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Do you leak? What grumbling reveals about us.

An unthankful person is like a container with a hole in it and all the blessings that are in it just leak out. The grateful person has unlimited capacity to truly enjoy God’s blessings, while the ungrateful person can’t enjoy the blessings he does have. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, The Attitude to Gratitude

Do you leak?

Not- Does your thanks spill out and overflow? I mean leak– as in accidentally lose the contents. As in, God’s gifts are lost on you. 

A little grumbling here and there might not seem so bad, but it says a lot- about us and about what we believe about God.

Grumbling is that bad.

God hates grumbling. We’re called to do all things without grumbling.

Pastor Ritch Boerckel offers three reasons why the  grumbling of God’s people is that bad.

Reason #1: Our grumbling proclaims that our God is not good.

We might call it venting, or keeping it real, but take a minute and ask yourself: About what or whom do I grumble?

I’ll start with me. Sadly, the question is easy: I grumble when my time feels “wasted” and,  if others poor choices caused the “waste,” I might complain about them.

There- I said it.

But how, you wonder, can I draw such a straight line from my grumbling against the people and circumstances down here straight up  to God?

Well, when the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert, God heard it. Then he told Moses to tell themYour grumbling is not against us but against the LORD (Exodus 16:8, Numbers 14:26-27). Our Father in heaven heard their grumbling, and hears ours.

When we whine like deprived children, we don’t adorn. We don’t make our loving Lord look good. We slander his loving care to watching eyes and listening ears.

Grumbling, John Piper explains, only adds to the darkness because it obscures the light of God’s gracious, all-controlling providence. 

But there’s more.

Reason #2:  Our grumbling demands that God submit to our wishes.

We don’t put it like that, but at the end of the day, isn’t that what our complaints say? That we wish God would do it our way, would submit to our wishes. When we grumble, we’re rebel children, pots second-guessing the potter.

For has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? (Romans 11:34-35). A complaining spirit, therefore, reveals a problem in our relationship with God.

But there is a difference between grumbling and groaning. Groaning, for the record, can actually be a sign of our faith and hope in God’s promises (see Romans 8:22-24).

Groaning and disappointment, criticism and disagreement need not be the same as grumbling and complaining.

Kevin DeYoung explains,

[T]he Bible is full of examples of godly people who say, “I’m upset. I wish this were different. Lord, would you do something? I don’t like this.” …Grumbling, however, is not a humble cry for help, but saying to God, “I know how to run the universe a bit better than you do.” Instead of saying, “This really hurts, but I’m ready to receive whatever I must receive from God’s hand,” grumbling says, “This stinks, and I’m ready to rebel against God’s heart.” That’s the difference…

We’re talking about rebellion against God. Not that the situation is hard, but that God is hard.

Our situation may be hard. But our God is not hard.

He has promised his children good. 

Reason #3: Our grumbling disbelieves God’s precious promises.

God has promised to provide all our needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) and that he will withhold no good thing from him whose walk is upright (Psalm 84:11) and that all things work for good to those who love him and called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Not to mention that his mercies are there for the picking, new every morning.

But grumbling says we don’t believe those. Or, at least, for the moment, we’re choosing to ignore them. Grumbling says we don’t trust God.

More from DeYoung,

Though you might direct it toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or someone in authority, you’re saying to God, “You’re not taking care of me…” Grumbling dishonors God.

The problem with complainers is that they don’t really trust that God is big enough to help and good enough to care. That’s what you think when you complain. “This God?! I may say that I believe him, sing songs about him, and read a Bible about him, but I don’t really believe that he’s big enough to do anything about it or good enough to care about me.

Who knew a little complaining about the rain and work and delays and aches and pains could betray so much?

That grumbling could be such a hard habit to break?

Fill the house with gratitude.

Habit is overcome by habit. It’s called replacement. Breaking bad habits means we fill the void with something good.

Just stopping up the leak isn’t enough. In other words, Quit yer grumbling, is not the goal. That’s just the empty house. And Jesus warned that if the house stays empty, the final plight might be worse than the first (Matthew 12:43-45). We need to fill the house.

We need to do something hard: replace grumbling with thanks and turn that frown upside-down and, by God’s grace, choose gratitude.

Thankfully, giving thanks breaks the grumbling habit. In fact, it’s what we were created to do (1 Peter 2:9). Declaring God’s praise is why we were made.

So stop up the leaks. Don’t let the blessings drip through. Fill your house with gratitude.

Come, you thankful people, come.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Psalm 140:13

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A Grateful Saint, Patrick

I just can’t do it. Ever since that blessed week in June of ’14, I can’t pass March 17th without a Saint Patrick post. 

