Tag Archives: complaining

What’s On Your Mind?

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14, NLT*

This is a familiar passage often prayed before meetings or in other gatherings where we desire God to be honoured. I always took it to mean “what we discuss and decide or plan here”

But what about all the other things in our hearts when we’re alone?

Isn’t that what meditation means, to focus on or rehearse? To dwell on? To, perhaps, stew over?

How many times do we let our thoughts swim with negatives and complaints? We wish a conversation could have gone differently, we pick at what we didn’t like about Sunday service, we fret over grievances.

Not exactly the “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” that we’re called to do.

Holy and good God, who searches our thoughts and knows our hearts, forgive our sins and retrain us in Your ways. May the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing to You. And when they’re not, please get our attention and bring us back on track. Don’t let anything pull us away from nearness to You.

Let Kathryn Scott’s song, “Search Me, Know Me,” be our prayer today:

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Moment of Choice

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.
Romans 8:12, NLT*

The 1996 version of the NLT puts it even plainer:

you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

Paul is writing about how those who belong to Jesus are to “no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4b, NLT*) He says we’re free from our old ways. Now we have to choose: will we stick with those destructive patterns, or will we obey the Holy Spirit?

As well as the “big ticket” sins, there are a lot of little things our sinful nature urges us to do: things we either don’t notice as sin or that we think are just part of who we are. Things like grumbling or self-pity.

Even things that aren’t really sin but aren’t good for us. Like that second—or third—chocolate chip cookie when we’re trying to lose weight. Or “just one more chapter” when it’s past bedtime.

you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

We’re told there’s a moment of choice between stimulus and response, but I often respond before I can think. Since finding this verse, I’ve sometimes felt a pause, as if I’ve been pulled aside, and sensed a friendly and confident whisper: “You know, you have no obligation whatsoever to do that.”

Usually I agree. (Sometimes I say “No, but I want to.” Still working on that!)

God of grace and mercy, who ransomed us from sin and makes a way for us to be clean and holy in Your presence, open our eyes to the temptations to be less than You’ve designed us to be. Remind us that because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection we have no obligation whatsoever to do what our sinful natures urge us to do. Give us willing hearts, and help us to choose those things that please You. Thank You for setting us free.

It all comes down to “who’s ruling—God or self?” Here’s Brenton Brown singing “Lord, Reign in Me.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

How Irritating Are We to God?

The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?”
Numbers 17:10-14, NIV*

Do you ever think about how irritating it is for God to put up with us?

Yes, He loves us. He wants to rescue us from the mess we’ve dug ourselves into—even at the cost of His own Son’s life—but so many times we just don’t get it.

I’ve been reading the account of Moses, how God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the promised land: a place of peace and safety where they won’t be slaves anymore.

All they do is grumble and complain and wish they were back under Pharaoh’s thumb. The context of today’s passage is that some of the people accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much authority, of elevating themselves as better than the rest.

God settled it in dramatic fashion, destroying the usurpers. The people hurled more accusations, and God sent a plague. You can read the whole account in Numbers 16.

So God told Moses to get a staff from each of the tribal leaders, including Aaron. “The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” (Numbers 17:5, NIV*)

Next day, when Moses collected the staffs, Aaron’s “had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.” (Numbers 17:8, NIV*) The others remained inert sticks of wood.

All this to give the people an enduring sign of approved leadership, so they’d quit complaining and would not die. And what do they immediately do?

God’s trying to protect them and they yell, “We’re all gonna die!” And they exaggerate: “We can’t even go near the tabernacle now!”

What if they’d trusted and obeyed?

What if we trusted and obeyed, instead of misunderstanding and overreacting?

Holy and patient God, how simple life would be if we’d just let You shepherd us, instead of trying to be in charge of our own lives. You tell us to trust You and not rely on our own understanding. But like sheep we’ve all gone astray. Teach us to seek You first, to trust You. To stop ascribing frightening motives to You and instead remember You are the only trustworthy one. Help us believe You instead of trusting our own fallible understanding.

