The Complaint Department

The Complaint Department

Philippians 2:13-16 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life…

Like vines and brush across a narrow path, I tried to step over it but tripped instead. The last several weeks have been trying. As potential begins to yield purpose, and breakthrough is just around the corner – opposition always rises up. With come the words hard to swallow, the complaints and grumbling of our flesh with deep offense at the conditions of life or circumstances surrounding us. It is a bitter pill to swallow laced with pride and indignation. Peter gave in to it from time to time and as one of the most vocal disciples it creeps up in the Bible’s text. In John 19:27, Peter in a sharp discussion with the Lord says these words, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Unmet expectation is the faith stealing, joy killer and hope buster that is problematic for many believers. When God does not do it the way one thinks that He should, or perhaps when we think He would or even worse according to our idea of how it should have been done. I have given up everything to follow you Jesus now this… ever feel that way? I do sometimes when I let complaining take over my life.

For God is working in you… I was talking to a gentleman about to undergo radiation therapy for cancer. He knows that our son also had extensive radiation. Talking with him, I did not want to create an unrealistic expectation of the treatment. It is an excellent weapon against cancer. It starts off relatively painless just a bit of a sensation inside. Over time as the therapy progresses, it begins to work its way from the inside of the pinpoint laser delivering it to manifest on the outside. It can cause the surface of the skin to have symptoms that rise up from the inside where the radiation is concentrated. There may be some collateral damage. Most importantly with any type of cancer therapy, because they are all unpleasant, it is important to stay focused on the goal. Remission. A clean PET scan. An extension of our natural life. We must always keep our eyes on the destination because there will be obstacles along the way if the journey is worth the outcome. As God works inside of us, our flesh dies. I used to say at the gym, “Sweat is the tears of fat slowly dying.” If you have given the Lord permission, invited Him to work things out in your life for His Good and Glory, expect your situation to change. Know that He is changing you. It may be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Friend, it is always, always worth it.

“Giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him…” I want to please the Lord with my natural life. Some do and some don’t. Some will actually pass on eternal life because of the fear of letting go of some things here and not being satisfied with the outcome. Why must the Lord change my desire? Because I will always want less than He has for me, settle for substitutions, and in the name of comfort compromise. It is my nature. I must change the way that I think, move, breathe and exist to allow the God inside of me to make His Way out into my life. It all begins inside of me. Big gulp…the hardest part comes next.

“Do EVERYTHING without grumbling or complaining.” Ugh! There it is – spoiler alert – it is a Biblical mandate on my life to stop grumbling and complaining. God knows every detail of my life even when this passage was written centuries before my birth. He knew me and supplied all the grace and power necessary for me to overcome every obstacle thanks to the Christ in me. The pressures of life often give way to complaining. I will be the first to admit – I have been complaining about my job a lot lately. I love my job. It is a good position. However, it has been an exceptionally tough season with a gigantic transition. It is not going to last a short time but is clearly going to be awhile before things come together and are in order. The extreme conditions make complaining seem natural and acceptable…for some. I am not of this world. The Power in me is far greater than any circumstance or situation in my life. Do my words express His Power or give precedence to my problem?

James 3:2 (NLT) For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

James 3:8-12 (NLT) But no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

In our last house, there was a swimming pool. One step in caring for the pool was testing the water to make sure the chemicals were just right and favorable for swimming. When there was a great deal of rain, it would wash pollen and other naturally occurring substances into the pool creating a high phosphate level that required special treatment. It was more expensive than other chemicals but necessary to keep the water clean and clear. The home test kits did not pick up the level of phosphates. It would be discovered by the chemical analyzer at the pool store. The professionals would have to find it and give me the proper treatment. In life, rain is going to fall. Storms will come. The atmosphere of our life is not always favorable. Let’s face it. Bad things happen to good people. It is important that in such conditions – we test the content and quality of our conversation. What are we saying? Who are we saying it to? Are my words filled with life or death? Praise or contempt? Who are they directed at? The Word of God is the litmus test of life for the believer. It guides, instructs and teaches us the knowledge needed to apply to our life and create wisdom. Wisdom is the lifestyle of those who are blessing and prosperous. When I decide that I am dissatisfied with my life, I am telling God that He is not meeting my expectations or doing a good job. No one else. My life belongs to Jesus Christ. If it is not what I think it should be, He is the One responsible to change it. Not my family, my friends, my boss or coworkers – Jesus is the One.

Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT) I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

If the Word of God concerning my life is true and if Jesus truly is set on giving me a rich and satisfying life while doing more than I can even think to ask for, it is all about the waiting. He has given a place of refuge and peace to wait in called the watchtower. I stand guard over my heart in that place by filtering my words through the Word of God and listing His Promises not my problems. It is the place where my vision aligns with His Perspective rather than focusing on the conditions of life as I know it. I see through eyes of faith the confident hope that I have in Him. The kind of hope that never leads to disappointment and is worth waiting for. Impatience in the waiting gives way to grumbling and complaining. Complaining sows seeds of doubt and fear that become bitterness if continually fed with more grumbling. Pride feeds on the harvest of complaining and suddenly it gives way to wandering and disobedience as one decides if it’s going to happen then I must do it myself.

In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel complained about freedom and wanted to go back into slavery. Fear of the unknown will often compel us back to what is known. Don’t go. There was a group of Levites who did not like their position in ministry, so they complained to Moses. Shortly after, the ground opened, swallowing them and all their possessions. Complaining will forfeit our new life in Christ to become absorbed by the world and worldly things that bring temporary satisfaction rather than long-term completion. In Nehemiah, Judah gave way to complaining. The ones who led worship were tired and let others know. Who would lead the worshippers if the praise team quit? Job of all people felt the right to complain. (Job 6) But in Job 10, Job has reached an all-time low and says, “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. Complaining always sows seeds of bitterness. Every time you utter the slightest dissatisfaction in your condition in Christ, it is a seed that must be dealt with.

When our son was undergoing radiation, about two-thirds of the way through his skin began to “break down”. This means that the heat of the radiation burning away the cancer was also destroying his skin. Our middle son is extremely fair. His skin turned a bright red and one morning just started to break open with intense heat rising from the wounds. I will not gross you out with details or descriptions but all I could think of as I attempted to offer comfort and apply the ointment was he has every right to complain. I told him that very thing and he said to me, “Mom, what good would it do if I complained? Would it make cancer go away? Would it make the pain stop? Would it do anything for me? No. So I am not going to complain because it will do no good.” Such profound words from an unsuspecting college student thrust into a life uncertain. I will never forget that moment when my heart broke open and I asked the Lord to forgive my wayward and wandering heart. I needed the coal from His Altar to touch my lips that complained about the hard bed with the plastic cover that was a bit uncomfortable. Lesson learned.

Your life may not be extreme today. Just filled with “ordinary” problems and some “inconvenient” problems, what you do with such opportunities are game changers in life. Complaining does nothing but complicate things. It is unclear our position. Our heart begins to waver uncertain of its commitment. Soon our thoughts give way to discouragement and then disappointment not of God but to whom we give all credit. Take your right hand. Put it firmly over your mouth. Say with me, through your tight clasped fingers, “Holy Spirit, filter my words for life today and remove any foul thing among them. Teach me your vocabulary to replace my doubt-filled vernacular. Give me wisdom to speak your praise when I want to grumble and complain. Let me see the Face of Jesus rather than focusing on the giants today.

“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life…”

Micah 6:1-3 (NLT) Listen to what the Lord is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints. And now, O mountains, listen to the Lord’s complaint! He has a case against his people. He will bring charges against Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me!

The Lord invites you to His Complaint Department today. The watchtower is open. It is a waiting room. It is His Presence. The place to leave all unmet expectation so the Lord can complete His Good Work uninterrupted by fear or doubt but pushed on by our faith in His Faithfulness. Our words should always express allegiance to Jesus Christ. Complaining and grumbling gives glory to a weak and inattentive god who doesn’t exist rather than an all-powerful, ever-present and always on-time God who is good and gives His Glory to His Children. What will you do with your words today? Life and power are in the tongue. It is up to you to decide how to use it. In His Presence, there is a new perspective. When His Unfailing Love and Overwhelming Goodness make it into our thick and hard hearts, suddenly there is very little to complain and grumble about because He is enough to change our heart and mind. God you are good! Help me to silence complaining and dismiss it from my life. You are a Good God. You are more than enough!

