Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Good deeds aren’t just for Boy Scouts

When’s the last time you did a good deed? When you think of good deeds, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe this is stereotypical and wrong, but I always think of Boy Scouts. I’ve only known a few Boy Scouts, although the ones I known have made it to Eagle Scout, and they’ve all been very kind people who would go out of their way to do good things for others.

This month I’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, which says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” In the last few days, I’ve really been focusing in on goodness because it seems to be, from what I can tell, the kind side of goodness, rather than the moral excellence part. Moral excellence certainly is involved, but the actual word used is more like benevolence instead of righteousness. And I didn’t know that.

It’s good to be benevolent. It’s good to do good deeds because it’s the right thing to do, but with that kind of thinking, how long will you keep doing good deeds? What makes a good deed the right thing to do? What do good deeds look like? Are we talking about helping little old ladies with their groceries? Are we talking about tackling a purse snatcher? Are we talking about supporting a charity financially? Because if I’m just doing good deeds for the sake of doing them, I’m going to get tired of it. I know people who do good things for others because it’s the right thing to do, and that’s admirable. But in a broken world where good deeds are rarely rewarded, often unrecognized, and usually more trouble than they’re worth, I believe you need something better as a motivator than just: “It’s the right thing to do.”

If you don’t, you’re a better person than I am, because I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. And I don’t always do the right thing. I’m just going to be honest.

Aside from the fact that this kind of benevolence–this type of goodness–is a gift from the Holy Spirit, what motivates good deeds? Where should the desire to do good deeds come from?

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Green wheat ripening at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 2:14-26.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

This is a really long bit of scripture for today, but I think it’s relevant. I love the Book of James. It’s short, to the point, and doesn’t pull any punches. This passage is often used out of context to prove that our salvation is dependant on our actions. If you think that, read the whole thing again please, especially verse 23. Here, I’ll put it up again in case there’s any doubt:

James 2:23 – And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

It’s ironic too because this is basically a restatement of Genesis 15:6, which says, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Get the picture? It’s not our works that save us. Our works demonstrate that we have been saved. We’re not doing good things so that we can be righteous. We do good things because we have been made righteous. It’s outward expression of an inward change, like baptism. It doesn’t save you; it’s just evidence that you are saved.

And conversely, if you don’t show evidence that you have been saved, have you been? I’m not judging. I don’t know your heart. But it’s a good question to ask yourself, especially in a study of the Holy Spirit. If your life doesn’t display the Fruit of the Spirit, which is the evidence of God working in your life, maybe you ought to start asking some really personal questions about what you believe.

If you believe in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. So where is the evidence of your faith? I have to say, I’ve been blown away by what I’m hearing about people stepping up to help the victims of the tornado that tore Moore, Oklahoma apart on Monday. Maybe not all of them are Christ-followers, but I know many who are. And I am so honored to be able to call those people making such huge sacrifices my brothers and sisters.

What about you? How do you see good works? How do you view good deeds? Are they just something Boy Scouts do to earn a badge? Or are they just the right thing to do? Or are they an expression of what you believe? Think about it. Good works alone aren’t enough, just like quoting scripture isn’t enough. You’ve got to back it up. You’ve got to live it. You’ve got to get it in your life.

And the true irony about doing good for other people is that even though you’re sacrificing to help someone else, you get a bigger blessing out of it than they ever will.

The chicken coop at Safe Haven Farm after a bad wind storm in November last year, Haven, KS

Are you good enough?

Have you ever heard someone say they’re not good enough to be a Christian? I have. I’ve talked to people who just don’t think it’s possible for them to trust Christ because they aren’t good enough.

But the truth of the matter is that it’s not about being good enough. No one is good enough. No one is good.

Goodness isn’t something that comes from us. We don’t know how to be good. Goodness is something the Holy Spirit produces in our lives when we accept Christ. So many times that goodness people see in a Christian’s life isn’t them at all–it’s evidence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The chicken coop at Safe Haven Farm after a bad wind storm in November last year, Haven, KS

The chicken coop at Safe Haven Farm after a bad wind storm in November last year, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

This month I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit because I want to be able to identify the qualities in my life that show that the Holy Spirit is working in me. And today we come to goodness.

According to the Amplified Version, the word in the verse actually means benevolence. I think that’s interesting because I would have thought it meant being good–as in being righteous or possessing moral integrity. But goodness has many faces.

