Complainers 

Learn to be a thanker rather than a complainer.

During the Israelites’ journey from Egypt they frequently grumbled, rebelled and on more than one occasion nearly stoned Moses. Even Moses and his brother Aaron, were stopped from going into the promised land because of their complaining.

Despite the amazing events of their escape from Egypt (where they had lived as slaves), the rich donations given by Egyptians, the crossing of the red sea, manna and quail literally from heaven, water from rocks and victories against armies who blocked their path, they still complained about the lack of food variety, how it had been more comfortable in the Egypt and why was Moses in charge.

Their complaining leads to God almost wiping them out in his anger, those left punished by being told that their generation will not enter the promised land, with 2 exceptions Caleb and Joshua.

Both these men had consistently reacted to the same difficulties that the others faced with trust in God rather than complaints.

Paul in his letters again and again tells us to be thankful, which is the opposite of complaining.

Yes there are examples of complaints against God in the Psalms, and our communication with God needs to be real and at times emotional.

In Dale Carnegie’s book How to make friends and influence people, he explains that complaining and critising may make us feel better but doesn’t have the desired effect on other people, people are not wired to react well to complaints. Having worked in customer service for many years I often found I reacted better to customers who didn’t negatively complain.

Christians like the Israelites have been set free from slavery, this time from slavery to sin. God blesses us again and again with his wisdom, with provision, with his hope, joy and peace and so many other things. So if we moan and critise and complain we are not living in the fruit of what God has given us, we are still harking back to Egypt.

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How to spread the good news 

We who know Jesus have been given so much. Unlike cults like the Jehovah Witnesses or Later Day Saints, our salvation is not dependent on getting others to join. God has saved us without requiring us to work for it.

Therefore our wish to tell others about this wonderful gift, is because we want others to benefit. We are like homeless people who have found somewhere warm to stay, telling other homeless people.

Why the good news needs to taste good

I want my children to grow up healthy, and able to eat a wide range of foods. I could cook unappetising food; that smells funny, is difficult to eat and tastes rubbish and make them eat it. Tell them it’s good for them and they should eat it regardless of its taste.

It would be far better (if I am able) to cook nice tasting food, food that is easy to eat, looks good and smells good, so that they eat the healthy meal more willingly.

The good news is even better for people than good food, so we should make it as palatable as possible without weakening it. Paul was a great fan of this:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. –

1 Corinthians 9 v 19-23

That is why there are so many ways to spread the good news. God wants to use our creative abilities.

In fact I would go further and say that by making the good news dull or hard, we are as bad as the cook who over boils the cabbage, or overcooks the steak (at least for me). We are putting a stumbling block in the way of people.

A strategy

So borrowing from Laurence Singlehurst this is a way to share the good news in a way that will help people along the journey to faith, rather than take them too fast along it, or put them off.

At each stage most people will not be ready or willing to move on to the next stage, and that’s fine because we don’t make new Christians, the Holy Spirit does.

Sowing 1

Objective: Leave people thinking you are OK and God is good

How: Let people know you are a Christian and that you believe in God, and do things that people consider good.

Examples: Messy Church, Street by Street, Offer practical help, throw a party

Sowing 2

Objective: Explain the good news including the ups and downs

How: By either inviting people to a low key event that will have it explained, or by more in-depth one to one conversations.

Examples: An music event with a testimony , chats with friends/colleagues/neighbours, Alpha, Start Course

Reaping

Objective: Give people an opportunity to make a response to the good news

How: When someone is ready to take the next step, then help them to accept Jesus’ gift.

Examples: Evangelistic event, one to one, Alpha, Start Course

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6 v 9

Keeping

Objective: Help people to grow in their faith, and to become mature Christians

How: This is a lifetime’s work, as they grow as a disciple. Healthy small groups and involvement in the mission of the Church help to make people feel involved and motivate them to take often difficult steps.

