God’s way and common sense aren’t always the same

I got all turned around yesterday, which isn’t exactly uncommon, but it’s a funny story. Wichita has three really excellent movie theaters, all owned by the same company. One is east, one is downtown, and one is west. I was meeting a friend at the theater to see Ant-Man (great show, by the way), and since I was going to be in town, I figured it was a good time to hit the store and pick up some prescriptions and some groceries for our upcoming camping trip. My preferred grocery store is on the west side of the city, and it just made sense, because there was a theater out west. I could stay on the same side of town to do my shopping. Great plan, right?

Well, what my overworked brain neglected to remember is that we had planned to see the movie at the east theater. So much for efficiency. After I got off at the wrong exit, I had to turn around and book it out to the east side as fast as I could. I made it just in time, but it was close.

From where I was sitting, it made sense that we should see the movie at the west theater because the rest of my errands were on the west side, but I planned my errands after we planned the movie. So it didn’t matter where my errands needed to happen, because the place I needed to be was at the east theater.

How many times in life do we end up in this situation? We tell God that we’ll follow His lead and do what He says is right, but one day we come up with our own list of needs and requirements that take us in a completely opposite direction. Maybe everything we’re doing is good and helpful, but that doesn’t mean we’re going the direction God wants.

27PNUR3Z83_1502x991Today’s verses are Psalm 18:30-32.

God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.

Sometimes it feels like doing things God’s way doesn’t make sense. The way He tells us to live makes it easy for people to take advantage of us. Forgiving people who hurt us, loving our enemies, sacrificing for people who will only turn against us later on–following Jesus isn’t an easy road, and many days it’s not even a fun one.

On the tough days, it would be so much easier to follow common sense instead of Jesus. If someone hurts you, hurt them back. That way, they’ll know not to hurt you again. If someone steals from you, steal from them, so they’ll understand how you feel. Can you see how that way of thinking could escalate?

Common sense is great, but it’s based on a human code of morality that will change with time. Common sense that isn’t rooted in biblical truth is fickle. So sometimes following Jesus will go against human common sense. Common sense tells us that turning the other cheek in a personal argument will result in more beatings, but Jesus says it’s how we’re supposed to live.

It’s easy to rely on our common sense, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what Jesus says should take priority. Maybe it’s more convenient for you to beat up the people who’ve been bothering you, but that’s the exact opposite of how Jesus says to handle the situation. In that example, common sense will take you in the opposite direction of what Jesus says to do.

They can’t both be right. So it’s up to us to choose which way we’re going to follow. Our own common sense is as flawed and misdirected as we are, though, so how far do you really think you can trust it? Wouldn’t it be better to trust God’s way? God has a pretty awesome track record, after all. Maybe it’s not easy to follow Him, but it’s never boring. And the Bible says it’s perfect.

So if God’s way is perfect and it goes against our common sense, who has the better chance of being wrong?

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.

Rusted chain on the schoolhouse door - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Ignorance of God is a luxury none of us can afford.

Who is God? Who is Jesus? How do we answer questions like that? If people demand to know what we believe, are we able to tell them? I blogged about our response to people who ask us about our faith last week, but it’s one thing to speak harshly to people who don’t believe; it’s something completely different to be unable to answer at all.

Rusted chain on the schoolhouse door - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Rusted chain on the schoolhouse door – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 15:34.

Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.

One thing you need to know about the Book of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote it to a church. Granted, as a church, they were having some major issues. But they were still a church. They believed the truth. Paul himself had brought the Gospel to them. So how can he get off saying that they don’t even know God?

This is another instance where I like to go to other translations just to make sure I’m understanding it right.

1 Corinthians 15:34 (Amplified Version)

Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God’s presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame.

I love the Amplified Version just because it gets into so much word detail that other translations avoid. Yes, Paul is saying that the people of the Church of Corinth need to think carefully about what’s right, but according to the Amplified Version, they need to come back to their right minds. Which means at one point, they were thinking clearly.

This is important to me because if the Church of Corinth, one of the first churches, can stumble and get all confused, it can happen to any church, anywhere, anytime. And we don’t have a Paul around to write us personalized letters telling us how screwed up we’ve gotten.

The Church of Corinth let a lot of bad stuff in. They were heavily influenced by the culture they were living in, and they allowed what should have been holy to be corrupted into rituals that meant nothing. Basically, they were flipping God off and daring Him to do something about it.

Sadly, believers now aren’t much different. We say we believe the truth. We say we follow Christ. We say the Bible is important. But when you get right down into the nitty-gritty of our lives, all of that “religious stuff” takes second chair to the pressures of the everyday. And after all, Jesus said we’re supposed to be in the world, and we need to relevant. Right? So what’s wrong with bending to society a little? What’s wrong with living together before we get married? What’s wrong with writing our kids off because all kids misbehave? What’s wrong with sacrificing our relationship with God because there’s something else we’d rather spend our time on?

It’s not like we’ll go to hell for it.

No, we won’t. But what is the point of being a Christian if you refuse to know God? Fire insurance? You just accept Christ so that you won’t suffer in hell for eternity and then you live your life however makes you feel good? I guess you can do that. But if you are, you’re missing the point.

