Friday, August 28, 2015

Whining (In the Lord, of course)

Have you ever entered into pious whining?  You know, telling your story of woes and then retelling your story of woes and then for emphasis telling your story of woes with a request for prayer.  Maybe or maybe not, but I suspect you can identify it.  This is what Scripture presents as a way of dealing with the normal human longing to whine. 

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.  Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 (NLT)

What does that look like lived out?  The early followers of Christ did it.  Paul gives a description of some “whine” worthy things he went through, but he did not whine. 

Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.  Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.  I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.  I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.  Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?  If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.  God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying.  2 Corinthians 11:23-31 (NLT)

Elements of Whining

You can identify whining and find a different approach if you choose.  Here are some elements of whining to consider. 


If all the bad stuff happens to you.  You might be self-consumed. 

If all the situations around you have to do with you.  You might be self-consumed.

If all you can think about are the situations and bad stuff that happens to you.  You might be self-consumed. 

If all you can talk about are the situations and bad stuff that happens to you.  You might be self-consumed. 

If all your conversations, answers to questions, and prayer requests are about the situations and bad stuff that happens to you.  You might be self-consumed. 

Boomerang Talk

If you have the super power of turning any conversation about the news, someone else’s life, or a Bible verse back to you and your current anxiety you might be a master of boomerang talk. 

If you are good at keeping a story about you going even after it has run its course, the topic has been changed, and someone else wants to join in you might be a Ninja master of boomerang talk. 

Heart Worms

Heart worms are dangerous. 

If you are consistently upset over people and situations not fitting into your idea of how things ought to go you might have heart worms. 

If you are seeking compassion for yourself, but rarely for others you might have heartworms. 

If you are more comfortable fretting, worrying and keeping a fire going under anxiety rather than listening to and turning to the living God you might have heartworms. 

Baiting Support

Using an expression, sigh, short answers in order to get people to ask with genuine concern, “So, what’s wrong?”  You might be baiting support. 

Using Facebook or social media as a tool to make a statement which causes people to jump in with alarm because of the seriousness of the tone with little real information.  You might be baiting support. 


Whining is an annoying high pitched sound or a person living below the character level God designed and letting everyone else know that it must be everyone else’s fault.  God has better for His people.  Lots better. 

Winning over Whining

It begins with really trusting the Lord.  Really.  We as His people are to follow in His steps.  Even in suffering we are to follow Him.  How did Jesus do with having His back laid open with the whip?  Humiliation in front of spectators and even His own mother as He hung naked on a cross and Jesus did…not…whine.  He had concern for his mother.  He gave grace to the thief on the cross next to Him.  He asked God the Father to forgive them.  That is quite an example.  Jesus had perspective.  Jesus was not self-consumed. 

Paul trusted the Lord even with beatings and hunger and being an outcast and having been ship wrecked.  No whining.  His concern was to serve and honor God.  He was interested in the wellbeing of others.  The connection of others to the one true and living God energized him.  He knew that was the hope for all people.  Anything else will collapse and burn someday.  Winning over whining means keeping the main thing the main thing. 

The thinking that I deserve better opens the door to whining.  Jesus and Paul deserved better.  They did not deserve what they got. They didn’t whine.  Getting to know God better.  Soaking Him up helps break the cycle of self.  Joshua had a big job ahead.  He had to get the people of Israel into the land God was giving them.  It required facing formidable armies, fortified cities, and fear.  God knew what was coming and what would help.  Here is the instruction to Joshua:

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 (NLT)

See the direction God went with this in order to help Joshua?   In order to accomplish what God had for him in life Joshua had to focus on God’s things not himself.  The whiner instead of studying God’s truth continually will continually study themselves and their circumstances and their heartache.  The whiner instead of meditating on God’s wonderful word will keep going over day and night all that bothers them.  The whiner will not do what God said to do, but instead will turn to stewing about the awful stuff in their life and find a way to whine about it to someone.  The whiner will not prosper or succeed in doing what God has for them to do.  God gave Joshua incredibly helpful directions.  And He had more to say to Joshua. 

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

Instead of leaving room for whining God says, “BE strong and courageous.”  Fantastic.  Joshua doesn’t have to be afraid or discouraged.  Whiners live in fear and discouragement routinely.  But God has better.  The reason Joshua can move forward is that God was with Him.  Joshua had to do what God said.  When He did…wow.  God was with Him to live fully, to accomplish totally what God had laid out for him. 

Winning over whining as we follow Jesus means there is an attitude adjustment.  Paul describes it well in Philippians 2. 

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT)

How much whining would be left after a person gets rid of selfishness, self-aggrandizement and takes on an actual interest in the lives of others?  Not much I reckon. 

How does this work?  A person following Christ gets a grasp of the deep things of Christ, an understanding of the God of heaven, a desire to love truly, and then gets going on it.   

At church seeking to move others closer to Christ and to the Kingdom would replace announcing one’s own accomplishments and worldly pursuits.  Conversations would have an atmosphere of heaven about them.  Of course, the things of this life are matters to be discussed and to be brought before the Lord in prayer, but if they are central whining will soon break loose.  If those things are submitted under the things of God there is hope of solving them with God’s wisdom or of enduring them with God’s strength, but if God is an add in tagged on to the end then you can pretty much guess the outcome. 

