Coals of Kindness

There’s a story that’s told about Abraham Lincoln. It was after the Civil War, and he was being criticized for his lenient treatment of the South. They had been defeated but Lincoln was trying to help them get back up on their feet. A woman approached him and in no uncertain terms let him know her opinion. “They are our enemies. They ought to be destroyed!” To which Lincoln responded, “How can I better destroy my enemies than by making them my friends?”

Mic. Drop.

The cultural atmosphere we find ourselves in today is no less divided. Masks or no masks….which lives matter….left or right….we all have convictions on these things, and it seems that just a quick surf through the social media world would tell you that you can pretty easily make some “enemies” just by voicing those opinions. But people are never the enemy. It says clearly in Ephesians 6 that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the posers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12, NASB).

One of the things I really love to learn about is the cultural context of Biblical stories or sayings. I find myself sometimes just skimming over those parts I don’t understand; the ones my 21st century Western mind just doesn’t have a file folder for. One of those passages for me comes at the end of Romans 12. In verse 20, it says: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

I guess that I’ve always thought this alluded to some passive-aggressive way of getting back at people you don’t like. Kill ‘em with kindness. Heap those burning coals on their heads. That’ll teach ‘em. But the context of this verse paints a very different picture.

The people of the Bible times obviously lived a very different lifestyle. No microwaves, no convection ovens. If you were going to cook for your family, fire was a necessity. Many times a town would have a community fire that was constantly tended so that it would not go out. Residents could come and gather hot coals which they carried back to their homes in buckets on their heads. Now, if you didn’t live far from the fire, this was no problem. You could get home in plenty of time and use those coals to cook your family a meal. Folks who lived on the outskirts had a harder time. They had to rush to get back to their homes before the coals went out. Neighbors knew this, and would take some of the hot coals from their homes and put them on top of the buckets of those on their way so that they coals would stay hot for their journey. They would “heap coals of fire” on their heads. It wasn’t an act of revenge or spite but rather an act of kindness. It helped provide and sustain for their most basic needs. It was life-giving.

I don’t know how many of us would say today that we have people in our lives who are flat-out enemies. I do think we could all agree, however, that the culture in which we live is increasingly trying to divide. I’m not here to tell you which side to take.

I’m here to encourage you to bring a Kingdom perspective to your circle of influence.

The Kingdom says love your enemies. The Kingdom says pray for those who persecute you. Romans 12: 17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceable with all men.”

Am I saying you shouldn’t speak up? No. Am I saying having convictions about cultural issues is wrong? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we’re called to speak truth in love…to walk in kindness and humility…to heap burning coals on the heads of those who would oppose us…to speak life and blessing. Uggh. That’s hard. But that’s Kingdom, and that’s who we’re called to be.

We’d like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this post!

Being a Mary in a Martha World

Do you wonder if you’ve ever entertained angels at some point in your life without even knowing it? I bet you have. The Word says in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

I grew up with one older sister and a very hard working single mother. She was gone to work before I woke up and would get home when the sun was down. She worked in the hot and dry heat of Yuma, AZ for a lettuce company. I remember when she would get home, I would take her muddy boots off while she took off what seemed like hundreds of bobby pins that held the bandanas up for covering her face. She would tell us about her day and we would tell her about ours.

My mother was and still is a beautiful example of what a heart of serving and hosting looks like. It’s a heart that says, “I’m so stinking tired from work, but these people are so important to me. I will be tired later and give them my attention and listen to what’s on their minds now.” She showed me that anytime someone comes to your house you offer them anything you have, even if it’s just a glass of water. Let people know that they are important and worth your attention.

Hospitality to me is when someone can feel at home in your presence. It’s us imitating what Jesus did in His life and in His death. His heart was always for others. The best hospitality focuses on the people you have invited—or even the ones you haven’t—who make their way into your home. It’s about making them feel welcomed, comfortable, and valuable. 

Take a look at Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42: 

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Mary had chosen to focus on Jesus. Martha maintained focus on the busy preparations, even after the company showed up. Yes, the meal still needed to be cooked and the house was not ready. But we need to change the way we think and start to truly believe that genuine hospitality maintains a focus on the people and not all the other stuff. I looked up the definition of hospitality: friendliness, hospitableness, welcome, warm reception, helpfulness, neighbourliness, warmth, warm-heartedness, kindness, kind-heartedness and so on. 