Todd Agnew’s song, “Shepherd,” speaks to where we too often find ourselves.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!”
Numbers 11:1-4, NIV*

The people complained… the Israelites started wailing… Numbers 11:10 says every family was “wailing at the entrance to their tents.”

The people had hardships, real or perceived. But look at all the good things:

That’s a lot of good! What if they’d concentrated on the blessings instead of their hardships? What if they’d trusted God to do what He said?

Mighty and rescuing God, holy and faithful, forgive us for the times we concentrate on the negatives and complain. The Bible says we’re welcome to bring You our pain, because You are our refuge. But You don’t want us spreading dissension and discontent among our brothers and sisters. Open our eyes to the gifts You give. Help us not to take them for granted, and not to prefer our own ways. Create in us grateful hearts to worship and to wonder at all that You’re doing in our world.

Here’s a gratitude song I first heard live in concert, and I fell in love with it on the spot: Geoff Moore’s “Saying Grace.” This is a live recording, the sound isn’t great, but listen for the words… and watch the love on this Christian’s face as he sings his thanks.

For more on gratitude, consider joining Ann Voskamp’s gratitude community.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Praying in Trust

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarrelled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”
Exodus 17:2, NIV*

God had already given them a daily supply of manna in the desert. Now He patiently—and miraculously—provided water from a rock.

And he called the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarrelling] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?
Exodus 17:7, NIV*

The Israelites knew, better than we often do, that if God is present He can help. And they weren’t subject to our common fear that we’ve already asked too much and used up His gifts for us.

I think they feared abandonment. “If trouble hits, does that mean He left us?”

They knew they had nothing in themselves to convince Him to stay. They didn’t think about His character that keeps Him faithful to His commitments. Of His covenant that they would be His people and He would be their God.

We often need to be reminded of the same thing. As we persist in prayer, the proper attitude is not to nag for answers but to pray continually in thanksgiving and confidence, and keep alert to recognize the answers… especially if they come in small stages.

Father God, help me remember that You’re leading me. Help me trust Your character and Your promises and rely on You. Whatever my needs, I have Jesus. All I have to do is ask for help and be alert to recognize the answer. I understand it may well not come in the form I’d like, but I pray with confidence in Your perfect wisdom and timing.

Here’s Robin Mark singing Brian Doerksen’s “Faithful One.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Pleasing God

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24, NIV*

I’m still thinking about “seek God first” and how that applies to my life. These verses talk about seeking His approval first—before that of others.


Why am I doing what I do, or not doing what I don’t? For His glory and praise, or to please myself or others?

If I raise my hands in worship at church… is it to please Him? Or to defy those who stay still? If I keep my hands down, is it sensitivity to my neighbour… or fear of what someone might say?

That’s a silly example, maybe, but we all know about small things and small minds…. Seriously, the little choices can matter as much as the big ones, because God sees the heart.

What am I thinking about when I’m slicing strawberries for jam? Grumbly thoughts about how such tiny berries make the job take longer, or thankful ones about fresh strawberries and how sweet the small ones are?

When I’m tired at the end of the day, does it please God if I slip into a mental pity party? Or does He still want me praising Him?

Father God, You know me better than I know myself. You see my heart and deepest thoughts. Help me to seek Your approval first—to want to please You most. Help me take every thought captive and to examine it to see if it’s pleasing to You. I can’t help what thoughts come in, but in the strength of Your Spirit I can evict those that aren’t welcome to stay.

Here’s a song that’s new to me, from a new-to-me Canadian group called Christ Our Life: “Search Me, Oh God.” This song and others from the same group are available for free download at Free Godly Christian Music.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Expectations and Complaints

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea…. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter…. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
Exodus 15: 22-24, NIV*

The Israelites were jubilant at what God had done: deliverance from Egyptian slavery, parting the Red Sea to rescue them (neatly eliminating their enemies). They believed He could fulfill the rest of His promise and bring them into the promised land.

After a string of miracles and evidences of His great power, it’s understandable that they’d expect Him to melt all remaining opposition and obstacles in their way.

Then right away they have three waterless days in the desert, only to find water they can’t drink. No wonder they complain!

