Mission Devotional - December 17, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017 - The Third Sunday in Advent

Opening Prayer: Forgive me, O God, for all of the muttering and murmuring and grumbling that goes on regularly in my heart and soul. Give me a deep sense of trust in you and a contentment that enables me to be joyful even when circumstances are challenging, annoying, or painful. Amen.

Scripture: Exodus 16:1-21

Journal: Where are you grumbling in your life these days? What is its source? What is at the core of it?

Reflection: And Moses said, "When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him - what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord." (Exodus 16:8)

Hello, my name is Jim and I am a grumbler. It is sad to admit, but it is true. I grumble a lot. I murmur under my breath (and even out loud at times) and complain in my heart pretty regularly about what is going on with the people and the circumstances around me. It is not a pretty sight and is definitely not something I am proud of. Yet, when I read this passage in Exodus 16 my disgust with the incessant nature of my complaint and criticism was taken to a whole different level. For this scripture reveals the fact that when I grumble, ultimately my grumbling is not against those around me, but against God.

What exactly is grumbling anyway, and where does it come from? The definition of the word grumble is to murmur or mutter in discontent; to complain sullenly. The Hebrew word is luwn, which means to be obstinate. It conveys the idea of an attitude of complaint that one dwells and persists (or even abides) in. Grumbling, therefore, is not just an isolated incident, it is a spirit and an attitude that cause a certain way of being. It is one part pride and one part discontent, with a heavy dose of selfishness sprinkled in. Grumbling occurs at the odd intersection of arrogance and insecurity. It criticizes and tears down in an effort to convince ourselves that if we were in charge things would be much different, much better. At its core, grumbling involves a heart of distrust. Grumbling is a subtle, and not so subtle, way of saying to God, "I don't trust you, I trust me." Therefore, it is toxic to the soul. Grumbling dries up the life of the Spirit within us, producing dark sadness, gloom, grumpiness, and discontent in our souls; the total opposite of the way God created us to live. And unfortunately it is a difficult addiction to break.

That is why we must turn to God regularly in prayer (see Psalm 32), acknowledge the state of our hearts, admit the ways we have fallen short of his ideal, and ask him to forgive us and restore a right spirit within us. Only God can detox our souls from the spirit of grumbling that has taken up residence deep within us. Only God can uproot this spirit of complaint and criticism and discontent, and fill us with the Spirit of joy and gladness and gratitude instead. Then we, like King David, can pray, "Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (Psalm 32:11) For the Lord our God has been so very good to us.

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

H and L serve in Asia by providing strategic leadership for colleagues serving in several major urban centers in Asia. Their role involves encouraging and coaching these co-workers in their ministries, as well as networking with others to make sure they have the resources and training that they need for their respective ministries. Pray today for H and L as they consider their next area of service after handing over their previous leadership positions to another couple.

Knox County CAC is a public agency serving the citizens of Knoxville and Knox County. Cedar Springs is partnering with CAC Homeward Bound Emergency Transitional Housing Project (ETH). The program helps specific groups find housing: (1) Families with children that cannot find shelter space, (2) Seniors that cannot get into shelter or who are too frail for existing shelter, (3) Individuals with an already established housing plan. Pray today for the staff of CAC as they seek to find housing for these individuals.

Closing Prayer: Lord, forgive me for my grumbling spirit. I acknowledge it to you, confess it, and ask for your forgiveness and your cleansing. I grumble a lot and I am sorry for that. Please forgive me. Replace my grumbling with your Spirit of joy and gladness and gratitude. Amen.