A Great Act of Love – Not Complaining

I wonder how many people went around the table to say what they were thankful for on Thanksgiving Thursday, and then complained about the lines at the stores on Black Friday. It seems to me that we have become far too okay with grumbling and complaining about things … ok, maybe that just means I HAVE become far too okay with grumbling and complaining. We think it’s wrong to complain, but feel justified when we have a good reason to complain – “The service was poor, they totally offended me, they should be much more professional than that, those words were so hurtful, etc.” What ever happened to grumbling being a sin? I seem to remember a certain group of people wandering in the wilderness and not too happy with the menu that was being provided for them. They grumbled … and it clearly tells us in Exodus 16:8 that their grumbling was against the LORD. In essence they were saying, “You aren’t giving us what we want, You aren’t enough for us, You don’t give good gifts … we’ll take our business somewhere else Mr. Yahweh God.” It’s called idolatry, and we still do it today … every time we grumble. I think I’ve become too comfortable with grumbling in my heart, it’s one of those “acceptable sins” that everyone can identify with so nobody really thinks is a big deal. I’m just saying – It IS a big deal. It’s unbelief, selfishness, and sin! Philippians 2:14 isn’t a suggestion or helpful piece of advice, it’s a command – “Do all things without grumbling or questioning.” Yikes! A grumbling heart is not a loving heart, which is not a rescued-from-death heart (1 John 3:14), which is not a Spirit-filled heart, which, yes … is not characteristic of a saved heart. I don’t think that means everyone who complains is going to hell, but I do think it means those who have been loved by God with His great love will work hard at practicing loving others … even the ones who annoy us, don’t love us back, and hurt us. If this non-complaining, agape-loving lifestyle isn’t what the child of God is about, then I think the Bible says, “even unbelievers love those who love them back, what good is that?” Anyone (and everyone) can complain and grumble, shouldn’t it be the case that those of us who have been redeemed by His great love (Ephesians 2:4) love others radically and stop our grumbling? Yes is the right answer to the question. Let’s all get ourselves out of the way this Advent season (and forever), to steadfastly love and patiently endure some minor inconveniences and mildly annoying people. After all, I’m sure I’m sometimes that minor inconvenience and mildly annoying person … so thanks for patiently loving me!

Still Learning to Love,
Pastor Mark

Comfort, Conflict, and the Church

“Those of us in the American church must ask ourselves, ‘Am I following Christ, or am I just following the crowd that’s following Christ.’ In the persecuted church, they follow Christ. The personal cost to follow the crowd is too expensive. But there is something we must always keep in mind, whether we are in America or in one of the most persecuted regions on the planet; Jesus Christ is the head of His church. Everywhere. And despite our differences, in most ways we are all in the same business and the same family, pursuing the same mission under the same head. So even if the American church is somewhat crippled in certain areas, it’s still His church. Not ours. And He has every right to remind us of those things that we need to improve. His church has never been perfect throughout history, and yet He still chooses to work through it, and through us. It’s the number one vehicle through which the kingdom mission is being forwarded today.” (The Privilege of Persecution – Moeller & Hegg)

It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to learn about walking with God from my brothers and sisters around the globe. It can be really easy in my heart to be negative about the American church and champion the church-outside-the-West. In many ways I feel more drawn and engaged to the Ethiopian church than the church in the West. But, this is my mission field, my place to love, serve, and reach. And for that I am thankful, because I am a part of The Church. The Church that God promises to build! The funny thing is how we often measure that “building”, growth, and success. Paul, while in Ephesus, writes in 1 Corinthians 16:9 that “a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” The persecuted church gets this, we in the West, not so much. We equate conflict and trouble in the church as bad and we must be missing something. They understand that as part of the battle. We see ease and comfort as blessing and clear vision. They ask what they are missing and who are they appeasing to keep the peace? We need to learn how to think about comfort with some measure of suspicion: What are we not speaking out against? What sin is going undealt with? Who are we seeking the approval of? And we need to learn how to think about conflict with more faith: What do we keep at even if it stirs people up? Where do we get stronger and bolder? How do we make an even better call to courageous, prayerful living? God builds His Church in different ways. And in many ways focus on the glory of God in times of ease can be much harder than in times of trouble. Conflict can be good … (It delayed Paul’s trip to Corinth because he wanted to stay in Ephesus amidst the trouble for the open door to good ministry) … And comfort can be trouble (It orients the heart toward peace when there is no peace).

We need our “success/approval” scale re-oriented away from comfort and on to the right guidelines of 1 Corinthians 16:9 and the way the persecuted church thinks about what God has called them to do. Give us open doors Lord, and don’t let us run from the adversaries that brings!

Press on & Pray more!
Pastor Mark

Dying to Self

Here’s the pesky quote I read on Sunday that has haunted and challenged me since I first received it back in high school.  Funny how reading it again 25 years later and I still have so many areas I need to DIE in …

 

“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ-that is dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take all in patient loving silence-that is dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it-that is dying to self. When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God-that is dying to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown-that is dying to self. When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances-that is dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart-that is dying to self.”