Two years ago, it was a bittersweet personal confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone.  The year before it was 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My  Homeboy. Then, last year, I added another reason Patrick is a kindred soul.

This one’ll be short and sweet, straight from Patrick’s Confessions. The theme is Patrick’s gratitude.

Now Patrick, in his own words.

Why I Cannot Be Silent

I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. Patrick, who turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance.

That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God. Why we praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven. (Confession 3)

I’ll Never Stop Giving Thanks To My God

I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living victim. He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too.

Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end. However ignorant I am, he has heard me, so that in these late days I can dare to undertake such a holy and wonderful work. In this way I can imitate somewhat those whom the Lord foretold would announce his gospel in witness to all nations before the end of the world. This is what we see has been fulfilled. Look at us: we are witnesses that the gospel has been preached right out to where there is nobody else there!  (Confession 34)

I Want To Give Thanks To God Without Ceasing

So I want to give thanks to God without ceasing. He frequently forgave my lack of wisdom and my negligence. More than once did not be come very angry with me, the one who was meant to be his helper. I was not quick to accept what he showed me, and so the Spirit prompted me. The Lord was merciful to me a thousand thousand times, because he saw in me that I was ready, but that I did not know what I should do about the state of my life…Indeed, I was not quick to recognise the grace that was in me; I know now what I should have done then. (Confession 46)

Nothing I Have That Is Not His Gift To Me

So I shall make a return to him for all that he has given to me. But what can I say, or what can I promise to my Lord? There is nothing I have that is not his gift to me. But he knows the depths of my heart, my very gut feelings! He knows that it is enough that I desire very much, and am ready for this, that he would grant me to drink of his chalice, just as he was pleased to do for others who loved him. (Confession 57)

Patrick was faithful to God’s call on his life. In the end, the Lord didn’t demand that Patrick drink the cup of the martyr’s death. He supposedly died in 463 AD, at the ripe old age of 120. Which happens to be the age that another of God’s great servants died.

But it’s not how many years Patrick lived that matters most. It’s that Patrick was a grateful saint.

As all God’s saints should be.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.  
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. 
Psalm 116:12-17 (ESV)
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Duty Is Not A Dirty Word (But Deserve Might Be)

An Undeserved Dinner Out
Enjoying an undeserved dinner out tonight, the caption under the smiling couple in the bright booth read.
Correction: Deserved, a friend’s comment said.

It was a sweet comment with kind intent. Completely innocent.

But it still made me wince.

Why Deserve is a Dirty Word for Me

Because if I’ve learned anything on my own clumsy quest to keep a thankful heart, it’s this:

Banish I deserve. Replace with My pleasure to serve.  Or with that line from Luke 17I’ve only done my duty. 

Because I’ve learned that whenever I start to think I deserve- whether praise or a shout-out or a dinner out-I’m heading right for Discontent Falls. Whenever I start thinking relaxation or reward is my right or appreciation or applause is my due, I’m setting myself up for an ugly spill.

Because deserve means worthy and earned, and flies in the face of unmerited favor. Deserve, therefore, cannot coexist with grace. And God’s servants stand in grace.

Because as a servant of Christ, I’m called to be a servant of all. Which means that I’ve got to train myself to replace “Applause Please” with, Just doing my duty. 

Because I deserve breeds ingratitude and God’s Word says ingratitude is a sin (Romans 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:2).

That’s why I wince at deserve.

Owned, Not Owed

Being a Christian means we are owned by God, not owed by God. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ, redeemed from sin at very high price.

No matter how long we’ve been at these works of faith and labors of love. Or how many dinners we’ve served and dishes we’ve washed or how many times we’ve forgiven when we’ve been hurt.

No matter how many years we’ve written the checks or worked the nursery or taught Jr. High Sunday School.

Because all that’s our job- all a day’s work. Because we are owned not owed.  We’ve only done our duty. 

When Pride Rears Its Ugly Head

But the flesh isn’t totally dead. If it doesn’t get us with self-pity when we don’t get the praise we crave, it might snare us with boastful pride.

It can happen like this: You start feel like God is using you, and it feels good, so then you start  to think, “You know, I’m doing okay living for Jesus. There’s some fruit.  I’m helping folks know Christ.  My life is sort of in order, I’m growing in self-control and getting more patient and kind and… Aren’t you impressed, God?”

That may have been happening with the apostles in Luke 17.

So Jesus told them a little story.

We’ve Only Done Our Duty

The parable, found in Luke 17:7-10 takes aim straight at my I-deserve, entitled heart.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Did you catch the three questions? Jesus meant them to be obvious- no-brainers.

