Good Works, Good Deeds

The other day I got to thinking again about the idea of good works or good deeds. These two terms are both used throughout the New Testament, for example:

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James 2: 17
“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind.” Titus 2:7a
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
“Don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:16

There are a couple of a couple of stories in the New Testament of people who think that good deeds/works are what will get them into Heaven, which isn’t the case.  The only way to get to Heaven is by being saved by Jesus (John 3:16). But tied in with being a true believer and follower of Christ is the idea of good deeds/works. Jesus did good while He was here on Earth. He also spent time talking with God, teaching and building relationships, and loving others.

We all mess up from time to time because we’re sinners and not (yet) perfect, but life always seems to go a little smoother and be a little more rewarding when we’re doing good. As Hebrews 13:16 said, yes, sometimes a sacrifice is required as part of doing good. Maybe it means you’re sacrificing your vacation to go and do construction in a needy part of the world, or you’re giving up your free time to teach a VBS class, or you’re making a little extra food each week to share with your elderly neighbors. The virus has given us some new opportunities to do good including buying high-demand products in moderation and wearing masks, both of which are sacrifices that we haven’t had to work on before, but can really help others out.

And that’s what it really comes down to, is being willing to help others on many levels and ways both big and small, just like Jesus did day in and day out. And if you don’t know what to give or how to help, or don’t have the ability to get out and about or donate to charities, start with the advice of Romans 13:8: “Owe nothing to anyone-except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” Doing good can be as simple and sometimes challenging as loving others.

What good will you do this week?

Hope and New Beginnings

We’re just days away from the year, some of us have already packed in this year and are eagerly trying to urge the days to move quicker and get out of 2018. I’ve got a couple more blog posts in store between all my blogs before the end of the year with some reflection, anticipation and hopefully words of wisdom before we get there.

In Philippians 2:4 it says: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” In 2018 (and 2019) I don’t think it’s possible or right to not consider yourself and your own importance, but I don’t think that it’s right to only focus on yourself and never on how your life impacts or could impact others. Everyone, from the biggest leaders to youngest children should consider the impact they can have on the world, and on the feelings, hearts and minds of others.

Today I read an article about the Queen’s annual Christmas message, she spoke about the Biblical Christmas story: “I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone; it’s needed as much as ever.” and about how to navigate this world of uncertainty, change and differences of opinion: “Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding…”

We could try and conquer world hunger in 2019, and honestly I think solving world hunger would be fairly simple to do if a few people would put their minds to it and more people stepped up to the plate to follow through on their directive. As impressive as it would be to do that, there’s something that I think is more important and as as big or bigger of an impact, and that’s doing our best to be at peace with and have respect towards each other.

It’s easy to make a snap judgment about someone, but it takes a little more care, compassion and heart to stop for all of a moment and really see them and really listen to them. It’s my hope that 2019 is a year of beginnings of respect and goodwill to all mankind.

Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

Learning to be Content

Over the weekend we in the US experienced the bi-annual time changes known as Daylight Savings Time, and in the next few days the northeast USA is also looking at another big snowstorm, and of course quickly approaching is the celebration of Easter on the 1st of April which is early. I don’t know about you but sometimes all of this just seems to add extra stress to our lives that we don’t want or need, especially because we don’t have any control over these things. As I was reflecting on these events I read Philippians 4:11 which says

“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”

That’s a tough statement to make, for someone back in those days and someone in these days. In some ways we’ve each got some things easier or less complicated than the other, but much of our lives is still the same and includes the same challenges of work, family, relationships, finances, weather and health. Content in and of itself is a challenge, because there’s a difference between being content and not having aspirations or goals in life. More than anything content is about having an attidue of gratittude towards the life you have and the blessings that God has sent your way.

So rather than focus on the many things going on over the past and next few days and weeks that may be stressing you out, today I encourage you to be grateful: enjoy the special blessings in your life, smile and laugh along with the little kids playing, take a moment to appreciate your evening beverage or sweet treat, celebrate that you’re another day closer to spring and summer, and/or call a friend just to chat. Once you’ve done that if you want to take a moment and pray about the stresses in your life and ask God to help you come up with a plan to manage and prepare for everything, you can, but don’t just return to stressing about things, instead work on being content with the now and plan for the future.

What will you be content and find peace in today?

Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

Working with God

Today I’ve got a couple verses to share with you, verses of encouragement and challenge.

Encouragement: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20
God has big plans for each of us: He doesn’t create us without ability or purpose, He’s always got plans for us.   But more than just having plans for us, they’re big plans, plans bigger than we could come up with, which is kind of both awesome and intimidating at the same time.

Encouragement: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
God doesn’t give up on people, He always has hope that they’ll turn things around, get back on track or be able to pull things through and finish what He has called them to.  He will keep working with us, guiding us, and providing for us until our mission is complete, and then He may have another one for us!

Encouragement: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17
It’s a serious question: does God hear us when we talk to Him or is it more like talking to someone on our phone without actually dialing the number (which means we don’t talk to them)?  Throughout the Bible God strives to answer this question because lots of people question whether He’s there or not.  After all, He doesn’t always take out a billboard or even send us a simple text or email confirmation to let us know that our prayers were heard or how our prayers will be addressed.  But over and over God tells us that He does indeed hear our prayers.  We just don’t always see how they’re answered, understand the answer or like the answer.