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.

Squeaky Wheels

Squeaky Wheels

I Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NLT)

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

Just arriving home from vacation, I am overwhelmed by the long to-do list that accompanies our late night arrival. With about five hours of sleep, the husband repacked leaving on business, mounds of laundry, no food in the house, among various other catchup things – not to mention I will be late for work today – I am a bit overwhelmed. Back to life. Back to reality. It would be very easy to give up today. Give up my joy. Give up my peace. Give up my thankfulness.

We had a good trip. We were able to spend time with our daughter. When we arrived home last night, after what seemed like hours of making our way through airports, grabbing our luggage and aimlessly wandering for miles to find the car, we found a Chick-fil-a restaurant which is a favorite in the South. When we went to order dinner, it was with great delight that we could order sweet tea again. It’s the little things in life. As we sat down to enjoy our late dinner and southern delicacies, my heart was a bit sad. A huge chunk of my heart lives in New England now. I want to be thankful. I do. I want to live in constant joy and follow Jesus every step of the way. But those steps become weighted when I don’t understand or cannot fully accept God’s Plan or His Way and especially His Timing. So sipping on sweet tea enjoying a chicken sandwich, I looked at the faces around my table. I heard the familiar drawl of y’all and I am thankful to be home but that is not enough. I am to be thankful in ALL circumstances even those I am really not too happy about.

Always be joyful. You’re kidding right, I have teenagers Lord. Never stop praying. Jesus, there are times I do not seem to have a moment to breathe. Be thankful in all circumstances. Let’s be real, God, is that even possible. It is. I cannot do it myself. It is the God of Peace who makes me holy in every way including filling me with joy, responding when I pray and making me whole spirit, soul and body. Thankfulness is produced by satisfaction and contentment. We will never find such things in this world or according to this life. It is all produced by God’s Spirit in us cultivating the fruit that we survive on in this life as we make our way into the Kingdom. God makes this happen. He is the One who completes us and fills us with those things that He calls us to have or even express.

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT)

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

You know the old saying that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Well, that is our youngest child. During this trip, especially aboard the airplanes, we have tried to keep her happy and content to overcome the anxiety she has about flying. Not just on this trip but in life, she is our little squeaky wheel. We are attentive to her needs because she is able to express them most effectively. I think that sometimes we are thankful for most of the things God is doing in our life but fail to be content in all things. This is produced by faith and confident hope that He is always working out the details of our life for our good (Romans 8:28) and perfecting that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) It is important that we are careful how we live in order to have faith and confident hope. We must think about how we live and constantly turn it over to the Lord.

When I was a kid, I was notorious for putting water on the stove for macaroni and cheese but letting it burn up. Or forgetting I put the pasta in and it would clump together and stick to the bottom of the pot. I have learned that I need to keep stirring it. Adjust the temperature. Pay attention to what I am cooking or risk it bring ruined. Our walk with Christ is exactly the same. We must pay attention to how we live and what we do.

There are some tips to living a thankful life that brings honor and glory to God. We are to be careful how we live. Considering the things we do. All things are permissible under the Law of Grace but NOT ALL things are beneficial. We must decide what we want out of life. Do we want a good life or a God Life? We are to be wise. Wisdom is considered by God to be more precious that rubies and other gems. Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh sent to give us the message that God truly loves us and desires a relationship with us even going as far as to make the Way for it to be possible. We have to know the Word of God in order to live God’s Way and be complete in Him. We are to make the most of every opportunity. God has hidden blessing in our life. Some things are automatic and others are planted to be harvested in the next season. We cannot live for today without considering tomorrow and make it anywhere. To follow Christ is a commitment and is a requirement to have all that He is offering. Act thoughtfully. I think this is the most important tidbit of advice. We must think about our life in Christ more than we do the details of life. What if we paid as much attention to the Lord as we do our budget and other people’s business? To be filled with the Holy Spirit means we must daily nail our sins, passions and desires not of Him to the Cross. Every single day must start with repentance that will make room for His Spirit who will produce thankfulness and joy in our life along with every other fruit that He promised. Finally, always praising God. The attitude of gratitude is not common to humanity. Discontentment and dissatisfaction are the very qualities that brought us to Jesus Christ in the first place. How will we ever rid our life of such things by never changing our attitude or actions? I must become consciously aware of Christ and His Place in every single moment that I live to move from desperation to completeness especially in those areas that rise up as hurts, pain, brokenness, misunderstanding or anything else that stands out as contrary to the things that the Lord wants to produce in my life. The squeaky wheels must be greased. The pots must be stirred until His Spirit takes over every aspect of our life.