  1. v. 7- Would the master treat the servant like an honored guest, and invite him to sit down to dinner? (No.)
  2. v. 8- Would the master expect the servant to do what servants are supposed to do? (Yes.)
  3. v. 9- Would the master thank the sermon for doing what he was told to do? (No.)

Easy, right? Because most of us don’t have any problem pretending we’re the master.

But, then, verse 10 hits us like a cold shower: So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Defining Duty

Duty is defined as a moral or legal obligation; conduct due. It’s what’s expected of our station.

It’s why we’re not applauded for paying our bills. WeEnergies and Kohl’s don’t throw a party for me when I pay my bills. My boss doesn’t throw a party when I meet my deadlines at work.

Nor should they. I’ve only done my duty.

There’s no fanfare, applause, or medals. But there are a couple big perks for servants.

Servant Perk #1

The Greek word for servant in the Luke 17 story is doulos. 

John MacArthur explains,

doulos was bound to a master and cared for, kept in the home like a family member. He had stability and work to do  there. This is doulos, a bond slave, which meant he was basically attached to the owner, lived in his house, was cared for, provided for… It was a wonderful thing when it was handled well.

By contrast, day laborers would have to hope someone would show up and hire him each new day. No long-term work meant no security and no stability.

So that’s servant perk #1: Servants have steady work and provision.

The second servant benefit is even better.

Servant Perk #2

Servant Perk #2: A servant is close to the action of his master.

In John 2,  when Jesus turned the water into wine, the host didn’t know where the wine had come from. But the servants who had drawn the water knew. They were close to the Master had done the miracle.

Darrel Cook says, In Christian service, when we’re up close to the Master, when we’re right out there where the action is, when he chooses to do something for his name’s sake-we’ll get to see what He’s doing for his glory.

It’s counterintuitive to think that we’ll see God’s glory when we are just doing our duty. But it’s how He designed it.

Oswald Chambers explains,

We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God’s power… and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.

If we will do the duty that lies nearest- the dishes, the youth group, the forgiving, the patience and kindness- we shall see God.

Blessed are the [dutiful, undeserving] pure in heart for they will see God.

Do You Have A Servant’s Heart?

How can you tell if you’ve got a servant’s heart? If this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus?

I like the answer Lorne Sanny, former president of the Navigators, gave when a man asked him how he could know if he had a servant attitude.

Sanny replied, “By how you act when your are treated like one.

When someone treats you like a servant, do you get offended and think, “I deserve better treatment than this?”

Or, do you say- and mean it- “It’s all good. because I’m an unworthy servant.” 

For a servant’s duties might not be ones they’d pick, or would have imagined. Like what just came at me tonight- recouping pricey Pokemon cards stolen from one son and acquiring an Abe Lincoln hat the another. 

George Eliot was right:  We must find our duties in what comes to us, not in what we imagine might have been. The Master assigns the tasks we can’t imagine.

And, yes. This can be so hard. 

Heavenly Confetti
I feel it too. Because too often after a day at work then helping with homework then dinner and dishes, I do feel like I deserve better. Like confetti from heaven should dump down and we should all hear the thunderous voice declare, “This is my hard-hardworking daughter. With her I am well pleased. She deserves a night out.”
We can’t lose heart. The absence of heavenly confetti doesn’t mean our Master doesn’t care. God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown for His name as you have ministered to the saints and continue to do so. 
And don’t be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return.
We’ve got to keep serving. And waiting.

Blessed Are Those Slaves

Because Jesus told another parable about servants and masters and sitting down to eat. It’s recorded in Luke 12,

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

We are servants. But our Master also calls us friends.

Kent Hughes says,The eternal marvel is this: God will do for us what our earthly masters will not do. And it’s all of grace. When Jesus returns for his servants, in some sense, he will wait on us.

We- his servants- will sit down at a banquet we have not prepared, nor do we deserve.

Just Doing Our Duty

All of that means that this vapor lifetime is just practice time for God’s servants.

Because when we fast forward to very last chapter of the Bible you’ll find servants serving again. There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

Forever and ever we’ll serve Him in glory.

And our duty will be entirely our pleasure. 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

More on Duty and a Poem:

1. Keven DeYoung put together a great list  of dozens of biblical reasons to obey.  Duty is only one. But it’s a good, God-given motivation. That’s why duty is not a dirty word.

2.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention in a post on duty, what John Piper famously called, “that dangerous duty of delight.”

The Bible does not teach that we should treat delight as a mere byproduct of duty. C. S. Lewis got it right when he wrote to a friend, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” Yes, that is risky and controversial. But it is strictly true. Maximum happiness, both qualitatively and quantitatively, is precisely what we are duty-bound to pursue.

3. A favorite George Washington quote: The consideration that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected will always continue to prompt me to promote the former by inculcating the practice of the latter.

