Complaining

Exodus 16-18

stop complaining (1)

A number of years ago I led one of my churches through the 21 day Complaint Free Challenge.  The challenge was to go for 21 days in a row without complaining.  We each were given a purple wristband to wear throughout the challenge.  You were to wear the wristband on the same wrist for 21 straight days.  If you caught yourself complaining, then you had to switch your wristband to the opposite hand and start you 21 day challenge again.  Some of the studies I read said that it takes most people  about a year to go 21 consecutive days without complaining.  I forget how many months it took me to get to that point.

What was the purpose?  To help people break the habit of complaining.   For many people complaining is simply a bad habit.  Will Bowen, who invented the 21 Day No Complaining Challenge says that most people complain for one of 5 reasons using the acronym G.R.I.P.E.

Get Attention

Remove Responsibility

Inspire Envy

Power

Excuse Poor Performance

When we habitually complain to get attention, to remove responsibility (shift the blame) inspire envy, exert power or excuse our poor performance, we dig a behavioral rut and complaining becomes our default response to just about any situation.  That’s a sinful habit from which we need to repent.

In order to break the bad habit, like any bad habit, one must counter the undesired behavior with more desirable behavior.  The goal of the complaint free world experiment was to improve the world by reducing the amount of complaining that goes on.  During that process I became aware of just how often I did complain.  I don’t like hearing other people complain all of the time, I don’t think anyone does.  Parents don’t like to hear their kids complain all of the time.  Spouses don’t like to hear their husbands/wives complain all of the time.  Children don’t like to hear their parents complain all of the time.  Students don’t like to hear their teachers complain, and teachers, I’m sure don’t like to listen to their students complain.  Churches don’t enjoy hearing their pastor complain all of the time and pastors don’t like hearing church members complain a lot the time.  And guess what…even God gets fed up with human beings complaining all of the time.

In today’s reading, God has been busy taking care of Israel.  He led them out of slavery to the Egyptians by performing ten amazing signs.  When Israel was being chased down by Pharaoh’s army and looked like they were doomed for destruction, God miraculously parted the waters and brought them through on dry land.   God led them by cloud during the day and fire during the night.  God was taking them on a journey to a land that he was going to give them.  God was doing nothing but good for them.

And how did God’s people respond to all of this goodness?  They complained.  We’re thirsty… we’re hungry.  They sounded like a bunch of whiney kids on a long trip.  If you’ve gone on a long trip, the experience is very different for the parents up front and the children in the back.  Think about a family going on vacation.  The parents are the ones preparing for the trip.  Mom’s doing the laundry, packing everyones clothes, preparing snacks, arranging for neighbors to come and feed the animals and water the plants.  Dad is making sure the car is running well, changing the oil, getting the mail stopped, gassing up the car, checking the route to make sure there are no road closures.  The parents buy the tickets for wherever they are going, pay for the meals along the way, pay for the hotel rooms, make sure the kids have stuff to do in the car/van/suv.  And what do the kids do?  They complain: I’m hot… I’m bored… I’m hungry…I’m thirsty… I have to pee…  sisters looking… brother hit me… and are we there yet?  I had 11 children and I know what I’m talking about here.

Imagine Moses… and God.  They are moving roughly 2 million men, women and children across the wilderness toward the promise land.  There are no McDonalds on the journey.  There are no Holiday Inns with an indoor pool.  There are no air conditioned SUVs with built in blue ray players and no iPhones or Nintendo Switches to keep them occupied.  They are tired, they are hot, they are thirsty and hungry, and they are complaining… a lot!

If I’d been Moses or the Lord I would have been tempted to say “Ya’ll be quiet or we’re turning around and going back!”  Fortunately the Lord, and Moses have more patience and grace than I ever had:

Exodus 16:6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”  9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”  10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.  11 The Lord said to Moses,   12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

God heard their grumbling and he gave them quail and manna to eat.  There it was, as much as they wanted.  They were able to eat their fill.  And after that they never complained again. Well, that’s not true…. before long they were complaining about being thirsty too.

What God should have done was give each of them a purpose wristband to remind them not to complain.  It would take them a few more lessons before they quit complaining.