Colossians 2:6-10 (NLT)

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Sitting in the airport yesterday, I was priding myself in doing really good. I usually cry when I leave my daughter knowing I will not see her for a while. This move has been very hard. I do not understand why the Lord moved my child more than twenty hours from home. I know that there must be a reason. There must be a prevailing purpose to this painful aching in my heart. Then she text me, and the tears came tumbling out. I must continue to follow Christ even when it hurts. You may not understand. Kids grow up. They move away. I feel silly sometimes but all I know is that I don’t know why the Lord did it. I don’t like it. I need His Love especially in this area. I need His Peace each day to overcome feelings of bitterness that try to take root. I want to share my life with her every single day. Not on the phone or over a video call, but in person. This area is producing a blessing in my life. It is a squeaky wheel and requires constant help from the Holy Spirit. This is my promise. In Christ lives all the fullness of God in the human body, so (I am) also complete through (my) union with Christ who is the ruler and authority over me.

Perhaps, you have an area like me that you just can’t seem to wrap your head around. What are you doing about it? Last night driving the four-hour journey home from the airport, I listened to praise and worship music. I pressed into the Presence of God in the backseat as my husband drove. In the quietness of sleepy children and a long drive, I talked to the Lord candidly and openly about my feelings turning each one over to Him one by one. It was a struggle. I am angry. I am sad. I am confused. I don’t get it. But ultimately it really doesn’t matter as His Spirit reminded me of all the promises that God has made me and the Word of God that backs them up until my soul was once again at peace within me. There are many areas of my life in process right now. Just like you, I have burdens and cares that I must daily thrust into the Hands of My Savior. We must consciously and actively choose to seek the Lord first and sacrifice our thanksgiving when life doesn’t add up until it does. We are made complete in Christ and our union with Him. We cannot let this life dictate our mind, will and emotions about things. God is greater than our feelings and His Son, Jesus will give us peace of heart and mind when we make Him our one desire.

Colossians 3:15-17 (NLT)

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

I have shared my feelings about the separation from our daughter today, but that is not the only burden that I have. I choose not to share them with everybody because when I give them to others it allows the enemy to know where I am struggling. Sometimes I think if we would move in closer to Jesus and whisper our cares and worries to Him rather than standing on the rooftops shouting our discontentment with God. Wait? Hang on. Discontentment with God. When we question Him openly and complain about our life isn’t that against God? We gave Him our life when we decided to follow Jesus Christ accepting His Promise to supply our needs and equip us for a godly life. To let the peace of Christ rule in our heart – we must be one with Him. Discord comes out in our communication with words of dissatisfaction rather than thankfulness, praise and adoration. Choices produce consequences in life and it takes time for God to work them out for our good and His Glory. Those who have faith and confidence in the Lord will always be thankful even when it is a sacrifice. (Psalm 50:14) The Word of God and all its promises are enough to fill our life with His Goodness even in the waiting and tests of endurance. Today it doesn’t matter what you cannot see or understand just knowing that Jesus is alive and He will do everything that He promised to do for you. Peace begins when we take the time to quiet that thing squeaking loudly in our mind or stir up the Holy Spirit in our heart and mind to release the Truth and Wisdom we need to keep hanging on to faith and confident hope. Not everything is as it should be, I know it. But that is not God’s Promise for my life. So as He makes good of all His Promises, I choose to wait quietly in prayer and thanksgiving just because He is and He will be my peace as Christ rules my heart today.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT) Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.