The Danger of Anger

Numbers 20:1-13

The potential for anger to destroy our plans and dreams comes through very clearly in the above story. God gave Moses straightforward instructions about how to call water from a rock for the thirsty Israelites. Instead, in his frustration, Moses whacked the rock twice with his staff, making a self-righteous declaration in the process.

God provided the life-giving water anyway, but Moses’ harsh action cost him the opportunity to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Moses had reasons to be angry. The people were stubborn and ungrateful, and no doubt he grew tired, listening to their complaints day after day. Today, we might say he needed to vent.

Such emotions cannot get the better of us, however. It is an easy thing for anger to cause us to focus on our baser desires (“I’ll show them”) rather than God’s plan, and in such moments we make ourselves into idols.

If I’m preaching right now, I’m preaching to myself more than anyone else. I know how my own self-righteous anger can distract and confuse me, particularly if I’m tired or feeling betrayed in some way. (You might be surprised how often pastors feel tired and even betrayed.)

My solutions are almost kindergarten simple. First, recognize what’s rising up inside. Breathe; take a time-out. When the emotion subsides, pray for guidance about how to inject some grace into the situation.

No doubt, at least 50 people who know me and are reading this can cite examples of when I failed. And they would be right. Managing anger is part of the human experience, and I am quite human.

The trick is to not let anger destroy our plans and dreams. We should never let anger position us in such a way that we never fully recover.

If you find yourself going down that path, get help. Talk to a pastor or a counselor, someone rooted in Christian concepts of grace and forgiveness, before it’s too late.

Lord, when we are red-hot with anger, hose us down with that peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

The Long Road to Leadership

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Exodus 2:11-15a (NLT)

Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

The next day, when Moses went out to visit his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight.

The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”

Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian.


Meet the not-fully-formed Moses. After living the first part of his life as a sheltered member of Pharaoh’s court, Moses was discovering his ancestry and seeing the terrible injustices the Hebrews faced every day.

For Moses to become the man God wanted him to be—a liberator—he had to develop the sense of righteous indignation necessary to rescue his people from slavery. We see the seeds of that important emotion in this story.

Great leaders cannot be emotionally driven reactionaries, however. Moses clearly was impulsive at this point in his life, reacting to events rather than shaping them. He responded to a terrible crime by committing a more terrible crime, forcing him to flee the one place he could be effective.

I suppose impulsivity is a stage through which most future great leaders must pass. There is little basis for becoming a mature, thoughtful, right-minded leader if you have not felt youthful energy and excitement for big ideas like justice. A budding leader can make a lot of mistakes during that early phase, though.

Moses, who lived to be a supernaturally vigorous 120, needed four decades in the desert and an encounter with a burning bush to prepare. Today’s developing leaders probably cannot train for so long. But they do need time to seek guidance from God, time to watch and work under other leaders, and time to learn the importance of planning.

As leadership expert John Maxwell wrote, “God prepares leaders in a crockpot, not a microwave. More important than the awaited goal is the work God does in us while we wait. Waiting deepens and matures us, levels our perspective, and broadens our understanding.”

In our own culture, there remains much in the way of injustice needing to be cured and problems needing to be solved. My concern is whether enough people are taking the time to hear from God before trying to lead others. Impulsively burying a body or two in the sand won’t make a long-term difference.

The good news is the right leader, properly prepared, can do wonders. When a fully formed, God-inspired Moses returned to Egypt, the Hebrews left their chains behind and crossed the Red Sea in a remarkably rapid way. Moses went in with God on his side, and it didn’t hurt that plagues fell upon the Egyptians rat-a-tat-tat.

As we consider leaders around us in all our institutions, large and small, let’s look for sober judgment, sound reasoning, and a clearly expressed desire to follow God’s will both personally and professionally. With such servant leaders in place, our world might improve faster than we expect.

Lord, raise up for us new leaders where they are needed. We pray fervently that many have been preparing themselves through the years and are ready to step forward. Amen.

Small Groups Save Lives

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

The above headline makes a bold assertion. In the past few weeks, I’ve talked about how small groups restore people to God, keep people in a tight-knit community and help their members grow as disciples.

And yes, when times are tough, when much is at stake, small groups save lives.

One example is how small groups save the lives of leaders. While the idea of modern small groups is of course not fully formed in an ancient text, we see the basic concept at work in Exodus 18:13-27. Here, we are deep in the story of Moses and how he leads the Israelites out of Egypt.

At this point, Moses has been reunited with his wife and children, who have been staying with Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, a Midianite priest. Jethro is astonished by the miracles God has performed while liberating the Israelites from Egypt, but he is also concerned about how Moses is trying to handle every problem on his own.

“This is not good!” Jethro says. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too.”

Jethro’s advice is pretty simple: Find men you trust, men with high moral standards, and group the people under them to help. Moses takes the advice, at least initially.

Sadly, Moses eventually burns out anyway, the stress of leadership proving to be too much. A fit of anger while leading the recalcitrant people ultimately costs him entry into the Promised Land. No matter how smart we may think we are, we all need wise companions as we make our way through this broken world toward God’s kingdom, particularly if we are called to lead.

Small groups save lives in more direct ways, too. Churches structured around small groups have been able to do great kingdom work in the midst of terrible evil.

For example, if you don’t know the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, you should take time to learn more about it. This little French village, working mostly out of its small Protestant church, was able to save thousands of Jews from deportation and extermination during World War II. What fascinates me is how the people of Le Chambon said they never needed a planning meeting or a vote to figure out what to do.

Well before the war, the pastor had put in place a biblical system for teaching and communication. He taught a small group of leaders, each of whom then taught their own groups.

When genocide began to happen around them, the people knew biblically what God called them to do and they simply did it, using their established small-group system. They passed Jews back and forth, keeping them safe without ever having to discuss out loud what they were doing.

I once saw an interview with a church member from that era. She said that a knock might come in the middle of the night, and a church member, child in hand, would say, “Please take care of this one.”

Trust of the church, and a common biblical understanding of the need to love others in risky ways, had been established via the small groups long before the war broke out. The church members very naturally said yes to such requests, without hesitation.

Through their small-group system, they knew when to hide their charges in the woods. They knew how to call them back into the houses by singing a song. Forged papers quietly made their way from house to house, allowing many of the Jews to flee to the safety of Switzerland.

Le Chambon reminds us of the powerful, life-saving response we can make to evil when we follow common-sense biblical strategies.

Lord, grow us in our understanding of how to structure our churches along biblical lines, so we may be ready when people around us are suffering and in need. Amen.


I also have an invitation for you today. I am organizing a weekly online small group. If you want to participate, let me know. You do not have to be a member of Holston View UMC, where I am pastor, to join. It would be helpful if you are comfortable using Google Meet, or if you think you can become comfortable after a little guidance. Contact me at chuck@methodist.life.

Once I’ve worked out who is interested, we will decide together when to meet, and we will establish a particular focus for the group. We of course will be spending time in the Bible.