Start Good Deeds at Home

In 1972 the Carpenters sang:

“No one in the world ever had a love as sweet as my love.
For nowhere in the world could there be a boy as true as you love.
All my love, I give gladly to you.
All your love, you give gladly to me.
Tell me why then, Oh why should it be that
We go on hurting each other.
We go on hurting each other.
Making each other cry,
Hurting each other,
Without ever knowing why…
Can’t we stop hurting each other.
Gotta stop hurting each other.
Breaking each others’ hearts,
Tearing each other apart.”

It was their seventh single release and their sixth consecutive Gold Single. Why does such a song make it to the top? Because too many families can empathize with its message. How easy it is to do good to the folks with whom we work, with our neighbors, with our fellow church members and then get home and treat our family like dirt. Here are the people we claim to love more than life itself. We say we would give anything for them and sacrifice everything for them. However, we yell, scream, misuse, slander, hurt, take for granted and so many other negative things with our family.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can quit giving ourselves permission to take out our selfishness on our spouses, parents and children. We can live the lives of servants zealous for good deeds even in our families. 

A great passage to help with this is Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I need to apply this passage to my wife, my children, my parents, my brothers. If I had sisters, I would need to apply it to them as well. I need to apply it to my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. God did not give us these relationships so we could let down our guard and just treat them however comes naturally. He gave us these relationships so we would have a training ground for how to properly treat everyone. That is why Paul uses the way we treat our family as the example for how we should treat everyone in I Timothy 5:1-2

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Good deeds should start at home and spread out from there. If we do that, perhaps we can come up with a new song about how we go on serving each other, helping each other and really loving each other.

ELC

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Partnering in Good Deeds

John Maddocks and FamilyIf you were asked what is the greatest good deed anyone could do for another, you would likely say, “Share the Gospel.” Clearly, greater than any monetary gift, greater than any emotional support, greater than anything else is welcoming folks into the forgiveness and freedom in Jesus.

We certainly need to be busy getting that good message out at home. At the same time, we are surrounded by a world of lost sinners. They are everywhere, in every country, speaking every language, following every custom. We can’t physically be in two places at once. But we can be a part of good deeds in more than one place at a time.

In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul said, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (ESV). Then again in Philippians 4:15, “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.”

Do you see what Paul calls the Philippians? They are partners. None of them were traveling with him. None of them were actually doing any teaching. However, the Phillipian congregation was in partnership with him. They were in fellowship by way of their gift to meet his needs as he did the good work of teaching the gospel. They had a share in his good deeds because they were sending a gift to him.

I recognize this is talking about a congregation. But the same could be said on an individual level. When we support a brother who is busy in the good deeds of spreading the gospel, we partner with him even though we are not physically there. Of course, while financial partnership is a very big help, if you can’t swing that, there are other things you can do.

With the web and e-mail, it is easier to make contact with our brethren the world over than ever before. Why not contact some evangelist and just ask what help he needs. Don’t go to the elders and let them know; just meet the need. Then you will be a partner in those good deeds.

You can contact those we support or have supported based on the reports we post. If you are interested in partnering with others, go to worldevangelist.blogspot.com. John Maddocks, a faithful evangelist in Canada, does a great job getting the word out about evangelists the world over. Sign up to read his blog feed or e-mail to get info. Either way, what a great day to start partnering in the good deeds someone is doing on the other side of the world.

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What It Means to Hunger for Good Deeds

As this gets posted, I will be in southeast Texas walking amid the fallen trees, flooded houses and messed up lives of brethren who endured Hurricane Ike. Kenny Wells will be working me like a dog. He’ll run me hard and then put me up wet. (Okay, I know that last one actually means being worked like a horse.) After five days of ripping out sheetrock, cutting down trees, hauling wood, there is part of me that wants to say, “Alright, I’ve done my good deeds for this year.”

It is so easy to do something nice and then feel like we can just sit down for a while until that last good deed wears off. That is especially true if our good deed was a biggy. If we sacrificed a lot of time or money, we think the good deed should tide us over.