Developing maturity in Christ we are people who are better able to see past our own feelings and opinions and enter into more spiritual reality with our feelings and opinions.  Jesus has feelings and opinions but they were not and are not based on the flesh or the world’s ways.  Spiritually healthy emotions can help us get beyond ourselves and into the “interests of others.”  By the way the “interests of others” does not mean if someone is really into college football that you should really be into their team or whatever.  No.  It is what is for their best interest.  It was best for people that Jesus come and live humbly among people of earth.  It was in their best interest He suffer and die on the cross.  Get the idea.  The best interest of someone at church is encouraging, building up, developing in another what they need to love God with all they’ve got and to live with love in their hearts for others.  This is far from being self-consumed, using boomerang talk, struggling with heartworms or baiting support. 

It is time to win over whining.  Now. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Story of Maurice, Rees and God

God uses people.  One by one.  Little by little.  Like links on a chain.  God uses people to help others come to know Him.  Maurice Reuben was one of the links for Rees Howells.  Here is a portion from Rees Howells biography that tells of Maurice Reuben, Rees Howells and our great God.  Take a look and see if you find the hand of God at work. 

Rees had not been long in his new home, when he heard that a converted Jew, Maurice Reuben from Pittsburgh, had come to the city for a mission. The first night that he went to hear him, Reuben told the story of his conversion and how the Holy Spirit had revealed Calvary to him. "I had heard preaching on Calvary scores of times before and believed it," said Rees, "but I had never seen Calvary before that night." He was being brought back to the very same point which had so struck him in his cousin's testimony.

Maurice Reuben told how he belonged to a wealthy family" and had the best the world could give him, and "how he had lived to make money. He was a director of Solomon and Reuben, one of the largest stores of Pittsburgh. But the life of one of his buyers used to put him under deep conviction, until one day he said to him, "You must have been born happy." "Yes," replied the buyer, "in my second birth. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and was born of God. In my first birth I was no happier than you!"

Reuben was so moved by this testimony that he bought a New Testament, and there he was impressed with the fact that all those who followed Jesus were Jews: John the Baptist pointing to Him as the Lamb of God; Peter, James and John, the chief disciples; and to a Jew the Saviour had said, "On this rock will I build My Church." Then he came to the story of the rich young ruler. It was a dramatic moment -- a rich Jew of the twentieth century and under conviction, reading of the Saviour's dealings with a rich Jew of the first century! The way that Reuben saw it was that if Jesus had told that young man to sell all to inherit eternal life, how could he, Reuben, inherit the same gift, unless on the same condition? It was his supreme test. If he became a disciple, he knew that he too stood to lose all. But it was too late to go back; he had seen it, and he must follow; and as Reuben said those words, Rees echoed them in his own heart; it was too late also for him to go back.

Reuben faced it fairly and squarely and counted the cost. His wife might leave him, his brother put him out of the business, and not a single Jew follow him, but he had made up his mind; if he lost everything, he meant to do it. Then one day, on the way to the store, Reuben heard a voice repeating to him the words of John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." The truth flashed upon him -- he accepted Christ and entered into life that moment, he then told his brother and others. According to his father's will he was to forfeit every penny if he changed his religion, but his brother offered to give him 70,000 pounds -- his share of the business -- if he would cross U.S.A. and retire in Montana. But Reuben replied, "I have had the light in Pittsburgh, and I am going to witness in Pittsburgh."

Late that Saturday night detectives came and took him to the police station. On Monday two doctors visited his cell and asked him about the voice he had heard. "Do they question my sanity?" he thought. Two hours later warders came from the asylum and took him to a room where there were twenty-nine mentally deranged people. The bitterness of his position overcame him. He had victory in the lock-up, but this seemed more than he could bear. He fell on his knees by his bed and poured out his heart to the Lord. He did not know how long he was there, but he seemed to lose himself, and a vision of Calvary appeared to him. He said he witnessed every stage of the crucifixion. He forgot his own sufferings in the sufferings of the Saviour, and as he gazed on the Cross, the Master Himself said to him, "And must I bear the Cross alone, and all the world go free?" From a broken heart Reuben answered, "No. There's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me." From that hour he was a new man. Instead of complaining at being in the asylum, he began to pray for the other twenty-nine, and to the Saviour he said, "Let me suffer for You. Whatever You allow me to go through, I will never complain again."

Two weeks later, Reuben's brother came to see him, and reproached him for his folly in getting himself into such a place. "Why won't you be wise?" he said. "Get out of here and go to Montana." "Does that offer still stand? Then it is not a medical condition but something else that is keeping me here!" said Reuben with all the keenness of his logical mind. Some Christian friends he was in touch with caused inquiries to be set on foot. In six weeks his release was procured. It became a court case, and the test was on the voice. The judge called the doctor and asked why this man had been certified as insane. "Because he heard a voice," said the doctor. "Didn't the Apostle Paul hear a voice?" countered the judge, who was a Christian man. "This is a disgrace to the American flag," and he told Reuben to prosecute everyone who had anything to do with it. "I shall never prosecute one," answered Reuben, "but I will do one thing -- I will pray for them." He crossed the court and offered his hand to his brother, but he turned his back on him. He went to his wife, but she did the same. But what a victory he had in his own soul!

