By Dawn Wilson –
The scenery surrounding Temecula, California, is gorgeous. My friend Judy told her daughter, Jennifer, about the time she took a drive through the wine country. Jennifer’s son, Connor, seven-years-old at the time, was sitting nearby, listening to their conversation.
Suddenly he piped up, “Wine country … is that where people go to complain?”
Although everyone laughed at his innocent question, complaining is not all that funny. Complaining – also known as grumbling, whining, murmuring, griping or belly-aching – only makes circumstances worse.
Christians tend to place complaining in a “lesser category” of sin, but God dealt with Israel’s complaints severely: “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1 ESV).
The Israelites’ attitudes displeased the Lord, not just because they were ungrateful for His provisions, but, at the root, they refused to trust His care, playing into the enemy’s hands. Complaining always opens the door to Satan’s destructive influence (1 Corinthians 10:10).
Complaining is simply one proof of an unbelieving heart. If we truly believe that God is in charge, our complaints about others or our circumstances are actually an accusation against Him (Exodus 16:8; Psalm 106:24-26). A godly perspective believes that God works for our good and can redeem any circumstance (Romans 8:28).
One of Jesus’ disciples, Jude, equated grumbling and complaining with ungodly deeds (1:15-16). Because complaining should never be part of believer’s conversations, the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to do “all things without complaining” (Philippians 2:14 NKJV).
Complaining arises not only from a heart of unbelief, but also from a heart of discontent. The Christian is called to find contentment in Christ (Philippians 4:11; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:8).
I was a mega-complainer as a young college student. I grumbled about the food, teachers, the weather – you name it! But a godly suite-mate cornered me one day while I complained about one of my classes.
“Dawn,” Janie said with love, “I’m concerned for you, because all of your complaints are idle words, and the Bible says you’re going to have to give an account for each one.” She pointed to Matthew 12:36-37. Under great conviction, I joined her in prayer, repenting of this sin God so clearly hates.
Janie then suggested I turn my complaints into trust and my murmuring into praises. It was a lesson I took to heart. I realized I had a choice. I might not be able to choose my circumstances, but I could always watch my tongue and express faith and joy.
By Dawn Wilson –
A funny YouTube video, “Which is the Guilty Dog?”, is a priceless example of the guilt response. The video features three adorable dogs responding to the question, “Who did this mess?”
The first time the question is asked, Guilty Dog’s companions turn their heads and look at him. They have no trouble ratting him out! “He’s the guilty one, Mom. Just look at him!”
Guilty Dog squints his eyes.
Then the lady in the video addresses each dog individually. “Cody, did you make this mess? Murphy, did you make this mess? Maggie, did you make this mess?”
Guilty Dog cringes.
“Somebody made it,” the lady says. “Who made it? Who made this mess?”
Overwhelmed, Guilty Dog cowers and leaves the room in shame.
How like humans when we face the sinful messes in our lives. We cringe and want to hide.
I saw that response in my young sons. Adults learn to disguise their guilt – to cover up. But children … not so much. I remember one son, standing before me with chocolate fudge frosting over his top lip. I asked, “Did you eat a cupcake?”
“No, Mom,” he said. I stared him down, stifling a chuckle, until he confessed.
My husband’s family tells a story, passed down as part of their family heritage. Bob and his three siblings faced tough interrogation:
Mom Wilson asked, “Who stole the orange slices?” No one confessed. They blamed each other – even little Jimmy who could barely walk! No one will admit to the “crime” this side of heaven.
As a teenager, I tried to cast blame on others – “Look what he did, God. He’s worse than me!” My sin-hiding skills improved and I thought myself quite righteous.
Yet scriptures I’d heard or memorized haunted me, especially, “All have sinned” and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23 NIV). I recalled that sin brings separation from God (Isaiah 59:2), self-righteousness equals filth in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6) and good works will never please God (Ephesians 2:9).