This approach, however, is not being Zealous for Good Deeds (cf. Titus 2:14). Or, worded another way, this is not being hungry for righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:6). 

Let’s think about it in the same way we do hunger for food. I know we sometimes joke around after a big meal like Thanksgiving, “Oh man, I won’t have to eat for a week.” This little joke pretends that our body somehow stores up every bit of the food we eat and until it uses it we won’t be hungry again. I don’t know how many times I’ve used this little joke. What always amazes me is that by the next mealtime, I’m hungry again. And on the rare occasions a big lunch did tide me over for the rest of the day, by the next morning I’m starving (obviously, that is hyperbole because you can look at me and tell I’ve never starved a day in my life). The fact is, it doesn’t matter how big of a meal I eat today, I’m going to be ready for another one by tomorrow at the latest. In fact, I may be ready for a snack in just an hour or two.

That is how our hunger for righteousness or zeal for good deeds should work. Today’s good deeds do not sate us forever. They do not even sate us for the rest of the day. When we see another good deed to be done, we want to jump in there and get after it. In fact, when we don’t see a good deed to be done, we start looking around for one to do.

What good deed are you doing today?

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Bearing Good Fruit

Why are we doing good deeds? Is it so people may be helped? Is it so we may have meaningful lives? Is it so we can grow? No doubt, each of these happens when we are zealous for good deeds. These things, however, are byproducts of our good deeds; they are not the goal. The goal, as seen in John 15:8, is to bear fruit that glorifies God. This goes along with Matthew 5:16, which says we should let our lights shine so people may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

You see, the issue is that our Father is in heaven. Our neighbors cannot see Him. Our co-workers cannot witness His work ethic. Our friends cannot watch His care and concern. Strangers with whom we come in contact cannot look at God’s love. They can only see how God acts through us. They can only see how following Him impacts us.

I certainly recognize the general principle often expressed saying, “Folks don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care.” The real point however is we are not trying to glorify ourselves. We aren’t trying to let others know what wonderfully caring people we are. We want them to know what a wonderfully caring God we serve. We do that by modeling for them the care of God.

Don’t misunderstand; this is not saying the local congregation’s work should suddenly become social welfare to let folks know how much God cares. Rather, each of us as individuals must live in ways that shows God’s concern, care and love. That doesn’t always equal material welfare or financial handouts. Most often, it equals words of concern and love. It sometimes means weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It means showing patience as we work with someone in the gospel. It means demonstrating joy when others have good times in serving the Lord, but also mourning when others disregard serving the Lord.

I heard a story about a guy who runs a rock climbing gym. On Saturdays, he gives a half-off discount for the individual price, but rates for groups over 7 are regular price. One Saturday, 5 guys came in and asked if they could get the half-off price for a group of 15. He explained the rules. The guys then said they thought the others weren’t going to show up anyway, so he charged them half price. Then another group came in later. As the evening went on, he began to pick up that these multiple small groups who acted like they were separate, were actually there as a group. When he asked one of them about it, he was convinced they were separate. The gym owner dropped it. The next morning, however, the guy who had told him they were separate came back, confessed that he lied, apologized and then single-handedly covered the amount they had ripped the gym owner off plus more. The group was a Sunday School class.

I’m not suggesting we lie so we can repent and make up for it. But the penitence and amends said a great deal about this man’s God. May we always bear fruit that shows what a wonderful God we serve.

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Whatever You Can, Whenever You Can, For Whomever You Can

The story is told of a man walking along a beach in the early morning, In the distance ahead, he saw a boy repeatedly bending to the sand, standing up and then throwing something out into the surf. As the man approached, he was able to make out that the boy was picking up starfish that had washed up on to the shore and tossing them back out into the water.

When the man was close enough, he asked, “What ya doing?”

“I’m saving these starfish. The tide won’t come in this far until it is too late and these little guys will have dried out in the sun and died. So, I’m putting them back in the water.”

The man chuckled at this little boy’s naivete and responded, “Son, look at how long this beach is. You can’t even see the end of it. There are starfish all over this beach. You can never get them all back in time. And if you could, there will just be more tomorrow. You can’t spend your whole life trying to save starfish. What kind of a difference do you really think you can make?”

