30-Days of No Complaining Challenge

grumblingNicole Pajer, a freelance columnist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, discovered something interesting about complaining. After deciding to participate in what she called a “30-days of No Complaining Challenge,” her entire perspective on her circumstances changed. She realized much of what she complained about were “what-if” situations that had not happened yet. She also found that she was able to be more present generally in life and specifically with others, more grateful for what she did have, and overall she experienced more joy in her life.

As I mentioned this past weekend in my message “Shared Joy,” I’d like to take Pajer’s concept of the “30-days of no complaining” and connect it to spiritual growth in light of Philippians 2:14-15, which says:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’

Following on his discussion of living as citizens of a new kingdom in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), and after highlighting Jesus as the example of selfless love and humility, Paul the Apostle calls the Philippian believers to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” (2:12-13). Unexpectedly, Paul’s chief application of this is toward our words and speech. Specifically, he calls believers to let go of grumbling and arguing so that joyful witness to Christ might rise up. This is a veiled reference to the failure of Israel to live as a blessing to the nations, instead to devolving into grumbling after their deliverance in the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea.

For those of us who follow Jesus, this exhortation from Paul is both challenging and helpful. Paul is basically saying to us: do not let anything in or from your mouths hinder your witness. He is saying to the early church, and through them to us: learn from Israel’s failure and respond to God’s grace from your hearts, in your lives, and with your mouths. Yet how challenging that is!

Now, there is a difference between complaining and pointing out something that is wrong. There is a right and good place to say hard things in a way that contributes to the good in ourselves and others. One example is that famous proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  Grumbling and complaining, however, is rooted in a disposition of discontent that leads to murmuring or muttering in every direction. In a sense, grumbling and complaining are expressions of how much we feel out of control in life or our circumstances. Likewise, arguing, at least in the sense that Paul is addressing here in Philippians 2:14, is an attempt to assert control when we feel out of control. Grumbling, complaining, and arguing are contagious in the worst ways possible.

Yet, a basic truth of life that we all must realize is that we are truly out of control in life. Although we do have domains of responsibility, all of our spheres of control are ultimately contingent or delegated to us. As those who know God through Christ, the freeing truth is that we are out of control yet we are held by the only One who is ultimately in control. This realization can move us from complaining to rejoicing, from grumbling to gratitude.

So, I want to invite you to join me in a “30-Days of No Complaining Challenge.” Think of it as a form of fasting within your speech. Maybe you want to choose with me to take the next thirty days to:

  • turn away from ourselves and our grumbling, complaining and arguing
  • turn toward God in prayer, rejoicing, and gratitude
  • learn from our failures in our words about our tendencies to grumbling and complaining
  • surrender to God in new ways, particularly in our speech, in order to reflect Him more truly

Jesus said, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). Grumbling and arguing arise from a disordered heart. Join me in allowing God to do a new thing in our lives that begins in our hearts and minds and overflows into our lives and mouths, so that we might “shine like the stars” in our witness to Him and He might get the most glory out of us.

Shared Joy

This last weekend at Eastbrook Church I continued our series from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances.” This weekend we continued with Paul’s outworking of our kingdom citizenship begun in Philippians 1:27, turning now toward the outworking of our salvation joy in Philippians 2:12-30. I love this passage because it holds some of the verses that captivate me most in the entire letter.

Below you can view the video and sermon outline of this message, “Shared Joy.” You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Witnesses to Hope

Over the past couple of years, I have participated in the Gospel Life blog hosted by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

In my post there today I write about the need for us as Christians to become witnesses to hope. This post came out of a lot of my own conversations and reflections upon the present moment in our world and what it looks like to be a voice and presence of hope in the time in which we live. As hopelessness rises up, we must also rise up with hopefulness.

This past year has brought wave after wave of discouraging news. Many people I encounter feel overwhelmed by increasing political incoherence, racial injustice, and global chaos, not to mention their own personal challenges. Despair rises up around us like hunger in the stomach of a famine-wracked child. If I could pick one word to encapsulate the current tone of our society it would be hopelessness.

As followers of Jesus we are called to be people of hope, and this calling is even more important in light of the entangling hopelessness of our day. In fact, our witness as Christians at this present hour will remain inadequate if we do not recapture the hope inherent in the gospel…

[Continue reading the article here.]

Next Steps after “A Wake Up Call to Live the Dream”

MLK-Gathering-Ads_App-Wide.pngLast night, we had the immense privilege of hosting an event at Eastbrook Church put on by the Milwaukee Declaration group entitled “A Wake Up Call to Live the Dream.” It was an amazing multi-ethnic gathering of believers from congregations around the city and suburbs of Milwaukee. At the end of the night, we provided some possible next steps. Since some folks have asked me about that resource list, I am posting it to my blog below.Read More »