Thursday, May 31, 2012

When Did I Become a Chronic Complainer?


Psalm 19:14 (NASB)
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
____

I could feel my face turning red! Once again my immaturity was showing because I didn’t get my way. Later that night, I thought about my behavior and I believe I had a sobering divine revelation: I was a chronic complainer. And I do mean chronic. It shocked me as I realized how much of my thinking and speech was ruined with complaining and criticism. How embarrassing to be a Christian for so many years, and find myself behaving so immaturely – and possessing such an ungrateful heart!

Since then I have been making an effort to get control over this sin. On days when I hear myself constantly complaining, I write goals stating “I will not complain for ten minutes.” When I begin to feel a bit confident that I can go for a longer stretch, I set the goal for one hour at a time. Now my goal is to not grumble during the time it takes me to complete this post. And so far, it’s working!

Are you a chronic complainer?

Test yourself. Be aware of every thought and word for the next forty-eight hours. Maybe even jot down the times you catch yourself in a less than grateful mode. For me, complaining sounds like: I wish I didn’t have to clean the house, go to the store, or even wash my hair.  I am also griping when I criticize someone for not performing better on my schedule; or for not treating me fairly.

If you do not struggle with this childish vice, then I sincerely ask you to pray for me as I now fight to become consistently thankful. I will rejoice and be thankful for a home to clean and hair to wash!

Will you join me this week in setting a goal to stop complaining and start being more thankful? Let’s literally stop ourselves each time we’re about to complain about anything!

It may be helpful to start a list of things we can be thankful for and list some of them on the back of our Scripture Memory Card. This week’s verse is a perfect one to memorize or meditate on to help us change our attitudes.

A friend of mine told me a story about a lady who kept a journal of all the things she was thankful for. She made it a goal to add daily a new reason to be thankful. It became a great reminder of how faithful God has been in her life!

What about you?

     • How much joy are you missing out on when you spend so much time concentrating on “what’s wrong?”

     • Will you begin a list (and add to it daily) of things you can be thankful for? Will you start that list today?

     • Will you commit to memorizing or meditating on Psalm 19:14 this week?

(If you subscribe to the blog via email, I’ll send this verse to your inbox in various translations formatted to fit a standard index card.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Can Handle It (with God’s help)!

Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 (AMP)
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].
____

“Hi, Jay. I’m calling to check on you.”

“We’re doing okay. Thanks for asking.” His voice was somber, but strong.

Whenever I call my brother and his wife, Wendy, it’s hard to keep my voice from cracking with emotion. Last August, their second (and youngest) son was killed in a motorcycle accident. (See “Jesus Wept” post).

In the weeks following the accident, I often wondered how he could be doing so well. But it wasn’t really a mystery. He and Wendy have always been forthcoming regarding the source of their strength: God.

What about you? Are you also undergoing a horrific trial? Or do you need God’s strength to complete a challenging task (even cleaning the house while working full-time or as a mother of small children)?

Perhaps you’re relying on His power to help you to be a better spouse, employer/employee, student, or neighbor. Or maybe you’re trusting Him to help you forgive someone – or yourself.

God knows how to enter into our lives and help us succeed at anything that is part of His plan for us. Notice how the Amplified Bible (above) states it: “I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me.”

Ready for anything and equal to anything. Wow!

In the April edition of “In Touch” magazine, Charles Stanley says, “It is crucial to realize that you walk around with Almighty God inside you.”

This week, let’s return to setting weekly goals  as we seek to change specific areas in our lives.

I’ll go first: This week it’s my goal to stop complaining, and be more thankful. I pray to do whatever it takes to accomplish this – even if I have to look at my Scripture Memory Card (see link above) a hundred times a day.

Your goal may be too sensitive to share with us. I understand. However I encourage each of us to be proactive in quitting the sin in our lives. And please, as always, remember we’re here to support and pray for one another.

So …

     • Will you commit to memorizing or meditating on Philippians 4:13 this week?

(If you subscribe to the blog via email, I’ll send the weekly verses to your inbox in various translations formatted to fit a standard index card.)

     • After trying unsuccessfully for years to quit a habit, what behavior do you need God’s help to change?

     • How can we specifically pray for you this week?

Friday, May 18, 2012

How You Living?

Romans 6 (NIV 1984)
:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I sat opposite the principal of the private school where I was teaching. I couldn’t even look at him for fear of what he was going to say.

He cleared his throat and when he spoke, it was easy to see that he was nervous too.

“Sheryl, we’re going to have to let you go. You’re a good teacher; but your declining mental health isn't good for your students. We will help you find a good psychiatrist who knows how to treat eating disorders.”

The tears quickly streamed down my face. I was devastated.

What about you?  What kind of life are you living?

I’m not talking about what social class you enjoy. Instead, I’m asking what return are you receiving regarding the choices you’re making?