He rented a small room in Chicago, where he lived alone with the Lord and won many converts, though for two years he hardly ever had a square meal. A year later his wife came to hear him in a camp meeting and was converted, and for t-he first time he saw his little boy who had been born after his wife had left him. She was willing to make her home with him again, if only he would earn a living as other Christians did. His heart went out to his little boy, and this test was even greater than the first. Her request seemed so reasonable, but he knew that the Lord had called him from the world into this life of faith. He pleaded with the Lord, but the only reply he received was, "Back to Egypt!" It was enough, and once more Reuben embraced the Cross. He went to see his wife and child off; it was a costly experience; but as the train steamed out of the station it seemed that God poured the joy of heaven into his soul. He literally danced on the platform. He did not see his wife for another three years. Then, in another camp meeting, she too had a revelation of the Cross, as a result of which she testified, that whereas before as a believer she had not been willing to share the sacrificial life of her husband, if it would be for God's glory, she would now be willing to beg her bread from door to door. They were reunited and she became a wonderful co-worker with him in his ministry.

One thing that had hindered Rees Howells from coming through before was that while people said they were born again, he could not see that their lives were better than his. How then could he be convinced that they had something he had not? But he had sometimes said to the Lord, "If I ever see a person who is living the Sermon on the Mount, I will give in." Before Reuben came to the end of his story, the Lord said to. Rees, "Is this your man?"

What followed in that little Methodist Chapel Rees Howells tells in his own words: "As Maurice Reuben brought those sacred scenes before us, I too saw the Cross. It seemed as if I spent ages at the Saviour's feet, and I wept and wept. I felt as if He had died just for me. 1 lost myself. I had been living in the fear of death, and I saw Him taking that death for me. My parents loved me very much, and up to that time, to me there were no people like them, but they never suffered death for me. He did it. His love for me, as compared with theirs, was as high as the heavens above the earth, and He won my love -- every bit of it. He broke me, and everything in me went right out to Him.

"Then He spoke to me, and said, 'Behold I stand at the door and knock. May I come in to you, as I came in to Reuben and took the place of wife and son and home and store and world? Will you accept me?' 'Yes,' I replied, and He came in, and that moment I changed. I was born into another world. I found myself in the Kingdom of God, and the Creator became my Father. That night I received the gift of eternal life, that gift which money cannot buy.

"When I went home, my friend who had accompanied me to the meeting, but had seen nothing in it, seemed so rough to me. Everyone who was not born again seemed rough. The Saviour became everything to me. He was not only the fairest among ten thousand, but fairest among millions! That love of His had always been there, but before I saw it, there was no-response from me; but He had plenty of response after this. Everything of this world was rough, but everything about. Him, so holy, pure and beautiful. I changed .altogether. None of my old friends could understand what had happened. I had no fellowship with natural things. It wasn't a point of doctrine I saw; no, it was Calvary. It wasn't giving a mental assent; no, the veil was taken back, my eyes were opened, and I saw Him. That night I saw this world as a cursed place, and the thought came to me that I would never touch it again.

"The love of the Saviour was revealed to me, You can't explain what a revelation is. I saw that the Saviour and Father, before I should suffer, would rather suffer for me. No natural love is in the same world as His love. It was not merely that the Saviour helped me outside Himself; no, He took my place. I saw every other love so rough in comparison. Self was the motive of it. But I could see that love enduring through the countless ages of eternity. When you receive the Saviour, you receive the love of God. That love flooded my being, and it has flooded my being ever since. I .saw that by His coming in to me, He would love sinners through me, as He loved me. It would not be forcing myself to love others, any more than the Saviour forced Himself to love me. No person could be an enemy to me, because I had been an enemy to Him before I was reconciled. If I live in the realm where He is, I live to have mercy, and to be kind, to love others. Could the love of God in me do harm to anyone? I had left the world and its folly, and been born into that Kingdom where there is only the love of God -- the most attractive life on the face of the earth."

Rees always spoke of this, his spiritual birthday, as the most outstanding day of his life. It was the day which brought his stay in America to a close. He never forgot that it was in the U.S.A. and through a Jew that he found the Saviour, and that he owed a debt to God's chosen people which he was to repay in later years, but he felt that his first witness should be to his own folk, who had nurtured him in the things of God. The thought of returning home was crystallized for him within a few days by a sharp temptation on the point of his previous weakness -- the love of money. The manager of the works where he was employed had a high opinion of him, and offered him a job at 2 pounds 10s. a day, a good wage even for America in those days, but it would have meant more claim on his time. He told his friend that he was leaving as soon as he could, "because the manager is putting a temptation before me, and I told the Lord I would never live for money." The new life was quickly pushing out the old. As he said, he had gone out to do sight-seeing, but had seen the greatest sight in the world -- Calvary!