I know this is harsher than I normally like to be, but I was reading and this verse jumped out at me. I just know so many people who say they follow Christ … but they really follow the world. They follow the trends and the culture. They only care about what makes them happy. And I think it’s time that those of us who truly believe in Christ and who truly follow Him day-to-day, need to stop.

We need to wake up, Christians. We need to hold our brothers and sisters accountable to what they say they believe, and we need to stop making excuses for their obvious sin. I’m bad at that. I hate confrontation, and I hate telling anyone that they’re wrong. But sin is wrong. And it’s not me being judgmental; it’s me warning them that if they don’t stop what they’re doing, their actions will eventually catch up with them. And if they go on sinning and still claim to follow Christ, what kind of damage are they doing?

So let’s start thinking clearly. Let’s stop willfully choosing to sin, no matter if it makes us feel good or not. And let’s not refuse to know God because if you don’t want to know God, why do you want to be a Christian? What do you think it’s about? And what exactly do you think eternity is going to be like?

You believers who think this world is all there is are in for a nasty surprise when you get to heaven. Yes, you’ll be in heaven, and, yes, you’ll have escaped the flames of hell. But then you’ll understand that the life we have on Earth isn’t about getting everything we want and living so that our days are full of pleasure. Life on Earth is a chance to share Christ with other people, to bring as many people as we can with us. Life on Earth is a chance to build a relationship with God before we go home. And if you spend these few short years on Earth doing nothing but accumulating treasures that will eventually be destroyed, when you get home, you’ll have nothing.

I love the Message paraphrase. Many times it actually nails the Greek, at least in context, better than any other translation.  I think it’s well said.

1 Corinthians 15:34 (The Message)

Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts. Ignorance of God is a luxury you can’t afford in times like these. Aren’t you embarrassed that you’ve let this kind of thing go on as long as you have?

Good question.

My kitchen after I bake

Knowing what’s right but refusing to do it

I love to cook and bake for other people, and I love having people come stay at my house. What I don’t love is the clean up. There’s something about hosting a party in this crazy old farmhouse that is just tons of fun, and I try to do it as often as my schedule allows. But when I can’t have people out, I still like to bake things to bring to work or to other events. But when it comes to cleaning up my kitchen after I bake, I tend to drag my feet.

I don’t have a dishwasher. That could be a contributing factor. But generally speaking, I just don’t like doing dishes. So I let them pile up.

My kitchen after I bake

My kitchen after I bake - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The verses for today are Genesis 4:6-7.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

All humans are psycho. Let’s just get that out in the open. If you’re a human being, you’re insane. It’s part of our flawed character. Everyone has this issue where we do the things we know are wrong and then we wonder why we get in trouble. Doesn’t matter how minor the wrong thing was, we are still surprised (or defensive) when someone catches us in the act. And the only explanation I can think of for that is that we’re all screwed up.

This is what happened to Cain. Cain and his younger brother Abel knew how to present a sacrifice to God. Their father had done it, and they had grown up knowing what God expected. Abel did it right; Cain thought his way was better. So Cain did it his own way, and God didn’t accept it. But notice that God didn’t reject Cain; just his offering. God gently explained what went wrong.

If Cain had been wiser, he would have listened. But those who know the story know he wasn’t much of a listener.

For me, doing the dishes is right. It’s my house. I made the mess. So it’s my responsibility to clean up. I could just leave them (and from this photo, obviously, that’s what I did), but then I wouldn’t have any dishes to eat my lunch on. And I wouldn’t have any pots and pans to bake with. Would it make sense for me to get angry because I don’t have dishes to eat on? If I did, it would be my own fault.

Just like when we get a speeding ticket. We’re speeding. We’re breaking the law. Why are we surprised when we get pulled over? Why are we angry at law enforcement when we are the ones who were doing what was wrong?

God has created all of us with a conscience. We know what’s right. We know what’s wrong. And we have a choice between which one to do. So what does it mean when know what’s right and we refuse to do it?

In Cain’s story, he let his own desires and his own rage dictate his actions instead of doing what he knew was right, and he killed his younger brother. With my dishes, obviously, I’m not going to kill anyone. If nothing else, it will mainly be a reflection on my own poor skills as a housekeeper. But for us to know what is right and refuse to do it indicates deeper issues. With Cain it was pride. With my dishes, it’s laziness. I know doing my dishes is the right thing to do, but it takes a lot of effort. And it’s easier to just let them sit. But it’s not right.

And if I let my dishes sit, even though I know it’s wrong, how much longer will it be before I let other things in my life sit too?

If you know what’s right and refuse to do it, watch out! That’s what this verse says. If you’re rationalizing why you don’t have to do what’s right, be so careful. Because that is the first step to allowing sin to control you. And that’s not how we were designed to live. And if you are a follower of Christ, you don’t have to be controlled by your sin.

If I just do my dishes right away, I always get done faster than I expect. But when I leave them sit, I have to scrub on them because everything dries up.

Doing what’s right will take effort. That’s true. And doing what’s wrong seems easy at first, but the consequences take more effort to deal with than doing the right thing straight off.