Are you enjoying the good life: peace, joy, and fulfillment? Are you where you want to be regarding your character and legacy? How are the relationships in your life? On an even more somber note, are your choices earning you turmoil and regret? Finally, are you disappointed in the kind of person you’re becoming?

When I wrote the last question, I felt emotional because I understand the feelings of failure due to wrong choices. Certainly, God has brought me out of a pretty destructive past which yielded much sorrow – including not being able to raise my children and the loss of several jobs. And today I often choose to give into a sharp tongue, squandering time while watching too much TV – and I’ve noticed that I’ve been complaining a lot lately. (Bert may say I’ve been complaining for a lot longer than lately!) None of these behaviors will yield the return my heart yearns for.

Can you relate?

So, are we going to continue to do the things that offer only disappointment? Or will we finally begin to allow God to help us obey Him with every choice we make?

This week we conclude Romans 6! This has been a powerful, powerful eleven weeks for me! I have honestly been working on memorizing this entire chapter! I’m being changed because of it.

Even if you’re not memorizing this chapter, I hope you have been spending time dwelling on the verses. If so, which verse(s) spoke most to you? (I would really love to know.)

Bert loves to greet people with a huge smile and ask, “How you living?” His question (though perhaps a bit grammatically incorrect) is a great question for us as we end our discussion on Romans 6.

So  …

     • How you living? Are you going to get a good pay check for your choices?

     • How has God redeemed your poor decisions in the past? Will you trust him to redeem your recent poor decisions?

Next week, we return to weekly smaller sections of Bible verses to memorize/meditate and obey.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Talk About a Great Question!

Romans 6 (NIV 1984)
:21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! :22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Italics added)
_____

I’m so ashamed!

Wow! Does the question in verse 21 kick you in the gut like it does me?

May I ask another unsettling question? Are you too easy on yourself when it comes to the sin in your life? Many times, I am.

As we begin to end our discussion on Romans 6 (we finish the last verse next week), I’d like us to seriously look at the possibility that we are tolerating sin in our lives.

Without going in the other extreme of beating ourselves up for our failures, will you join me in some hard self-examination? And though I have several areas I struggle with, here a few I’m willing to share:

After I say unkind things, I’m mortified seeing how mean-spirited I can be. Watching the wrong thing on TV, allowing myself to act selfishly, or judgmentally… are more actions which result in shame and death for me. (We begin a dying process in our relationship with God and others when we choose certain behaviors.) In fact, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t experience at least a little shame whenever I gave into temptation. Can you?  Life is hard enough without us adding more shame to our lives.

And whenever I don’t do something God wants me to do (like visit a sick neighbor, or check in on my mother-in-law), I don’t sigh with relief for the extra time I’ve carved out in my schedule. Instead I’m burdened with the task of justifying why my to do list was more important than His list for me.

Yet each time I choose to obey Him – or when I follow through with the things on His list – I’m almost ecstatic with glee (especially when it was hard to obey).

Jesus died a very painful death for a reason: our sins! Are we going to just dismiss that?

Or are we going to hide God’s Word in our hearts and pray consistently for each other so we can choose behavior that leads to life and holiness? We can succeed because God paid a big price!

Yes, obedience is hard. But so are the consequences of sin.

So …

     • How would you answer the question in verse 21: What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?

     • Is the resulting shame worth it?

     • How would your life be different if you asked God to forgive you, and help you make better choices?

     • Would the resulting peace and joy be worth it?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Warning! High Probability of Increasing Sin!

Romans 6 (NIV1984)
:19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
:20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.

Romans 6 (AMP)
:19 I am speaking in familiar human terms because of your natural limitations. For as you yielded your bodily members [and faculties] as servants to impurity and ever increasing lawlessness, so now yield your bodily members [and faculties] once for all as servants to righteousness (right being and doing) [which leads] to sanctification.
:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

The emergency alert signal blared, interrupting my agenda:

“This is G.O.D. News Network. Due to compromising conditions, we have issued a severe sin alert! Sin has been sighted in your activities which could lead to worsening sinful conditions. Please evacuate and seek immediate protection in God’s Word.”

Did you notice the phrase “to ever-increasing wickedness” in verse 19?That’s one of the consequences of sin: the snowball effect. Once we compromise our convictions it’s easier to give into temptation the next time, and soon we’re doing things we never dreamed we were capable of.

What is the worst thing you’re involved in that you really regret? Do you remember how you got there? One wrong choice, led to that lie which led to more wrong choices and more lies, and so on.

One of the most sobering verses in the Bible is James 1:14-16:

       :14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire,
             he is dragged away and enticed.

       :15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;
             and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

      :16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. (NIV1984)

I think that says it all, don’t you?

So, what now?

     • What sin alert are you ignoring?

     • Are you willing to do what it takes to overcome it this week? (Confess your sin, read your Bible, be accountable to someone, fellowship with believers, etc.)

     • How can we pray for you?


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