Benevolence is a timely thing to be discussing right now, especially with the rash of severe weather that blasted across Kansas last night. Wichita got hit hard, which doesn’t usually happy. Usually the city will just get hail and high winds, and the tornadoes will take a break as soon as they hit the city limits. But there was a tornado at the airport last night. I haven’t heard details, but I know damage was done. And I know a lot of people don’t have power, and even more have significant storm damage.

It’s after storms like this that you see one of the things I love about the Midwest–people helping people without any thought of reward or recompense. They’ll help repair damage. They’ll help clean up yards. They’ll help put back roofs and windows and doors. They’ll be shoulders to cry on and hands to help build up again.

This is life in Kansas.

But it shouldn’t just be in Kansas. And it shouldn’t just be after a storm. This kind of goodness, the heart that yearns to help others even when there’s nothing in it for us, is the kind of goodness that God will produce in our lives if we let Him. We’re not born with the desire to sacrifice. We’re not born with the urge to help other people. We’re not born good.

God knows that. He doesn’t expect us to be good enough. He expects us to look to Him and trust Him, and He will count our faith in Him as being good enough. And the more we look to Him, the more we trust Him, the more we get to know Him, the more goodness will grow in our lives.

Do you find it hard to be good? Do you find it difficult to do good for others? That’s not unusual, necessarily. It just means your human. But the more you get to know God, and the more instep you are with the Holy Spirit, the more goodness you will do, and the less challenging it will be. It’s one of those habits you’ll build. And then one day, someone will tell you they can’t be a Christian because they’re not as good as you are.

And when that happens, don’t be shocked. Don’t be silent either. Make sure you communicate that any goodness in you comes from the Holy Spirit and not yourself. And see what they say to that, because deep down inside, I really believe that every human being wants to be good. They want to be that person who makes a difference to others.

I honestly believe that’s why superhero movies and comics and cartoons are so popular. We all dream of being good enough to be a hero to someone else. But the simple truth is that none of us are good enough on our own, and that’s why we need the Holy Spirit.

So ask Him to help you be good today. Not just good in a moral sense but in a compassionate sense. Ask Him to help you see the people who need help and to give you the strength and the courage to show them benevolence, whether it’s helping them clean up storm damage or just offering a smile on a long workday.

If you follow Christ, if you have the Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible. It’s something He’s promised to do in your life. You just have to let Him work.

Milo growing in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Being kind doesn’t require moral compromise

Have you noticed that our world seems to thrive on the actions and statements of mean people? The entertainment industry is built on conflict, and while you can’t have a good story without conflict, you won’t have a good message without resolution. And I think we tend to forget that part and just focus on the conflict.

When I think of conflict anymore, I think of “reality” TV shows. I don’t watch them, but I hear about them. And honestly I don’t understand the allure of watching a group of people (whether they are stranded on an island, locked in a house, or trying to find a wife) act like idiots and treat each other like dirt. It’s been said that entertainment is the mirror of a society. What we like to watch is a statement about what kind of people we are. That’s been true since Rome was in charge.

So if we spend all our time watching or listening to mean people being mean to each other, what does that say about us?

Milo growing in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Milo growing in the yard at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

This month I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit, the nine character qualities or life responses that are evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, and the focus for today is kindness. I grew up in church with the King James Version, and that translation uses the word gentleness instead of kindness. And I don’t suppose there’s too much difference between those two words, but they aren’t the same. And I recently discovered something that makes me very happy: an online Strong’s concordance (http://www.equipgodspeople.com).

If you’ve never used a Strong’s concordance, they’re awesome. It’s a Bible study tool that assigns numbers to Greek words for easy cross referencing. Let’s take kindness for example. In Greek, it looks like this: χρηστοτης. This word is assigned a number (5544), and if you look up this number in this online concordance, it will list all the times the same word appears so you can cross reference the specific context of the word in more than one situation.

Like χρηστοτης, it’s used only 10 times in the entire New Testament and in most instances it’s used in the context of how God relates to us in His goodness. It’s translated as both kind and good, like gentleness that stems from moral integrity. Do you know anyone like that? Do you know a person who responds to others with that sort of kindness?

This is the kindness that sees and understands that people aren’t perfect and chooses to be nice to them anyway. This is the kindness that God shows us because He is good 100%, and even though we don’t deserve it, He does it anyway. That’s the sort of kindness we need in our lives, and that’s what the Holy Spirit will produce if we allow Him to.

I want to be a good person, yes. I want to be the sort of Christ follower that stands out, who others know is different, but not at the expense of how I treat people. I know Christ followers who are unkind. I’m sure everyone does. But, boy, are they are good Christians! Those types of Christians have the kind of knowledge of Scripture that would take me a lifetime to obtain. They know so much about the Bible. They know references and definitions and everything.