Moses, on the other hand, is used to setbacks, from his dealings with Pharaoh. He cries out to God.

The people know God can help, but they don’t ask. They expect, and then protest when He doesn’t operate the way they want.

Don’t we do the same?

Father God, mighty to save and wise to teach, You could give us smooth paths. But we seem to learn better when we experience Your help in the rough places. Help us to trust Your leading and to listen, obey, and learn to do life Your way. Help us to be grateful for Your presence.

A good song and prayer for today is Matt and Beth Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name,” sung here by Matt Redman.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Grumbling in the Camp?

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:9-10, The Message*

I’ve been reading the start of the Old Testament, how God called Abram and built his descendants into the nation of Israel: a holy people, chosen by God, with one tribe called to priestly work and all twelve to be living illustrations of the difference God makes.

Right now I’m at the part of the story where Moses is leading the Israelites in the desert. God is visibly with them, the cloud by day and the fire by night. He speaks to them through Moses.

They know He’s with them, and they’re a bit scared of Him. But what do they do, over and over?

They complain. They grumble.

Every time I read it, I shake my head in wonder. God is with them—don’t they get it? He’s brought them out of slavery and protected them from Pharoah’s army. He’s parted the Red Sea and provides their daily manna. Can’t they trust Him to look after them?

As I investigate my own heart to see what’s gumming up the works, as I listen to myself talk to my friends, is that a… grumbling spirit? Oh, dear.

Henry Blackaby says in the Experiencing God workbook, “Settle in your own mind that God has forever demonstrated His absolute love for you on the cross. That love will never change.” (Unit 6, Day 2)

Although I have head knowledge that God loves me, I haven’t been acting on it in belief. I’ve been letting circumstances (and people) irritate and disturb.

But God is good. And He loves me.

I’ve confessed and rejected the grumbling. As I repeat the truth about God’s goodness and His love, I feel myself relax, like all the tension is melting away from my body.

Father, thank You. Please keep reminding me of the truth and quieting my spirit to receive it. You are good. You love me. Help me rest in this knowledge and grow in gratitude and trust. Let it be an antidote to grumbling, striving and discontent. Help me demonstrate by my life that You are trustworthy and good.

A fitting prayer is the song, “Give Thanks,” sung here by Don Moen and friends.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Choosing God’s Way

Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”
Mark 14:36, MSG*

I’ve been noticing how many of my choices are based on what I want, or how I feel. When the right choice goes against my preferences, I confess there’s a bit of internal grumbling.

And that’s just the little choices. In this passage, Jesus is wrestling with a huge one. Yes, He’s already chosen, but He’s down to the hardest moment and desperate for another way.

When He puts it back to the Father’s will, it’s not a case of “Your preference over Mine” as if they were choosing a restaurant. Nor is it a grudging “I guess we have to do it Your way.”

It’s a conscious trusting in the plan they made together, a decision to follow through because He agrees with the ultimate goal despite the cost to reach it.

When God asks us to do life His way, it’s not some megalomaniac desire for personal satisfaction.

It’s about fulfilling His plan, which, in case we’ve missed it, is about rescuing us and restoring us to full life in relationship to Him.

It’s about fulfilling His purposes in us, those things we said yes when He called us to do them. And He will provide the means if we’re doing our part by choosing His way.

Father, help me choose Your way in the big and the small things, not to put myself down, not even because You out-rank me, but because I trust You to fulfill Your purposes in and through me—to Your glory, and for the good of those who love You. Forgive my selfish desire to put myself first and chase immediate gratification. Help me concentrate on You, in whom all fullness dwells.

Our song this week is the classic hymn, “Have Thine Own Way,” sung by Jim Reeves.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

Who me, fret?

There’s an article at Thoughts Selected that I think we all need to read: “Fret Not Yourself.”

Author/teacher M. Hernandez begins with “Among our many human weaknesses, one of the most outstanding is fretting or complaining.” Instead of stopping there, she offers a simple, practical way to train our spirits in gratitude and praise to God.

Spiritual exercise, like physical, takes time and persistence. But it brings results.