I’m sure God does get tired of hearing our complaining… but he still loves us and he even gives us ways to complain in the Bible.  Many of the Psalms are called Psalms of complaint and/or Psalms of lament.  Jesus himself, while he was on the cross prayed  one of those Psalms of complaint/lament, Psalm 22 which begins: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”   When we are suffering real pain, real sorrow, real trials, God wants us to turn those into heart felt prayer and we should.  God is able to handle our complaints and do something about them.  At the same time, too often our complaining comes from a place of ingratitude.  The ungrateful complaining that fails to acknowledge and appreciate God’s blessings needs to stop; legitimate complaining for true hurt in faith is something God is ready and able to hear and respond to for his glory and our blessing.

Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+16-18&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 19-21 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Priceless Final Instructions from James

James 5

James 5 13 a

In our final chapter of James we find a teaching that is difficult for many of us. We find that we are taught to have patience. I find it difficult to be patient many times when I see someone behaving in a way that is not good for them, especially when it is someone whom I have invested time and care into. We care so deeply for so many people and it is hard to watch them go down a path that leads to destruction. He reminds us first of all that the things we have amassed for ourselves on this earth are of little value in the long run. He reminds us to store up our treasures in our eternal future, NOT in this temporary life, where moth and rust destroy.

We are told in verse eight to strengthen our hearts because the return of the Lord is “at hand”. We are to patiently await the return as we seek to serve Him in our thoughts and actions. In verse nine he says that we are not to complain about one another, remembering that the judge is at the door. It is not our job to complain about each other and to cause strife. It is not even our job to judge one another, we are to encourage with our actions and speak the truth in love.

James also tells us that we will face difficult times and we need to remember in those times that God is on our side and He is full of compassion and mercy. He uses the example of Job and reminds us that in the end, although his struggles were many, he still praised the LORD. In verses thirteen through eighteen he reminds us that no matter our circumstances we should prayerfully seek God.

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. James 5:13-15 NASB

He also reminds us that we should not think that we are not capable of the incredible feats God has accomplished through others. He says Elijah was a man just like us, … and he prayed. This is the answer to so many of our issues that we have today … and he prayed.

Unfortunately, as we experience life we will find times when brothers and sisters in Christ turn and choose not to follow. We are encouraged to turn him back to save his soul and cover his sins. We sometimes think when we have fallen short that our sins are too much for God to forgive. Who am I to say that the blood of Christ is insufficient for the forgiveness of my sins? James says this will cover “a multitude of sins.”

We must remember to be patient with one!

We must remember to strengthen our hearts because Christ is returning!

We MUST remember to pray in EVERY situation!

We must encourage one another to turn back to God when we fall!

-Bill Dunn

Moving a Mountain

Philippians 2

Philippians 2 14

One of the most difficult things I have done in my life was move rocks. Last year at UP: PROJECT we moved, what seemed to be, a mountain at Timber Oaks Retreat center. During this time the majority of us had a hard time not complaining after the 4th day of “Rock Duty”.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without grumbling and disputing.” In this passage of Philippians 2 he is referring to the idea of being selfless. When we saw that giant hillside of rocks it made us grumble about how little we think we did, but in a selfless mindset we should understand that we did more than we think we did. There were at least 30 of us on that trip and it took around 5 days to get the hillside to look even remotely like we did something, and we even had a tractor! Paul, and I assume Christ, would call us to not grumble when we serve others but focus on what we are doing to help the ones we serve. Just imagine if 4 or 5 people had to do the work of 30! Next time you serve remember why you are serving and put a smile on your face.

Jesse Allen

Remember the Snakes

1 Corinthians 10

1 corinthians 10 10

Even though chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians is titled by Bible editors as ‘Warnings from Israel’s History’, I still didn’t expect the likes of this:

We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. (verse 9)

Not getting eaten by snakes sounds like an outcome I’d like.  Don’t test the Lord–check.

But let’s take a minute here, what does that mean—don’t test the Lord?  In Malachi 3:10 God invites the people to test him and see if He’s faithful in what He’s promised.  Must be a different kind of testing.

What Paul is referring to here is recorded in Numbers 21:4-6.  The events took place while the Israelites were wandering in the desert.  We’re told that the people grew impatient and complained.

“Why did you…”

“We don’t have…”

“And we don’t like the food.”

So, like any good parent, God sent snakes.  hahaha   Seriously, though, he got their attention and the rest of the people repented.  Definitely good parenting.