But how does that person treat the people around them? Do they think they’re better? Do they have to condescend to speak to people who don’t know as much as they do? Do they look down their noses at people who don’t know the Bible as well?

That’s been my experience. I can tell you that the people in my life who have hurt me the most are the ones who spend most of their time buried in the Bible, but it’s one thing to know Scripture. It’s something else to live it, to integrate it into your thoughts and your life, to let it change you from the inside out and to listen to the Spirit when He’s talking to you. That’s how the Bible changes you. That’s what makes it a Living Book.

And I would rather understand who God is and understand the context of how we’re supposed to live than to be able to quote references and parse Greek. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be able to do that, but to learn to do that would take so much of my life at this point that I would have to drop the other things I’m doing–like reaching out to people.

I don’t believe the Holy Spirit would call us to kindness at the expense of our relationships. Moral integrity is great, yes, but personally I don’t think it’s true moral integrity if you treat others poorly. I don’t think it’s honoring to God if you withhold kindness from anyone.

Yes, if it’s a horrible person who is only going to hurt you, don’t invite them into a close relationship with you. Be wise about your friendships. But you can still be kind, and the Holy Spirit will tell you how. He’ll give you the strength to be kind.

So as we venture out into a world of reality TV shows where cruelty is glorified, let’s be kind. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us the way to show kindness to people. We don’t have to compromise what we know is right to be kind to others. But if we don’t start showing kindness to people, I’m not sure that we’ll ever really make a difference.

Wheat fields at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Good things come to those who wait

I hate waiting. I think I’ve said that on this blog once or twice. Waiting just isn’t something I’m good at, but it’s something I usually end up having a lot of practice with. I don’t know if it’s because I have an active imagination and can see all the different possibilities of how life could work out the way I want it to or if it’s because I’m a perfectionist with an inferiority complex. Whatever the reason, I just don’t like waiting. If people got medals for patience, I wouldn’t medal in the top three.

Patience is a characteristic that we grow over time. We don’t really just wake up with it. That would be nice, but it’s one of those qualities we have to develop. You’ve heard the phrase: “Good things come to those who wait”? Exactly.

But patience is more than a character quality. It’s a gift.

Wheat fields at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat fields at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I’ve heard some people say that asking God for patience is a bad idea because then He’ll give it to you and you’ll end up having to stay in the same situation where you have to have patience for longer than you would have had to if you hadn’t asked for it. That was a long, rambling introduction, but I hope you get the point.

Many of us are in circumstances where we are waiting for God to tell us what to do next. Or some of us are in a situation where we know what God wants us to do… He’s told us to wait. To be patient. To be still. Am I the only one who hates that answer?

Whether it’s the answer we want or not, patience is good for us. The more patience we learn to have, the more we grow in other areas of our life–like faith. Because when you’re sitting still and depending on God to work out the details, you have to learn to trust Him more. When you’re not running around trying to arrange your life to fit the mold of your expectations, you have to let God design it the way He wants. And when you do that, your life works out better anyway because God is a better architect than you are. Just saying.

But personally I think asking for patience is a good idea. Asking God to help me be patient is more than a good idea–it’s a necessity. Otherwise, I’ll twist off and go do things my own way, and my life is too big for me to handle on my own already without me getting into situations I don’t understand.

So how do you have patience? How do you use patience? Because there is such a thing as being lazy. People can be lazy and just say they’re waiting for God to move. People can be lazy and just say they’re being patient. It’s a lot easier to be lazy than patient. But you can tell the difference when God does tell you to do something. If you’re being lazy you’ll look for an excuse to keep being lazy. If you’re being patient, you’ll jump at the opportunity to be useful.

Patience is a gift that God gives us when we accept Christ into our lives. We already have it. It’s our choice to use it or not. If you ignore it, you’re going to walk into a lot of situations where you aren’t prepared and you’ll probably end up falling on your face. But if you implement it, you’ll always be ready for the challenges that are coming. Well–maybe you won’t be ready, but you’ll be as prepared as you can be. And by the time the challenge gets to you, you’ll already have lots of practice waiting on God, and that’s the best way to prepare for any circumstance.

So if you’re faced with a choice today — to do or to wait — you might think about waiting. Granted, if you’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, double check. Make sure God is telling you to keep waiting. But if you’re getting ready to run off half-c0cked and do things your own way, you might think twice. It’s better to wait and be sure you know what God wants before you do what you want.