The little boy leaned over, scooped up a starfish and sent it sailing out into the waves. As he watched the splash die down, he smiled up at the man and said, “Made a difference to that one.” And he bent down again.

As I write this, we at the church in Franklin are focusing our month on good deeds. One of the big problems we might have is being overwhelmed. There are so many good deeds to do that we simply can’t do them all. There are so many that need our help spiritually, materially, emotionally, physically, we just can’t get to them all. If we spend too much time thinking about that, we might just shut down and wonder what kind of difference we can really make. Maybe we won’t make a huge difference the world over. But we can make a difference one person at a time.

Think about Tabitha in Acts 9:36-42. When Peter came into her room, the entire world wasn’t present. In fact, Christians from all over the world were not even present. In fact, Christians from two towns away were not even present. But the widows she had met were in the room. She didn’t try to do everything. She simply did what she could. She made clothes. She didn’t try to help everyone. She simply helped those she could; she helped widows. She didn’t wait for a congregational program. She didn’t wait for someone to tap her on the shoulder and tell her what to do. She simply did what she could, for whom she could, when she could.

Here is the intriguing thing to me about Tabitha. When James the apostle died, the saints mourned and simply buried him. When Stephen the evangelist and deacon died, the saints mourned and simply buried him. When Tabitha died, the saints mourned and said, “Peter, you have to do something about this.” And she was resurrected. Who is really the most important part of the church? Apostles? Evangelists? Shepherds? Deacons? Or the member who simply does good deeds?

I don’t agree with the theology of Mother Theresa, but she reportedly said: “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I cannot help everyone, but I can help someone.” That is a great slogan to remember. Don’t keep from helping someone just because you can’t help everyone. Don’t stop doing something just because you can’t do everything. Do whatever you can, whenever you can, for whomever you can.

What good deed will you do today?

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A Religion of Good Deeds

James 1:26-27 says:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (ESV).

Though I believe James is written to Christians whether Jews or Gentiles, it certainly uses Jewish language to portray its point. Thus, as we consider “religion” from a Jewish standpoint, these verses are somewhat shocking. They are iconoclastic, breaking down the molds and mindsets that Jews would have had. The words for “religion” and “religious” do not emphasize spirituality in general but the outward forms and ceremonies of worshipping God. Thus, these two verses make a startling contrast to what the common Jew would have thought.

To a Jew, religion in the sense of ceremony and outward forms would have consisted of traveling to the temple, offering sacrifices, keeping the Sabbath and the feasts, etc. If Christians carried that mindset into their religion, they would picture gathering for their assemblies, taking the Lord’s Supper, singing and praying. Imagine how shocking it was to learn pure and undefiled religion is not really about these kinds of ceremonies at all.

Pure and undefiled religion does not mean making sure to say our prayers or sing hymns. It means letting those prayers and hymns be worthwhile because the rest of the time we speak properly, letting our speech be good for building up and not for tearing down (Ephesians 4:29).

Pure and undefiled religion does not mean merely “going to church” or going into our private prayer closets to worship and praise God. It means getting our hands dirty in service to those who are in need. James highlighted the two groups God had always used as examples of the ultimate of good deeds—orphans and widows (cf. Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; 24:17; 26:12; Isaiah 1:17).

Pure and undefiled religion does not mean offering sacrifices to atone for sin, but keeping oneself unspotted from the world. Pure and undefiled religion is not about moments in time where we really worship God, it is about a life of service to Him, doing His will, serving His people and glorifying Him through our every action.

Yes, I recognize James was not trying to write a definitive thesis of the term “religion.” He wasn’t saying there are no real outward forms or ceremonies for Christianity. However, we must not miss his point because he spoke accommodatively. He really is saying without good words, good deeds and purity, none of the actual outward forms or ceremonies accomplish anything good. We don’t get to live how we want and then have a few ceremonies that make everything okay. Constant Christian service with good words, good deeds and good lives is the ceremony and outward form of religion God wants.

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