Sometimes as women, we’re too much like Martha and begin to believe lies: my house is not beautiful enough, I’m not a good enough cook, I have to “people” all day and don’t want to “people” anymore, what if they pull one of my daughter’s bras out of the couch (yeah, it happened). My friends, trust me when I say they are not there for the food or to see if you have been Chip and Joanna Gaines-ing your home. I can guarantee you that if you send an invitation to someone to come to your home, they are going to feel so loved just by the simple thought that you noticed them and are intentional enough to say, “Hey, come over and hang out with me!” Don’t shortchange yourself by believing the lies that keep you from enjoying the wonderful connections God has for you. 

I remember one day at church I heard someone say that Facebook is so misleading because it can make you feel like you’re already connected to people. That opened my eyes so much because yes, you do think you and all those people are tight already simply because you watched the video of their child in the ballet recital that they posted or know that this person changed jobs because they announced it or that they are on a keto diet and you know what they are eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because you saw their pictures and even know how many calories that was, so why do I need to hang out with them?

Let’s be intentional, friends. Let me challenge you by saying call someone up today. Yes I said it: CALL. Don’t text them, don’t marco polo them. Call them and say, “Hey, would you like to come over for some frozen Red Baron pizza?” Stuffed crust Digiorno if it’s close to payday :). I guarantee you that they will be so ecstatic that you called and thought of them. And when they do come, don’t be like Martha and tell them what all is wrong with your house. Be like Mary and sit at their feet and listen to them with all attentiveness as if it were Jesus himself. 

We would like to thank Christina Parker for writing this blog!

The Words You’re Probably Avoiding

Finances. Budgets. Bills. These are words most couples dread, right?

This topic has been on my heart, so I wanted to share a few principals we follow that I believe bring peace to this area in our finances.

  1. Tithe/Give. If you’re on the fence about tithing, I can promise you it’s worth it to be obedient to the Lord. When we follow His word and do as He asks, abundant blessing follows. Our first couple years of marriage, our combined income was below the poverty level, and yet, we followed this principal of giving 10% of our income to the Lord—and we never went without. God has always provided everything we need.

We’ve always had the mindset that everything we own is God’s, and from the very beginning, we’d ask him, what do you want us to do with your money? My dad used to tell me, even as a young girl, “You can’t out-give God.” How incredibly true! From the beginning of our marriage, we not only tithed, but we prayerfully considered giving to specific ministries every month. At first, we couldn’t give much, but as we were diligent to give away the little that we had, God quickly and immeasurably provided a blessing in return. With every raise we’ve ever had, our question has always been—Okay, God? How much and where to?

  1. Save. We saved enough for a down payment to buy a house within one year of being married on an income that certainly felt teeny-tiny. Want to know how? We save 10% of our income each month. 10%–that’s all. Give 10, Save 10.

We’ve been supernaturally rewarded by being stewards of our money in this way. We’ve been married 9 years, and we’ve paid off roughly $90,000 in debt. Today our only debt is our house, which will be paid for in 13 years or less. I don’t say that to brag—in fact, I was humbled when I started totaling it all up in preparation for this post. But because I know it’s possible to tackle what might even feel impossible, I want to encourage you: it can be done!

  1. Mutually submit. We get paid twice a month, and we immediately tithe and save 10%. We do it on the gross income (though we don’t think there’s anything wrong doing it the other way), so we’re a little more stretched. What’s left after that is the money we live on and the money we give away.

So what do I mean by mutually submit? Every couple has a spender and saver—and sometimes to more or less varying degrees. Whether you’re one or the other, remember that every financial choice you make affects your spouse. You’re communicating love and respect by how you spend your money (or by what you withhold in spending).

If your spouse has asked you not to purchase something or to be conscious of the “leftover” money this month, then honoring that amount is the way you honor him or her.

And I believe the Lord blesses us, not only when we honor each other with our spending but when we honor Him with our money as well.

I know money isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but I hope you’ll be encouraged this week. If your bills feel too high, if your savings feels too low—begin to ask the Lord how He wants you to steward your money (and then be obedient! 🙂 ).

