

Pity is something forced from people by my own selfish actions, love is something they give of their own free will.

There is one more reason I’ve stepped away from self-pity. Because those bad days and frustrating experiences are part of God’s Will for my life since they show how much I need Him.

So to all of you recovering approval addicts stop running to social-media, and instead run to the loving God who created that craving for approval in the first place.

  1. With the Lords help I’ve been able to find my identity in Christ instead of the things that I do, but as a child this was a huge struggle  ↩
  2. athletic ability, good grades, popularity, etc  ↩
  3. there will be times all of us vent about having a bad day but self-pity is different, it purposely tries to make others feel sorry for you so that immediate feeling of happiness can come  ↩

Social Media Shouldn’t Be About My Stories

Half Marathon Picture

At a young age I learned that God had created me to be an entertainer, or someone who loved to perform in front of crowds [1].

Experiences like that taught me a lesson I have never forgotten…people love to be entertained.

Over the years my method of entertainment changed from class-clown to story-telling or public speaking, but the goal was usually the same.

As an entertainer I wanted to help people forget about their struggles or problems for just a few moments.

My crowning achievement was a dinner theatre in 2003 where I played the part of a used vacuum salesman. Even more than ten years later people still tell me how awesome I was.

Standing on that stage listening to hundreds of people laugh hysterically at my lines was a wonderful moment, but it was also the moment everything started going downhill

See the laughter of others can be an incredibly addictive thing.  So slowly my goal as entertainer changed from making others forget their problems to getting their applause [2].

The birth of social-media is both a blessing and a curse for entertainers.

  1. A blessing because you can reach hundreds of people with a joke or story very quickly
  2. A curse because you crave their applause (more about that tomorrow)

Websites like Facebook eventually became a place where I could entertain people and get their applause. This created the never-ending search for “God stories.”

A God story is one where God did something absolutely amazing, they are often very emotional, and transparent (sharing how the Lord brought us through a personal struggle)

God stories were created to focus our eyes on the Lord (He is our source of strength) but in my case they were doing the exact opposite (focusing eyes on me) [3].

There’s just one problem with that
God stories don’t come every day

In fact as we start using them for our own glory (getting an emotional response from others) God will take His power away from us [4].

The craving for the applause of others (emotional response to my stories) combined with the loss of God stories resulted in my not communicating on social-media at all. Over time this created a belief that all of my updates or posts had to include a God story.

Play this out to the end and you will realize (like I did) that the reality you share online is nothing like the real world.

Only sharing God stories gave the idea that Missions, and the Christian life in particular are just one awesome experience after another with no bad days at all.  Of course nothing could be farther from the truth since life will always include painful experiences.

My greatest fear is that Christians will start following the Lord expecting everything to be awesome because of my stories, and then become discouraged and depressed because of Satan’s attacks.  It’s much better to share what missions really looks like.

The thing is people don’t applaud when we share the random or painful experiences of life, and those stories rarely bring the house down.  Yet those are the posts that prepare people for the real world.

  1. The strange thing is I’m a pretty introverted person by nature (was really shy in High School) but in front of a large crowd I turned into “entertaining John.”  ↩
  2. laughter or other emotional response  ↩
  3. As a Missionary God stories are especially important because you can share them in email or social-media updates and use as a proof the Lord’s blessing is upon your ministry.  ↩
  4. we never lose the presence of God, but if I’m rebelling against Him the Lord obviously won’t bless me  ↩

Why Social Media Shouldn’t Be About Me


As a self-professed lover of technology using websites like Facebook, twitter, and Instagram to communicate with others is a big part of my life.  However this year I’m committing myself to having a very different online presence.

My posts this year will focus on teaching others how to deal with life’s challenges (like my fitness series) or sharing news items that shape the way we view the world instead of just being about me.

I think it’s awesome that sites like Facebook allows us to share thoughts or experiences in seconds, but can’t help but think that great power also gives a great responsibility

  • A responsibility to looks at challenges people face from a Christian worldview
  • A responsibility to make much of the Gospel
  • A responsibility to encourage and uplift others
  • A responsibility to create (produce) something that can help those in need

Instead of this on my Facebook wall I find

  1. Blog posts with stories about me
  2. Pictures from tutoring sessions
  3. Lots of running posts
  4. And anything that I think is funny

Please don’t think I’m saying that sharing things like this on Facebook are wrong, Social media allows us to share the random moments of life, and often those end up being the most awesome…however it did bother me when I realized most of my online presence was self-centered.

