Complaining

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Complaining…we all do it at one time or another.  As I have studied this attitude, I am reminded that an attitude of complaining stems from something deeper, an attitude of ungratefulness.  Why is it we are ungrateful?  We think we deserve more; we have ourselves on a pedestal.  We are ungrateful for what we have and think we deserve more.

 

There are various verses and stories about complaining in the Bible that I ponder when the Lord convicts me of this sin.  The one I go to frequently is the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus.  Martha invited Jesus along with His disciples into their home. She showed hospitality, but then things went downhill.  With guests in her home, a meal to be prepared, and no Pizza Hut on speed dial, she had much work to do to prepare the meal.  Rather than listen to Jesus as Mary did, Martha scurried around preparing the meal probably muttering under her breath how much work needed to be done and she had to do it all by herself.  Eventually, she had enough and she told Jesus she had had enough.  Jesus chastised her right there for her wrong priorities.  Yet, I often think, “Someone had to prepare the meal.”  Martha was complaining because Mary was not living up to Martha’s expectations.  We all have multiple people in our lives that do not live up to our expectations, so what do we do about it?

 

We must ask ourselves a few questions:

  1. Is the person sinning? Mary was not sinning, far from it she was sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Could she be accused of not having a servant’s attitude and being lazy?  This is our only story about this, so it does not seem to be a pattern of behavior for Mary.  If a pattern is seen, then we ask ourselves the next question.
  2. Did we talk with the person about the behavior? If this is a onetime occurrence, maybe we need to evaluate our own priorities.  If this is a pattern of behavior, then we begin the principles outlined in Matthew 18.  Talk with the person.  If that does not resolve the issue, take a friend or two.  It is not recorded here that Martha even went to Mary.  If she had, Mary may have told Martha she would be happy to help, but she wanted to listen for a while.
  3. What are we assuming about the person? What are our expectations about the person?  Have we walked in the other person’s shoes to understand them?  Rather than talk about all the injustice, we must let the other person know our thoughts.  It may be uncomfortable, but we may see their perspective on the matter.  If we continue to complain without talking things over with the other person, are we enabling wrong behavior in them and hurting ourselves with the frequent sin of complaining?

 

When we complain about the traffic, we show how ungrateful we are for our cars and paved roads.  We could have to walk on dirty paths with sandals to get where we are going.  When we complain about our house, we show an ungrateful attitude for the house God has given us.  I think you get the picture here.  When we had multiple showings for our house and I complained, I showed my lack of gratefulness for the traffic we had to look at the house.  The overwhelming responsibilities I have right now are many, but when I complain I forget how God brought us here to this place and how He is taking care of me and my family.

 

We are part of such a selfish society today, and yet when sacrifice is noticed it is highly valued though often times taken advantage of.   Rather than complain, be grateful.  If a situation arises, do not complain, do something about it.  Do we complain because we are lazy ourselves and are afraid to deal with the situation?  Above all, we must pray about these situations and let God be our guide.

 

 

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Serve

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Serve-to assist or to help. I have always struggled with the Martha and Mary story in Luke 10:38-42.  As the story goes, Jesus entered Bethany (the hometown of Lazarus who was also the brother of Martha and Mary), and immediately the characters in this short story are introduced, “Martha welcomed Him into her house, and she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.”  (Luke 10:38, 39).  I am sure Martha had noble intentions.  She wanted to host Jesus in her home.  After all, as woman we are to be hospitable. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (I Peter 4:9, 10).  However, her noble intentions felt like shackles when she saw her sister sitting at Jesus’ feet apparently doing nothing.  “But Martha was distracted with much serving…” (Luke 10:40). At that moment in Martha’s mind, listening to the teaching of Jesus was not a noble endeavor.  After all, there were guests in their home and these guests would need food to eat and possibly a place to stay for the night.  There was no Pizza Hut to order delivery and the beds did not get freshened and ready by themselves. So Martha began to feel bitter over her eagerness to serve Jesus and the disciples that were accompanying Him with food and lodging.  Her priorities were misaligned.

 

Whenever I read this story, I so clearly identify with Martha.  I am a task person.  I also enjoy entertaining, but of course, when I have people for dinner, I want it to be just perfect for them.  If Jesus and His disciples came to my house, I would want the experience to be perfect.  The perfect meal with the perfect dessert.  Then when they are ready to retire for the night, I would want a fresh bed with a nice soft pillow for them to lay their head.