Challenge: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46
We’ve established that God has a point for each and every one of our lives, He’ll be with us every step of the way as we work on completing them and He really truly does hear us when we pray to Him.  But what we don’t always get is that we have work to do.  God doesn’t complete the tasks for us, make us get out of bed each day, or make us say our prayers, that’s up to us.  We have to take the initiative to follow through on what He has called us to do.

So this week I challenge you to look at what God has called you to and what you’ve been ignoring or slacking on.  God is after a partnership with each of us, not a one sided speech or lesson.  We’ve got work to do, are you doing it?

An Encouragement for Freedom

This month we’re talking about families, and I know as well as you do that family can be some of the most challenging, constricting, limiting, frustrating experiences! So today I want to share 7 encouraging verses to reflect on this week. check out the passages, talk them over with your family, share them with friends and spend some time working with God on releasing yourself from all that entangles you and discover the freedom God wants for you.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1

What verses encourage you?

Praying for People

A few weeks ago I shared about this verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 

As I was thinking about prayer and our discussion that week it got me thinking about what we use, for lack of better term, prayer for.  Often our prayer life centers around ourselves and others. People are a big part of our lives.  We talk with God about them when things go wrong or we’re concerned about them or when we can’t understand them.  We talk with God about people because our lives are built on interactions whether in person, on the phone or over social media. And so we bring the people in our lives to God through prayer.  Usually we ask Him to fix people or situations, maybe we ask for patience to help us work with that person.

But God has a bigger purpose for prayer, beyond just us telling Him about what goes on in our lives, although that is important to Him.  God wants us to see situations as He does, be open to His leading and guidance, and see people as He does.  God’s hope is that the time we spend in prayer over them won’t add more fuel to the fire but will open us up to His heart and plan for the people in our lives and their purpose for being there.

You may remember a time when someone revealed or you found out why they were being so annoying or what was going on in their lives that caused them to be so difficult and felt guilty for being so harsh on them.  The same holds true for people we pray about: if we knew the truth that God knows we would likely be open to a change of heart about them and the situation.

So this week in your prayer time I encourage you to be open to what God wants you to know.  Don’t forget that like any other conversation there’s time for talking and time for listening, that God knows more than you could about the situation and is just waiting for you to be open to hearing about it.

“…that when you pray for anyone, you tend to modify your personal attitude toward them.” Norman Vincent Peale

Peace and a Prayer

Every day we’re met with new challenges.  Some challenges we feel pretty confident about.  Other challenges we’re stumped as to how to handle them, or we fail in trying to conquer them.  Challenges, changes and choices can really stress us out, added to the goings-on around the world that have nothing to do with us but still concern us simply because things aren’t as peaceful, loving and supportive as we would like them to be.

I read a verse I hadn’t read in a while last week, a verse that reminded me that some things are still simple, despite the challenges and complicated lives we live:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

We have a choice as to how we respond to things in our lives. We can react in fear, panic, hate or learn how to work beyond our initial reaction.  Jesus was really good at responding beyond His initial reaction.  I’m sure there were times He would have preferred to throw a fit, throw people overboard or leave people to their own devices, but His giving heart wouldn’t let Him.  Instead, He was practiced in being patient, staying calm (most of the time) and most importantly checked in with God frequently.

If you’re anxious about things going on in your life don’t forget to turn to God.  Don’t forget to ask Him for His help.  Don’t forget that your first thought, your first reaction, doesn’t have to be your last or your only. Take your time in considering the situation, consider how God would react, and remember that a prayer and breath for patience can go a long way in diffusing the anxiety and making smarter choices, choices that are honoring of God and making a better future for all of us.

Compassionate Communities

I’ve been learning this month that compassion is really about learning to work together.  There are lots of things that challenge us in life, things that frustrate us and people that seem to intentionally try to hurt us with words or actions.  When we are compassionate with one another we not only are interested in other people’s lives, we support them as well.  We’re there for them when they’re struggling, we celebrate with them when they’re doing well, we work with them when they’re trying new things and listen as they sort through things.

Compassion is about supporting each other when things aren’t going as well, but it actually teaches us how things should work when they are.  If we knew that we wouldn’t be judged or criticized for asking for help would we ask for it a whole lot sooner?  Would we reach out a helping hand sooner if we knew we weren’t going to be yelled at and told they could handle it?  Would we work better as a team if we knew the boss would support us for prioritizing rather than yell at us for not doing our specific job?

I always try to come at a project, client, or experience with an open mind so that I can see the different possibilities for that situation, always looking for at least 2 different ways to see that situation.  As much as I trust my initial feelings and judgements, I try to always leave myself open for a second opinion and other perspectives on things because I know that there are very few things that are one sided in this world.

Jesus did a lot of mind blowing during His time on earth.  He was constantly challenging what people believed and how they lived.  Many times He did it because they weren’t supporting each other or treating each other well.  Other times He did it because He wanted them to see things differently.  But throughout His ministry He made one thing clear: we are in this together.  As much as Jesus knew there was a need for leadership, the leaders weren’t there to be high and mighty but to make sure everyone was cared for.

It’s no different today: we need leaders to step up and encourage us to support each other.  Will you be a leader or a supporter this week?

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2