This self-centered focus is all about making myself look great (self promotion), or gaining love and encouragement from others through their response to my online posts.  An others-centered focus is all about the needs of others instead of my own desire for approval.

In other words; it’s the difference between using online relationships to make myself feel better, or others feel better.

It soon became apparent things like twitter or Facebook had become a stage from which I entertained people so they would like, comment, or retweet my posts, which of course fed my ego.

The truly frightening thing (and what caused me to change my approach to social media) was a realization that this self-centered attitude online created a self-centered approach to personal relationships.

I become addicted to the applause of others [1]
I become addicted to the approval of others [2]
I become addicted to the pity of others [3]
I become addicted to the glory of others [4]

Focus on this enough and every relationship becomes an opportunity to promote myself instead of helping others.

Yes social media allows others to share moments of life with us (even the randomly awesome ones) and this is wonderful.  But every post can’t be about me because sites like Twitter and Facebook are meant to be about so much more.

  1. Finding those awesome moments or stories to share  ↩
  2. through likes, comments, or retweets online  ↩
  3. fill my need for love or encouragement after frustrating experiences  ↩
  4. Focusing on my accomplishments so that everyone can see me  ↩

Fitness is About Training Partners



A person can put in all of the hard work they want, but without one important ingredient fitness will probably never be achieved.

They must have training partners

In this situation I’m referring to training partners as “individuals who take the fitness journey with you, and provide motivation or help” so you don’t always have to be doing a form of training (exercise) with them.

I’ve covered many of the reasons for partners in this series on fitness but just to review:

  1. We need partners because there will be moments of weakness
  2. We need partners because fitness isn’t just about losing weight (they will help us create a proper balance of exercise and healthy eating)
  3. We need partners because fitness isn’t just about exercise (they will help keep us from buying into the idea that you can eat whatever you want after exercising)
  4. We need partners because fitness is about developing healthy eating habits over time

As I close this series on fitness allow me to share one more reason why we need training partners. They help us approach fitness with a long-term approach.

The picture in this post came after one of my last training runs before the Richmond marathon in November 2014. It was also the most difficult run of my life.

The distance didn’t really bother me since it was only fourteen miles (we ran twenty-four the week before). The issue was running in thirty degree temperatures [1] while it was raining heavily.

For those of you who’ve never done this before, running in the cold isn’t too bad since your body warms up eventually, running the rain is horrible since you can’t get warm in wet clothes.

Today anyone who went on that training run will agree with me about it’s difficulty…of course we embellish a little, so in a year people will probably think we ran in a monsoon 🙂

I can honestly tell you that on my own I wouldn’t have made it one mile on a morning like that, however with training partners by my side I was able to finish (even if it wasn’t very pretty).

At the same time a training partners most important ministry isn’t pushing us farther, but actually making us slow down.

I’m not a very competitive person, but for some reason when running I become very competitive. It’s as if when someone passes me a voice in my head says “hey you can’t let him do that!” so I start speeding up. As you can imagine this creates problems since I’m not able to keep up with the rabbits (faster runners) for more than a short period of time.

To help with this my training partners (the mentor of my training group especially) would constantly tell me to slow down or point out the fact that we were going too fast.

At first this would annoy me but soon I realized he was emphasizing a consistent race run at a good speed instead of sprinting and then having to walk part of it.

In the same way true fitness is a long-term thing (habits we will want to keep for the rest of our lives). So the idea is having a consistent approach that moves slowly instead of going overboard right away.

Most of us (myself included) take a sprinting philosophy to fitness [2] so there needs to be a voice other than our own [3]that tells us to slow down.

You may be frustrated with that voice at first, but that’s okay, you will be very thankful for it later.

  1. we were running around a lake so it actually felt colder  ↩
  2. going on a crash diet, training too hard right away  ↩
  3. it’s easy to think your fit or healthy when you actually aren’t  ↩