Paul gives another example of the kind of testing that we’re not to do when he goes on to say,

And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel. (verse 10)

Grumbling.  Complaining.  Apparently God doesn’t like these things.

Paul goes on to tell us why he’s bringing these examples up:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us… (verse 11)

The people of Israel had seen far larger acts of God than most of us can claim.  They had walked through a sea and eaten bread that appeared spontaneously.  And yet they questioned God’s care for them.  We can look at that and shake our heads at how fickle they were.  But how different are we?

Because we don’t have a map of the future, it can be frustrating to not see things lining up or happening as we think they should.  It can also become easy to question God’s care for us.

“Why did you…”

“I don’t have…”

“And I don’t like…”

Please remember today that God is big enough to handle our questions.  He invites us to test Him so we can be assured of His faithfulness.  But be intentional to catch yourself if you start to feel that God owes you something and is not coming through the way that He ought.

Remember the snakes.

 

-Susan Landry

God’s Will in Just 6 Words

Phil 2 14 15

Have you noticed that there is a book about every subject. There are books on marriage, parenting, preaching, finding God’s will for our lives, etc. I listen to Christian talk radio and it seems like everyone that preaches or speaks has a book to sell or give you for a donation. What about the book that God wrote. Many people buy books on God’s will like: Do Something, God’s Will for your life, and any number of books promising to find that specific thing that is just for you.

Philippians 2 gives us a seemingly simple yet admittedly hard will that God has for all of our lives. In fact, if done, promises that our light for God will shine like the stars in the sky. Philippians 2:14 says to do everything without arguing or complaining. God’s word always seems to get to the point and save you hundreds at Barnes and Nobles. This verse, if followed, promises that we will not have labored in vain on the day of Christ.

Is God’s will for our life really just 6 words? Try it. Today just listen to what is going on around you. There is complaining and arguing on politics, religion, driving skills or lack thereof, and the speed at which we get our fast food and God hates it. In Numbers 14 this issue kept the children of Israel out of the promised land. The place that God had planned for them. What “promised lands” are we missing out on due to our attitude.

Just yesterday as our work crew pulled up to the construction site, one of the workers from the other crew met us and said, “The Christians are here”. He said he was listening to the preaching and music we were listening to and was enjoying it. You can shine in this world if we focus on God and his son. Like the song says, “The things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

-Joseph Partain

Bitterness

Ruth 1 5

Happy Tuesday and thanks for sticking with me this far!

I’m leading a Bible Study this summer on the book of Ruth using the study guide Ruth: Discovering Your Place in God’s Story by Eugene H. Peterson. One of the reoccurring themes that has come up during our discussions has been Naomi’s role in the story. If you are not familiar with her story, I encourage you to go ahead and pick up a Bible and read at least the first chapter of Ruth before finishing this post.

There are different ways one can read Naomi’s character. Some people within my group thought of her as sympathetic, down on her luck, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Others, like myself, view her as more selfish, bitter, and self-centered. Regardless as to how one chooses to read her, there is no denying the fact that in the first chapter, she is a complainer.

She complains:

“Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.  I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my     back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined       me.” Ruth 1:20 & 21 MSG.

Bad things happened to Naomi. She lost her husband and then both her sons. But there are lots of people in the Bible who had bad things happen to them, yet, they did not turn on God, nor were they led to believe God had turned on them. Take Joseph, Jacob’s son, for example. His whole story was one whole roller coaster ride of ups and downs, trials and triumphs, yet he never stopped trusting that God had a plan.

Naomi’s story presents us with a different sort of Biblical character. She believes God no longer cares for her. All the while, right in front of her, God has left her with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Eventually, because of Ruth and the kindness of a man named Boaz, Naomi’s faith in God is once again restored. In the second chapter she declares: “God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” (2:20 MSG).

Here are the two takeaway lessons from Naomi. One, Naomi is an example of how our bitterness can keep us from seeing God’s blessings – even when they are directly in front of us. God never forgot or abandoned Naomi. He had a plan. He gave her a loyal daughter-in-law and orchestrated events for her to meet Boaz. The second lesson we can learn is that even when we complain and are bitter, God doesn’t give up on us. Even when we are fickle and only trust God when things are going well, like Naomi appears to be doing, it doesn’t make us tarnished. God’s grace covers us, liked it covered Naomi.