I was so proud. I would find a better way to hide sin and be a “good girl.” But God’s Spirit kept bringing sinful attitudes and actions to mind. And Satan piled on too, not knowing he played into God’s plan to redeem me. “You are scum,” the enemy said. “You’re worthless!”
At age 21, while serving as a singer in a revival ministry, I heard the evangelist read these words: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23 NIV). Another version says, “lawbreakers,” and I argued with God. “I’m not a lawbreaker. I’ve never had one traffic ticket; I just speed a little,” I said. “I never cheated on a test. Well, almost never. And I love everyone … except her.”
One Tuesday as I sang “Do You Know My Jesus?” in a Christian high school, I couldn’t shake those words, “I never knew you.” I knew a lot about God, but I didn’t know Him in a personal relationship. I was trying to save myself, but I desperately needed a Savior to change my heart.
I left the microphone in the middle of the song and wept my way to the prayer room—a turning point in my life. God began a work of transformation. Now, when the enemy comes to accuse me, I point to my Savior and say, “Take it up with Jesus. He took my sin and guilt.”
Sweet freedom. This Guilty Dog is righteous and justified in Christ (Romans 3:19-26).
By Dawn Wilson –
It all began with a tub of crickets.
After a family dinner at an Outback Steakhouse – just my husband and I, our married sons and their families – we all decided to go to my oldest son Robert’s house. Megan, my oldest granddaughter, wanted to show me her newest reptile.
Yes, you read that right. Megan, now 12, adores reptiles. She has a big tri-level tank for them in her bedroom. Meg already had a leopard gecko named Lizzie, a blue-tongued skink named Azul, and a bearded dragon named Odin, but that night everyone wanted to meet Megan’s new friend.
“This is Mushu,” she said. “She’s a frilled dragon.” Now that was a treat, especially when Mushu flared her frills!
But then Robert declared it “feeding time.” The critters usually get meal worms, but tonight was a treat. The four pets would share a delightful tub of live crickets. This “family night” was not for the squeamish!
I watched, fascinated, as my favorite of the reptile clan, Azul, stalked and snapped up crickets with a sweep of his colorful tongue.
“Do you think crickets feel anything?” I suddenly asked the family. Honestly, my youngest son Mike looked at me, wide-eyed, like I might be part reptile. “No, really,” I continued. “I keep thinking about Jiminy Cricket. Do you think they have emotions? Can they feel anything?”
“Not for long!” Robert’s wife Tracy said.
But then, no doubt overcome by the reptiles chomping on scurrying crickets, Carrie, Mike’s wife, started cheering for the little hoppers!
“Run, crickets, run!” She shouted, to my granddaughters’ delight. They chimed in – “Run, crickets, run!”
I’ll never forget that night… Carrie cheering for the underdogs (or rather, the undercrickets). The cheering brought back fond memories of the movie Rudy. America, always bent on success and ladder-climbing, still loves to cheer for underdogs.
We were all once underdogs. Pathetic and incapable of saving ourselves, we didn’t stand a chance. The enemy stalked, desiring to destroy.
But for God, we’d all be without hope and forever lost. While we were dirty sinners, the scriptures tell us, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:6-8). It was not for the righteous He came, but to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32); and each time sinners do come to repentance, the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:7, 10).
When I remember all the excitement on our family night—understanding the crickets’ fate and cheering for them to escape—I realize that will be nothing compared to the eternal joy over sinners escaping Satan’s grasp as they believe in the Savior’s death and resurrection on their behalf. Can you hear heaven cheering for the desperate underdogs, now overcomers?
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV).
By Dawn Wilson –
“Aaaaurgh! What’s wrong now?”
Staring at my monitor, I tapped my computer mouse harder. “Oh come on!” I yelled, growing more impatient with the “stupid technology!” that wouldn’t work.
Then I looked down at my mouse. Only it wasn’t a mouse. It was my cell phone, next to my mouse.
Jokes abound concerning elderly people using computers. While I don’t consider myself “elderly,” I do sympathize. I read about a grandfather who took a course called “Computers for the Terrified.” He was a quick learner, but kept calling his mouse a “mole.”