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t always trust how you feel

What does peace feel like to you? To me, it’s sitting on my back porch step with a cup of coffee listening to the wind in the leaves, smelling cut alfalfa or newly blossoming lilacs (and sneezing a lot). Peace looks different to different people. Some find the country too harsh or too boring and experience peace in a more urban landscape, but everyone would probably agree that peace is rightness. Just general rightness in life, where you’re happy and content and not afraid.

That kind of rightness is possible even if your life has been turned on its head, but only through Christ. Peace is truly only possible through the Holy Spirit’s power, but if you’re a follower of Christ, you have access to that power. According to Galatians 5:22-23, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and to get it, all we have to do is choose to use it.

Yesterday I blogged about intellectual peace–having peace of mind, choosing not to worry about life. But what about the other kind of peace? What about emotional peace? Peace of heart. That one’s a little trickier because emotions are always tricky. God created us to be emotional being. Our emotions are part of who we are.

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 5:1-2.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Feeling at peace runs deeper than our circumstances or our physical location on Earth. It’s deeper than our relationships with each other. Emotional peace stems from being right with God. That’s the basis of everything because if you’re right with God, everything else will fall into place.

If you have chosen to believe that Jesus died to pay for the things you’ve done wrong, you are made right with God. Jesus’ sacrifice is what justifies us. Not our works. Not our lives. Not our church attendance. Not our parents’ lives. Only believing in Jesus’ sacrifice for yourself will allow you to have a relationship with God. What’s more, if you believe this, nothing you can ever do will take it away from you because you didn’t do anything to earn it in the first place. It’s a gift from God, and God doesn’t take gifts back.

So, that being said, why do I worry about my future? Why do I fret about things I can’t control? Why do I feel so wretched?

This may be getting a little deeper theologically than I normally do, but human  beings were made with three parts–a body, a soul, and a spirit. But our soul is divided into another three parts, intellect, emotion and will. And it’s our intellect, emotion and will that makes us who we are. It’s also how we were made in God’s image because God also has intellect, emotion and will.

But like the rest of our world, those three facets of who we are broke when Adam sinned. So our emotions are important to our lives, but we can’t always trust them. There are some days when you just won’t feel like a follower of Christ. You just won’t feel like God is close. You just won’t feel like doing the right thing. But on those days, you have to discount what you feel and do what you know.

Feelings are difficult. They’re treacherous. They can lead you down a path, whispering that peace is just around the bend, and when you get there, you find out that they were lying and it’s just deeper trouble waiting for you.

I’m not an expert on this, but I have struggled with my emotions because I’m human and female. I can only share what has helped me. And that is knowing who God is.

I love my emotions. I wouldn’t want to go through life without them, and they help me connect to God on many levels where just plain knowledge falls short. God created us with emotions for a reason, and our emotions can be used to bring Him glory. But my emotions don’t always work the way they’re supposed to, kind of like the rest of me. So I can’t always trust them, kind of like the rest of me. (Are you catching the theme here?) And I have to compare what I’m feeling at the moment to what I know is true in the Bible, and if what I’m feeling is true then I shouldn’t stop myself from feeling it. But if what I’m feeling is a lie, I shouldn’t waste time on it.

Emotions are just like every other part of life. If they don’t match up with what is in the Bible, they’re going to make trouble for you.

The first step to peace of heart is to know who God is, through prayer and Bible study and daily worship. The next step is to trust Him. And that’s not something anyone else can do for you. That’s between you and God. But the longer you know Him, the easier it is to trust Him; and the more you trust Him, the more peace you’ll have.

So if you don’t feel at peace today? First, check your heart. Make sure you’re where you need to be. Make sure you’re listening. Make sure you’re obeying. Because sometimes a lack of peace is an indication that something is going on in your life that shouldn’t be going on. But if you’re in the right place and you’ve cleared the air with God and you still feel conflicted, talk to Him about it. Tell Him. Yes, He already knows, but He wants to hear from you anyway.

Then, maybe this sounds clichéd, but read some Scripture. Read a Psalm. Read the Book of Philippians. Read Romans. Just read something in the Bible. And don’t just read it; let it sink in, understanding that the words in the Bible were written for you. From God to you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

And if that still doesn’t work and you still don’t feel at peace, find a mature Christ-follower and talk to them. Pray with them. And be patient and wait and keep watching for God to do something. But above all else, remember that you can’t always trust what you feel. First, trust what you know.