4. A poem.

“When He Comes”

There’s a king and captain high,
And He’s coming by and by,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes…
There’s a Man they thrust aside,
Who was tortured till He died,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.
He was hated and rejected,
He was scorned and crucified,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.
When He comes! When he comes! He’ll be crowned by saints and angels when He comes.
 They’ll be shouting out Hosanna!
To the Man that men denied,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.
– French E Oliver, 1921
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It Really Is Good To Give Thanks

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your lovingkindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night.

Psalm 92:1-2

Good means good. And it is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Good means beneficial and having an advantage for us. As in, Eat your fruits and vegetables- they’re good for you. And exercise is good too. Giving thanks to God benefits us. For starters, it frees us from the prison of self pre-occupation. Giving thanks is good.

But good means more. It also means fitting and appropriate. As in,  It would be good to be on time to the wedding. And not to wear dirty jeans to the dinner party. And, It’d be good to say thanks to the friend who gave you the tickets on the 50-yard line for Packer game . 

It is good to bookend our days with praise. In the morning implies eagerness and promptness and by night, unflagging diligence and devotion. Bookending can be as simple as thanking God for three things before you let yourself roll out of bed each morning and thanking him for three more when you crawl back in at night.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Duplicate Deliciousness

C.H. Spurgeon stretches out the morning to mean the happy seasons of our lives, the bright days of unsullied sweetness.

And the bright morning-like periods of our life-these, too, should be seasons for showing forth God’s lovingkindness… Do not, as some do, who, if they are prospering, make a point of not owning to it. We talk as if, really, we were to be pitied for living, as if we were little better off than toads under a hallow, or snails in a tub of salt. We often whine as if our lives were martyrdoms, and every breath a woe, thus slandering the good Lord.

There are bright days like the morning, and in them we ought to render praise. And see what is to be the subject of our praise–God’s lovingkindness. Was there ever such a word in any language as this word lovingkindness? It is a duplicate deliciousness. There are within it linked sweetnesses long drawn out. It is a kind of word with which to cast spells which should charm away all fears…A Christian ought to be the most cheerful of men. Let the joy of the Lord be our strength.

Do we declare his lovingkindness each morning of the bright days of our lives? Are we the most cheerful of women and men?

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

If There Be Any One Topic…

But we are to give thanks in all circumstances (for this is God’s will for you). We are not only to thank Him on the bright days, but thank him always, even the in the dark nights and grim days. Spurgeon urges us on in this too- to declaring God’s faithfulness by night. 

We have a day’s more experience than we had in the morning; therefore we have more power to sing of God’s faithfulness. Notice that the text says “every night,” the dark, drear, cold nights as well as others. Let the old who are nearing the night of life show forth the Lord’s faithfulness. And let us all publish it abroad. If there be any one topic on which Christians should speak, it is this, and they should speak of it bravely, continuously, thankfully and positively. Satan makes a dead set upon it in the minds of many tempted ones, and therefore all the more should you bring the strength of your testimony that God doth not forsake His people.  

So central is this call to bookend our days with God’s praise, that the Psalmist closes Psalm 92  with an astonishing purpose statement. It describes the righteous, who still bear fruit in old age. Then, the purpose statement: they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him (Psalm 92:14-15). 

Did you catch that that causal link? The reason we’re here is to declare that the Lord is upright.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

Here to Declare

You older saints, who are full of sap and green, you’re still around for at least this one reason: to declare God’s praise. But how exactly does an seasoned believer do that?

Spurgeon one more time,

Why, [he] shows that God has kept his promise. He has promised that he will never leave them nor forsake them. There you see it. He has promised that when they are weak they shall be strong. There you see it. He has promised that if they seek him they shall not lack any good thing. There you see it.

We see it when others declare it. Nothing girds up my soul when it’s weary soul than hearing a seasoned saint testify to the upright, faithfulness of God. More than once these words were exactly the encouragement I needed when my middle-aged life responsibilities bore down on me. When I needed some help to count blessings.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 

It Is Good To Give Thanks

Words from you older saints have weight. They bring home the goodness of God  home when we might not feel it. They declare that following God’s ways is wise and that he has been faithful to all his promises and that not one word of them has ever fallen to the ground.

So please declare and keep declaring this to us, you fruit bearing saints in old age. (Whatever old age is.) Please. Because that’s at least one reason you’re here: To declare that God is upright.

Yes, giving thanks to God is beneficial and advantageous and appropriate and right.

It really is good to give thanks to the Lord.

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give me one thing  more-a grateful heart…
…I cry and cry again; 
And in no quiet canst Thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain 
Of Thee.
Not thankful when it pleases me, 
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.

George Herbert

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