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Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

complaints

It didn’t take long for the Israelites to start complaining after God had delivered them from Egypt.

About two and half months after the Exodus, “The whole congregation of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out of this wilderness to kill this whole company with hunger'” (Exodus 16:2-3). That was pretty harsh, wasn’t it?

The Lord spoke to Moses and said that He would provide for His people in verses 4 through 7. Moses then spoke to the complaining crowd, and when he did, he put his finger on the deeper issue – the issue behind the grumbling.

He said, “This will happen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and bread to the full in morning; for the LORD hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:8).

Who was the grumbling and complaining of the Israelites directed toward? On the outside, it was Moses and Aaron. That’s what they said, at least. In truth, they complained and grumbled against the LORD Himself, not their leaders. The heart of the matter was that, in their heart, they weren’t content or satisfied with what God had given them. Of course, Moses and Aaron didn’t lead the people from Egypt to the wilderness of Sin (an interesting name given the circumstances) in order to have them all die, but the people were so angry at God that they lashed out at the ones who were called by God to lead them.

Grumbling and complaining are the fruit of a heart that is discontent and ungrateful for the good gifts God has given. That didn’t end, by the way, in 1450 B.C. It rears its ugly head in our own lives, too. When we complain and grumble, we’re not satisfied with God. That’s a dangerous place to be. May we recognize it, repent of it, and pray that the Lord would develop our sense of gratitude and satisfaction in Him for His glory and our good!

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Andre Seu Peterson, of WORLD, has some very good thoughts on optimism and thankfulness.

Your mother once told you about the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise won the race because he was an optimist. People say it’s because he was persistent, but he wouldn’t have been persistent if he hadn’t been optimistic first. Optimism precedes perseverance. The Apostle Paul observes that dynamic when saying that we have faith and love “because of the hope” (Colossians 1:5). No hope, no reason to get out of bed.

The pessimist’s problem is all in his eye. His eye is defective. He sees everything the same shade of blah, like the Dwarfs in The Last Battle. “Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip.”

“The eye is the lamp of the body.” That is, all experience is filtered through it. “So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Christians who are not by nature optimists may have to work a little at becoming so. Here is how you do that—by a conscious, constant cultivation of thanksgiving. This works magic in changing a bad “eye” to a clear eye, and you will be astounded at how much better the world looks. Try it and you will sit before a blank sheet of paper and complain that you have nothing good to put on your list, and then you will come up with 25.

When you get better at it, you will not only have the good things on your thanksgiving list but the bad things and disappointments too. For you will start to see how these bad things were the very ones God used to mature you. I hate to think of what my life would be now if I had been cursed with only pleasant things.

George Müller (1805-1898) is one of the biggest optimists I know of. That crazy guy decided to distribute tracts and to witness among the Jews in London, and he reports, “I had the honor of being reproached and ill-treated for the name of Jesus” (The Autobiography of George Müller). Must be a blessing in there somewhere, right? That’s like the Apostle Paul saying, “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).

Come again? If there are “many adversaries,” how does he see it as a “wide door for effective work”?

That’s how an optimist sees.

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As young Christians, we learned to pray mostly by listening to other believers pray. We learn to speak in the same way – by imitation.

We can also learn to pray, and learn some of the most important principles of prayer, as we read God’s Word. Listen to the apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Philippi:  “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3-5).

Every time he thought of the Philippian Christians, he was full of joy and thanked God. But what can we learn about prayer from these verses?

First, he prayed frequently“All my remembrance of you” and “in my every prayer for you all” make it clear that Paul prayed for them regularly – it wasn’t simply a one-time thing.

Second, he prayed comprehensively. Paul was careful in his prayers to mention everyone in the congregation, hence the phrase “for you all.” He wasn’t satisfied with a blanket prayer (“God, bless all of the Philippian believers”), or only pray for a few. No, he prayed for all of them.

Third, he prayed gratefully. Notice that he began by saying, “I thank my God.” Paul’s continuous prayer for them wasn’t grudging, it was grateful. He was genuinely thankful to God for them and how supportive they had been of him in his ministry to them and others.

Listen to the apostle Paul and learn from him. May our prayer increasingly be frequent, comprehensive, and grateful!

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I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Keith Thomas of Bridge City Fellowship preach on Matthew 25:14-30. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: God’s infinite generosity should motivate us to make the most of every talent, ability, and opportunity He gives us.

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching on Philippians 1:3-5. What follows is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Paul thanked God for the Christians in Philippi and prayed for them, especially because of their partnership in spreading the gospel – and he made sure to let them know it!

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 21:15-17. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: If God has graciously forgiven your sins, you will love Him greatly and serve others gladly.

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Just before his seventieth birthday, missionary to India William Carey wrote,

I am this day seventy years old, a monument of Divine mercy and goodness, though on a review of my life I find much, very much for which I ought to be humbled in the dust; my direct and positive sins are innumerable, my negligence in the Lord’s work has been very great, I have not promoted his cause, nor sought his glory and honor as I ought, notwithstanding all this, I am spared till now, and am still retained in his Work, and I trust I am received into the Divine favor through him.

Carey, the father of modern missions, recognized two important truths: on the one hand our sin, sinfulness, and guilt before God, and on the other hand the matchless, incomparable, and invincible grace of God offers to us in and through Jesus Christ. Carey didn’t “fall off the horse” on either side by giving emphasis to one over the other.

Believers in Jesus Christ are at one and the same time sinful (see Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-18; 3:23) and justified (Rom. 3:21-26; 4:1-8; Gal. 2:16).  It’s honest and truthful to admit it.

Jerry Bridges, in The Discipline of Grace, wrote, “We should always view ourselves both in terms of what we are in Christ, and what we are in ourselves, namely, sinners.” If we don’t, we become either paralyzed by our introspection or proud in our self-righteousness.  Open-eyed candor, honesty, and humility is what should characterize us.

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