I watched a video of a cute old couple that couldn’t figure out how their computer video camera worked. Their chat about how the video wasn’t working (“Is it on? … Is it on?”)—while the camera captured their conversation—is hilarious. Plain and simple, it’s hard for the older generation to keep up with all the changes!
All I had as a child was a boxy television and radio. My mom couldn’t call me in from play on a cell phone. I had to rely on the street lights coming on to know when it was time for dinner. The Bible tells us “knowledge will be increased” in the last days (Daniel 12:4), and we can certainly see this is true.
In 2010, nearly 220,000 patents were granted by the US Patent Office, a sign of the creativity and growing technology in the United States alone. Think of changes in the medical world: MRIs, ultrasound, CT scans, laser surgery. Think about the evolution from the vinyl record to cassettes, eight-track tapes and CDs. Consider iPods and iPads!
In every aspect of life, new technologies and fresh thinking have revolutionized our lives. In the midst of all this change, I am comforted to know that God is never surprised by our new discoveries. The One who created our minds can certainly understand our technologies. It’s sad that with new ways of thinking, many consider God’s ways old-fashioned. They cast off His Word like a 1950’s telephone. The Lord wants to help recognize today’s foolish thinking with His unchanging wisdom.
Jesus encouraged His disciples with a promise—the Spirit of Truth would guide them into all truth and show them “things to come” (John 16:13), to be their teacher as well as their Advocate (John 14:26).
This same Spirit wants to encourage us today: to give us peace when we feel busy and overwhelmed; to give us wisdom when our seventh grader asks us questions and we don’t have a clue; to comfort us when life gets too big for us to handle; to help us choose joy when circumstances get tough.
We can smile when we mistake a cell phone for a mouse, but God understands our real difficulties; and when we don’t “get” life, the Spirit of God is always ready, waiting for our questions.
By Dawn Wilson –
I’ve been called a “ding-a-ling” because of my New Year’s tradition, but I don’t care. I don’t intend to stop any time soon! A few years ago, I decided to borrow the bells from Christmas and bring them into my New Year’s celebration to help me focus on lifestyle changes (not resolutions) that work for every year.
I use the acrostic R-I-N-G.
First is “R”—RELY on God. This isn’t always easy for this stubborn, independent woman. My dad wrote a scripture passage in the front of my Bible that is a constant reminder to rely on God: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own…” (Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message). David said God was his Refuge and Fortress, and “on Him,” David said, “I lean and rely … in Him I confidently trust” (Psalm 91:2, Amplified). When I remember that God is in control and is a trustworthy Provider, I am more likely to rely on Him and look to Him for all I need.
Next is “I”—INVEST in Others. I want to spend time with family and friends and devote resources to show love and kindness, to encourage and serve them, and to help meet their needs. I can practice all the “one another” scriptures. I can enter into others’ lives emotionally too, rejoicing with them in good times and coming alongside to weep with them in tough circumstances (Romans 12:15).
Then there is “N”—NOURISH Yourself. Just as the Jews were instructed to care for the Temple of God, as a Christ-follower I should care for my body, God’s Temple on earth (1 Chronicles 29:1-5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; John 14:23). I can nourish my body by making wise, biblical choices that bring glory to God.
And finally, “G”—GROW and GO! I can be proactive. I can take my life up a notch in every area: mentally (2 Timothy 2:15), emotionally and socially (Matthew 22:37-40; John 13:3; 1 John 4:7, 18), and certainly spiritually (1 Peter 4:7; Philippians 4:8-9; 1 Samuel 15:22; 2 Peter 3:18). And as I allow God to transform my life, He will likely open new opportunities for me to minister to others in His power, not my own strength. I don’t change for myself; I change so I can get moving and be used by God.
So join me in my ding-a-ling tradition. Place little bells around your house to remind you to R-I-N-G in your New Year. Rely on God, invest in others, nourish yourself, and grow so you can go in God’s power; and by next New Year’s Day you will be amazed at how God has worked.