His word is true. Psalm 23 begins,

The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not lack.

Believe that, my friends. He will always provide for you!

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here

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7 Must-Wins: Stewardship

7 must winsThis week, we continue our fall blog series, “7 Must-Wins.” With a uniquely personal twist toward us as women, we will address seven topics that must be understood and walked out in order for us to have success in this life. To start with Part 1 of this series, click here.

At some point, we’ve all asked and answered the question. If I had a million dollars, what would I do with it?  And usually it follows with some grand plan to give and help others…right after we go ahead and buy that new car, or boat, or vacation we’ve been dreaming about.  The reality is that most of us will probably never be millionaires. The real question is: what will you do with that with which you’ve been entrusted—no matter the number?

That’s what stewardship is all about. How will you allocate the gifts that God has given you?  It speaks to more than just finances, but since money is mentioned more than almost any other topic in the Bible, I’d say it’s probably a big deal. It’s a big deal because the way we steward our money says a lot about where our hearts are.

Many of us say things like, “Well, I’ll give when__________.” Fill in the blank. When the babies are out of diapers. When we get out of debt. When the kids are out of the house. But the Bible says in Proverbs 11:25, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” It seems our logic (myself included!!) can be a little backwards in the economy of God’s Kingdom. We think, “I’ll be generous after I prosper.”  He says be generous and THEN you’ll prosper!

Here’s the key: It’s all His anyway. He didn’t ask us to be good owners. He asked us to be good stewards. And if we truly see Him as our source, it’s not that hard. After all, spending other people’s money is easy! 😉

orangesLet me wrap this up with a picture God gave me a few years back. I was standing next to a solid white picket fence that seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. Right next to me a tree branch was hanging over the fence with several ripe, juicy oranges on it. I felt like I was supposed to give a couple of these oranges to someone else. But then anxiety set in. “But Lord,” I said, “if I give these two away I’ll only have a couple left, and that’s not going to last long!” At that moment he took me up to a higher perspective. I could see over the fence that this wasn’t just a single branch of an orange tree, but a massive orchard that stretched as far as the eye could see. I realized that all these oranges were available to me, and suddenly, giving away two didn’t seem like a big deal at all. It’s all about perspective.

I know financial hardships are real. And I know that as women, one of the things we crave is security. But we don’t have to live in the fear of lack. When we are faithful to answer the call to give, He is faithful to meet all of our needs.

“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV)

This post was written by Becca Wilhite. To read more about her, click here

**To read Part 7, click here. 

The Heart of Giving

give love liveOver a year ago, God placed some specific financial goals on the hearts of both Derek and I, so that we could ultimately give to others. Since the very get-go of this journey, I hunkered down and decided to give my very best.

Recently, God revealed to me the true motivation of my heart in deciding to give my best. It came about when Derek decided that we needed to wait on purchasing something I’ve wanted for a while. We had the ability to walk out of the store with my “toy” in hand, but all I walked out with was a crummy attitude.

I knew the reaction in my heart wasn’t due to just being told “No.” There was a deeper reason for why I truly believed I needed that item. Not even just needed, but deserved it. God showed me that deep down the true reason of why I worked so hard in meeting our goals wasn’t the freedom to give to others, but the freedom to consume things on myself. Instantly my heart turned to repentance and an honest prayer came out: “God, I want to have the heart of a true giver.”

The next morning, God took me to 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, 11:
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work…He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.”

God showed me that the theme of this passage isn’t finances, but it’s the heart of giving. Realizing this, I read it again. This time, the words grace, sufficiency and righteousness stood out. Understanding that my righteousness in Christ means I’m complete, whole and lacking nothing, and that grace (God’s ability or power) reigns through righteousness, the passage came alive. God says that when we give from a heart that believes in its true state of righteousness, he will make all grace abound so we can ultimately give to others.

If I give from a heart of lack, then I will be reluctant to give. I will want to keep my resources for myself so as to meet my own needs. If in that attitude I choose to not give at all, I’m saying no to more than just the giving of my resources. I’m saying no to grace abounding in my life and an increase to the harvest of my righteousness.

Whether it’s giving time to a friend in need, genuine love to those in our family, or full surrender to God in our moments of pain, we all have something to give.

This post was written by Abbie Kellum. To read more about her, click here.