Examples: Moving On Course, Small groups, Sunday sermons

Love one another 

Jesus’ way challenges us still, it’s not an easy well trodden path, following Jesus (which is what a Christian should be) is difficult, we daily have to surrender our own human selfishness and walk his narrow path.

John records in his gospel that Jesus laid down a challenge to his disciples (followers), by giving them a new command to love one another as he had loved them. This was going to be very hard, the disciples were not a naturally huggey feeley group, they were fishermen, ex-terrorists and tax collectors among other things. They argued, they fell out, they undermined each other, they followed Jesus for many reasons, loving each other was not one of them.

Love not Like

Most importantly Jesus had not ask them and doesn’t ask us to like everyone, we don’t have smile and pretend we are best friends, we don’t have hang out with each other. I am not going to get on with every christian, personalities will clash.

What Jesus asks us to do is to love other Christians, in the same way he loves us, so what does this mean?

Jesus’ Love

Most importantly Jesus’ love was not a feeling that went up and down based on his mood, his love was action, it just was.

Costly Love

Jesus laid down his live for us – that was the best demonstration of his love for us, we need to copy him and do the same.

We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers – 1 John 3 v 16-18

Sometimes this means we need to actually trade our lives for others, I imagine that many of our brothers and sisters in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have had to make this choice.

For most of us it means counting our lives as less important than our Christian brother and sisters.

Caring Love

Jesus cared for his disciples, he was protective of them, he wanted the best for them. Sometimes that meant challenging them, love is not always looking for peace in every situation. To guard each other that may mean snatching some from the fire (as Jude puts it).

We need to do this in love, otherwise we become a hostile critic. Its a bit like caring for a child, if you love them you will stop them doing something that harms them.

Committed Love

Jesus knew his disciples would fail and yet he was committed to them, he didn’t give up on them. He showed his love by restoring Peter who had denied him.

Other Christians will fail us, they are not perfect – Jesus hasn’t finished with them yet, just like he hasn’t finished with you – the love we need to use takes this into account.

Inclusive Love

Jesus loved all regardless of their background. The Church is meant to be diverse, people who shouldn’t get on , should show their love for each other.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, you are all one in Christ Jesus – Galatians 3 v 28

Commanded Love

Jesus commands us to love each other, therefore he will give us the love.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5 v 5

Love is not a feeling, it is an action, commanded love means we love even when we don’t feel like it.

Fruit among the Pashtun

I was lucky enough this week to hear about the work that the Holy Spirit is doing among the Pashtun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Those who convert from Islam to Christianity do so in the face of severe persecution.  Labelled apostates by the Taliban their lives are forfeit, and they often have to leave behind family, communities and possessions. Martyrdom is a daily reality, and yet God is moving powerfully among them.

There are 49 million Pashtuns in the world (30 million are in Pakistan), yet they are one of the most unreached people groups for the gospel. In their culture to be Pashtun is to be Muslim, so choosing to accept Jesus means breaking this connection. However over the last decade thousands have been called out of Islam into the truth. Even among the Taliban God has been bringing some into the light.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Rev 12 v 11

For the moment this all has to be done secretly, becoming a Christian means you are no longer safe where you are. They have to be moved to other parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or into Iran. Any property they have has to be left, taking what they can carry  they become refugees overnight.

Mountain Spring Ministries is a Pashtun led organisation that is supporting, training and encouraging Christians and seekers among the Pashtun.

Prayer

They have asked for the following to be prayed for

  • Team safety and wisdom
  • Protection for the coordinator as he travels in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran
  • Strength and comfort for the believers
  • What to do about the believer’s children, who will miss out on schooling as they flee.
  • The wives and children of those who have been martyred, and are left destitute.
  • Protection for those Muslims who are seeking the truth, our speaker said they had 700 contacts who are on this journey.

Practical Needs

  •  Mountain Springs run 2 safe houses for Christians and their families who are on the run for their lives
  • They also provide training and communications equipment (mobile phones) for leaders in the area.
  • As illiteracy is high among the Pashtun, one to one and audio materials need to be used to disciple Christians.