 

Serving is not about the perfect meal with the most delicious dessert.  There are not too many times I have visited someone’s home that I remember the meal.  However, what I do remember is the attitude in the service.  When someone comes to my home, I never want them to feel like an inconvenience but rather I want them to feel like a treasure.  Whenever I serve whether at church, home, or in the community, my service needs to be from a heart of love not a heart filled with guilt.  I have considered this carefully and realize that in essence, when I serve out of guilt, I am trying to earn my salvation or more favor with God or man.  I am already saved and need to do nothing to earn any more favor with God.  A heart that serves out of guilt or out of a desire to gain more favor with God or man is a sin.  However, when my heart is right before the Lord and I am His vessel, then my life will be a channel for His love lived out through acts of service.

 

The key to being a Mary (sitting at the feet of Jesus) in our busy world (Martha) is to begin each day filling our hearts with love from God. Martha was anxious about the wrong things according to Jesus’ chastisement of her, but “one this is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42).  “One thing is necessary” according to Jesus.  What is it? Sitting at Jesus’ feet listening and learning. Mary did this first.  Before we become encumbered with too much serving, we must sit at the feet of Jesus and listen and learn.  Then when it is time to serve, there will be joy in our hearts.  It is so much more fun to serve with others than to do it by ourselves.  Instead of being the hero and serving on our own we must elicit some help and serve in the joy of the Lord.  The blessing will be multiplied.

Sacrifice

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Sacrifice-the act of giving something up for the good of someone else.  What is given up usually costs the giver…up to their life.  There are not enough words to write all of the stories of people who have sacrificed for the betterment of their fellow mankind.  Millions have died in battle saving their fellow soldier, a city full of women and children, or their country.  People sacrifice their time, treasure, and talent to accomplish great things for the betterment of their fellow mankind.  With the thousands upon millions of stories of sacrifice that we find on the printed page, it still is difficult for many to sacrifice any of these things.

 

We are raising a Leader Dog Puppy for the Blind.  When she is about a year we turn her in and she receives more training and will hopefully do well enough to be a guide dog for a blind person.  I am amazed by all of the comments I receive from people when I take her out and work with her in public.  So many say, “I could never give them back.”  It is a very difficult thing to turn them in since we have done it once all ready, but the person we will help is definitely worth the sacrifice.

 

We find the ultimate sacrifice in Scripture when Christ willingly submitted to the torture and pain of death on a Roman cross for my sins.  “Have the same mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…but emptied Himself, by taking on the form of a servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).  He willingly sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for my sins, yet so many times I do not appreciate His sacrifice for me.  So many times I elevate my needs above another.  I am selfish and want my way.  I live in fear of the “what ifs.” I think I deserve to be happy at the expense of another person’s happiness.  I do not appreciate what others have done for me.

 

Sacrifice in a relationship with anyone whether a spouse, a child, a friend, etc. is much sweeter when both willingly sacrifice for each other and appreciate the sacrifice that is made.  If we all lived with the mind of Christ as we are challenged to do in Philippians, there would be less divorce, less angry words spoken, less tears of hurt, less children abandoned, less violence, and less fear.  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1).  When we willingly sacrifice, we are worshipping God.  Let’s worship God together by willingly sacrificing for our Lord, and in the process those around us will receive a blessing too.

PATIENCE

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PATIENCE-cheerful endurance or tolerating difficulties or delay without getting angry.  As a society, and even in our Christian society we tolerate impatience.  I believe it is one of the foremost acceptable sins that is tolerated as part of an individual’s character.  We enjoy being in the presence of a patient person, yet if someone is impatient we tolerate it.  I have spent the last 24 hours considering patience, reading Scripture about patience, and being convicted about my impatience.  I had to ask myself, “What causes me to be impatient?”  After studying Scripture and spending time in contemplative thought with the Lord, I realized that my pride is what causes me to be impatient.  My needs or schedule causes me to be impatient because I think that what I am doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. I get behind a car that is dawdling or wait at an excessively long red light, I begin to get impatient.  Someone does not perform a task or take care of something the way I think they should, I get impatient.  So the secret for acquiring patience is not by asking God to give us patience and give it to us right now.  Rather, it is dying to ourselves.

 

Humility is the key to patience.  It is putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own.  It is walking in another’s shoes and realizing that the trials they have are just as difficult as our own.  As Jesus walked the earth, He knew what was coming-His death on a cross.  Yet, this did not overshadow His earthly ministry with His followers.  When His disciples wanted the seats of pre-eminence in the kingdom, He did not lash out at them.  He patiently answered their question.  On Jesus’ way to raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead, He took some time to heal the woman with the issue of blood.  He did not rush past her knowing He had more important business to accomplish.  He made her feel like she was the most important person at that moment.  Patience, not our favorite quality, yet Jesus time and time again emulated for us what patience looks like lived out on a daily basis.  Patience does not come from being good at waiting, rather patience comes from being good at denying ourselves.  Remember, we do not truly understand another person’s life unless we have walked a mile in their shoes.  So before we fly off the handle at someone for their inconvenience in our lives or their seeming ineptness, walk in their shoes.  Stop and share a word of cheer rather than a word of irritation.  That word may change the situation for everyone involved.