-Emilee Ross

 

Four Enemies of Unity

Philippians 2:12-30

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Yesterday we learned about Paul’s advice for moving towards unity—having an attitude of humility. Today, I’d like to discuss some attitudes and actions that can hinder unity. These four enemies of unity that I will mention are just some of the obstacles that get in the way of the Church achieving unity. 

Enemy 1: Pride

Pride is the opposite of humility. In humility, we put ourselves in the service of others; in pride, we use others to serve our own purpose. It is an easy trap to fall into; pride catches those who do well and convinces them that this gives them cause to boast in themselves. It inflates their ego—giving them a reason to look down on others and view their own ideals as the be-all-end-all. When even just one person in a church body is infected by pride, it can have terrible consequences for church unity. This why Paul cautioned against boasting in one’s self and works:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

Enemy 2: Gossip

There is no redeemable quality in gossip—it is a destroyer of friendships and communities. Gossip is broadcasting the shortcoming of others with no attempt to help them get better. It is a mechanism used to make the one gossiping feel better about themselves. Where gossip is present, unity cannot exist. The one being gossiped about is treated like an outsider and is pushed away from the community. Gossip is a unity killer.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

Enemy 3: Complaining/Grumbling 

When we complain or grumble about something we don’t like, this is typically a sign we are struggling with pride and not embracing humility. If something is actually wrong, grumbling under your breath about it is not the way to go. Never will a good solution be found when it is brought to the attention of leaders through complaining. If we feel something is not being done the way it should be, we should humbly voice our concern to those in leadership after much prayer and meditation. Complainers don’t promote unity—those who genuinely want what is best for the church need to find the right way to address changes. 

Enemy 4: Arguing 

By arguing, I don’t mean mere disagreement, but an incessant need to be proved right (which also comes from pride). When a person goes around trying to convince everyone that their own views on various issues are right and then get angry when they’re not agreed with, it is not beneficial. We must always be striving to find the truth, but we must never do so in a matter that is unloving. Our discussions should be edifying and result in a more unified body; not filled with bitterness and anger which causes strife.  

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:14-28, NIV)

Each one of these enemies come about naturally from our human nature. We must fight against them just as we do with other sins. We must instead embrace humility, love, peace, and encouragement in order to promote unity and avoid these divisive enemies. 

If you struggle with any of these, start pushing them out of your life today. 

– Joel Fletcher

QUIT Complaining and START Praying! (Numbers 9-11)

Saturday, September 3

rebecca sat

By Rebecca Dauksas

Ok, we know that things are not going to go well when we read, Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, …

Why would they do that? The Israelites grumbled, argued and complained, but this never works out for them. Honestly, if we look at our own lives, are we guilty of this too?  Do we show God that we are thankful for our life and the provisions that He gives us?  If I may quote Madame Blueberry: “A thankful heart is a happy heart.”  But, the Israelites are not thankful, and they are not happy.  In Numbers 11, they complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

So, surely they adopted a new way of doing things, a new way to react to the situations that arose. Nope.

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (verses 4-6)

Wow. Yep that slavery, that was the good life. Sure, they lived lives of servitude, but they had cucumbers.

Unfortunately, this complaining spread until Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The LORD became angry and Moses was troubled. This is where I think we can learn from the way Moses responds.  He asked the LORD.  He is troubled because he is in a situation that is impossible for him to handle alone.  He just has an honest conversation with the LORD. We see him react in the same way that he did in chapter 9 when he is asked a question about the Passover feast.  He told the people to wait until he found out what the LORD commanded concerning them. I think that is how all of us should handle hardships.  We should talk with God about what ever is troubling us. If we are in a continual conversation with the LORD, we bring him our praises and requests continually too.

Moses told Him that he could not carry all those people by himself; the burden was too heavy. The LORD had a solution for him. The LORD would take some of the power of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on seventy of Israel’s elders.  They shared the burden of the people so Moses did not have to carry it alone. As far as the request for meat, the quail arrived when the LORD said it would.  Even Moses did not know how God could do it, but again he talks with God about it. I wonder how things would have gone for the Israelites if they had humbly thanked God for their manna and asked for meat.  The LORD could even have thrown in cucumbers if He wanted to.  From today’s reading lets be encouraged to pray continually sharing our hardships and praises with God.