 

James 1:4 “But let patience have her perfect work that you may be complete, lacking nothing.”

 

Danielle gave me a lovely gift for Christmas.  It is a cutting board with the “recipe for a good Mom” written on it.  On it are various quantities of a good Mom, and of course the first one is 2 cups of patience.  I told Danielle that needs to be changed to 2 teaspoons for me.  My goal is not patience but rather humility hoping that through my humility patience will be produced.  Yet, my goal is not really humility, rather it is seeing myself for who I truly am in relation to God.  I am a sinner saved by God’s grace deserving nothing but hell, yet receiving eternal life.

Compassion

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No one wanted to touch him.  He was bleeding on the side of the road, moaning in pain.  A victim of a band of thieves left to die in the blistering sun.  No companion along on the journey to help fight off the thieves or help bind up his wounds.  People saw him, they walked by him on the other side of the road, his own countrymen to be exact.  His own countrymen that were supposed to be of the religious elite.  They spoke about obeying the law, but their lives were a different story.  So they passed on with a sideways glance and a desire to keep themselves clean.  The situation seemed rather hopeless for this poor injured man left to die on the side of the road, until a foreigner approached.  “…When he saw him, he had compassion.”  (Luke 10:33).  This foreigner knelt down and tended the wounds and placed him on his donkey and took him to an inn to be cared for, paying completely and generously for the injured man’s stay.  Jesus tells us “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37).

 

Have you had the opportunity to do likewise?  I have cried with friends and they have cried with me.  This is the feeling of compassion.  The “sympathetic pity and concern for the misfortunes and sufferings of others accompanied by a desire to alleviate the suffering.” (Dictionry.com). But have you gone out of your way to such an extent as this Good Samaritan did? Let me tell you my story.

 

One early morning, I was coming home from the grocery store.  (If you go at 6 a.m. you do not have to deal with all the crowds and this task gets accomplished much more quickly).  I had just made a left turn when the car in front of me ran off the road and plowed into a tree.  I stopped my car, called 911, and got out to make sure this woman was okay.  She was able to get out of her car too and assured me she was okay.  She began to tell me her story. She had recently gotten married and moved to the area and did not know anyone and her husband was at work and she was afraid to tell him about the accident.  She was very distraught. I had a car full of groceries that needed to be taken care of, so I told her I would go home and put away my groceries and come back to help her.  By the time I returned the tow truck had arrived so I waited with her while they loaded her car.  I took her home…which was 30 minutes away.  She was still so upset even as we drove home about making sure she got to her next job so I assured her I would drive her to her next job.  She wanted to go home and get changed quickly for that job.  So I sat in her kitchen… and waited… and waited…and waited.  I am not the most patient person and I did have my own job that I needed to get to. She decided she needed a shower, not just a quick change of her clothes.  On the way to her job (another 30 minutes away), she wanted to stop for coffee.  So we stopped…she didn’t even offer to buy me one.   By the time I got her to work, my entire morning was gone and I still needed get to my own job.  I struggled with my attitude and her ungrateful and “take advantage” attitude.  I had compassion at the beginning of the journey, but it soon turned to impatience and frustration the more ungrateful and self-centered she became.

 

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, God does not say anything about the receiver of our compassion.  He only says we are to go and do likewise.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:40 “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” I was reminded of this throughout my journey with this women, yet I was shocked by her attitude of entitlement. Obviously, God still has some work to do in my heart.  At Christmas, it is easy to be compassionate and givers of good gifts.  Tis the season, but we must remember that if it were not for the compassion of our Savior there would be no reason to celebrate this season.  How many times am I ungrateful to my Savior for what He has done for me, the self-sacrificing compassion He had for me?  May you have a Merry Christmas!

Respect

 

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RESPECT…we all want it and according to Aretha Franklin it is “what you want… what you need,” and if you do not get the respect you want or need, “you might walk in and find out I’m gone.”  Aretha understood how important a “little respect” to any relationship is and when we do not get it, we have a hard time staying in the relationship no matter who the other person is….whether a husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, acquaintance, or a business relationship. According to Webster (1984) respect means “to feel or show deferential regard for: esteem. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation, polite expressions of consideration or deference.”  This definition does not contain any aspect of whether the other person is deserving of the respect, but rather what is involved in giving someone else respect.

 

The first verse I taught our girls when they were young was Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”  As I taught them this verse I would ask them questions about the verse to be sure they understood.  I would ask them, “who are the children?”  They always knew who they were…Danielle, Denise, ad Delaney.  We had to learn what the word obey meant.  It certainly comes in handy around the house when we teach our children Scripture and they can put it into practice.  Then I would ask them “who are the parents?”  They knew the answer to this one pretty easily too…you and Dad.  We also had to learn the word honor.  According to Danna honor means, “To do what you are told with a happy heart and a smile on your face.”  Obey was the “doing what you are told” part of the definition, but as a young child showing your parents honor was “doing it with a happy heart and a smile on your face.”

 

In other words honor is respect.  The thing about this verse that I like to point out is that we are to honor or respect our parents even when they do not deserve it.  I tell my girls that even when I have dementia and they have to take care of me, they still have to honor me for the simple fact that I am their mom.  This is a hard to pill to swallow for some as they have had a difficult relationship with their parents.  They have abused them, not taken care of them, or been selfish and not acted towards their children as a parent should act.  I talked with a man who was full of regret over how his alcoholism ruined his relationship with his children.  Even though he had been dry for many years, his children could not get past the hurt he had caused them when they were young.  Yet, these relationships could be healed if Ephesians 6:2 became real in their lives and they honored or respected their father in spite of the pain that had been caused.

 

Respect for someone does not involve being a doormat, but rather how we treat them.  Even in the midst of a discussion with another who may not deserve our respect, when we show them respect the tone of the conversation can change.  The men Jesus chose to be His disciples were part of the lowest class of society.  They did not deserve respect and as we read about their lives with Jesus and how they responded there is even more reason to question His choice.  Yet, Jesus respected them.  He was patient with them.  He taught them.  Through His investment in them, because of His respect for them; the world was transformed by the Gospel.

 

So what are we as Christians called to do?  Show a little respect.  If it is what you want and if it is what you need, then it is safe to assume that it is what someone else wants and needs also.

The grass withers, fame fades, but God’s Word lasts forever.

I was at the mall a few weeks ago with my daughters. As we rounded a corner in the mall, there was a large group of girls. What caused this great girl frenzy? A member of One Direction was inside a music store signing autographs and all the girls were going crazy trying to get a picture of him. Fame seems to attract a crowd. Fame is a peculiar thing. Those most famous have biographies written about them, TV shows about them, videos posted on YouTube, and blogs and twitter accounts that keep you informed about their latest activities. The social media did not exist in Jesus’ day, but there were still large crowds and many stories written about Jesus’ time on earth. The question is how do we know we hold the authentic stories when we are holding our Bibles?

John in I John 1:3 says “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…” If you have time pick up your Bible and read I John 1:1-4 and see how much John wanted you and me to have an account of what he witnessed as he walked with Jesus for three years.

My last blog reviewed the five questions of canonicity (the standard by which writings are recognized as Biblical) related to the Old Testament. We also have five statements related to the canonicity of the New Testament. We will review those here.

1. Selecting procedure-This selecting procedure went on among the apostles themselves. Luke writes in Luke 1:1-4 that an orderly account was written and was based on eyewitnesses so that the truth would be known.

2. Reading Procedure-Books or letters that were written were commanded to be read to the churches. “Read to all the brethren.” (I Thessalonians 5:27).

3. Circulating Procedures-Writings were read as authoritative to the churches and were circulated among the churches. God told John to “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:11) Paul commanded the Colossians “When this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:16). This crucial passage indicates that authority of one epistle included a larger audience than just the one to which it was written. Not only was the book of Revelation to be read and circulated throughout the churches, so also were the other epistles to be exchanged.

4. Collecting Procedure-If there was a circulating procedure then there also must be a collecting procedure. Peter speaks of “all of Paul’s letters” as being on a level with “all other Scriptures.” (II Peter 3:15, 16)

5. Quotation Procedure-In I Timothy 5:18 the Apostle Paul placed a quotation from Luke 10:7 alongside a quote from Deuteronomy 25:4, and he named them both Scriptures. This gives us an indication that those books written by the Apostles were considered as highly as those books written by Moses. The books in our New Testament are just as much a part of the inspired canon of Scripture as the Old Testament books.
Again, the overarching test is whether the Books are inspired. “All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete lacking nothing.” (II Timothy 3:16, 17) Another overarching test in the New Testament was whether the book or letter had come from an apostle or whether it was backed by apostolic authority. An apostle is someone who was an eyewitness to Christ. They had seen Him. Once that was established then it must meet the above criteria of it being circulated, received, collected, preserved, and used among the churches. If the book was written by someone who had not seen Christ then the book was not considered to be a part of the canon.

“…No prophecy of Scriptures comes from someone’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:20, 21)’

That young man in the mall who had all the girls clamoring over him will pass and fade and be a distant memory, but God and His Word remain a foundation for many lives. The Bible has not lost its authority though many have and many will continue to try to disprove it. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)