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!

Drunkenness Vs. Sobriety

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

I have never met a person who doesn’t struggle with meeting his or her needs outside of Christ at some point and in some fashion. It is a battle we all face:  flesh vs. Spirit or life vs. death. 

We find ourselves feeling insecure, so we eat another cookie. 

We are struggling at work, so we spend more time on social media. 

We’ve been listening to negative self-talk, so we criticize and lash out at the ones we love the most. 

We feel stressed by the dishes in the sink, the toddler at our ankle or family dynamics that are less than perfect, so we reach for a glass of wine.

These ways of ‘coping’ are often the small foxes that keep us from living the abundant life Christ has promised us.

Many years ago, the Lord showed me a passage in the book of Proverbs that has stuck with me.

Proverbs 23:29-35

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”

So, let’s consider alcohol, and how often, in the flesh, we use it to meet our needs, or help us cope. My question to you is this:  Have you embraced the lie that alcohol will help…

You fill in the blank. 

Society has lulled us to sleep on this issue. They have called us “legalistic” for speaking up against the lies about alcohol. They have told us the Bible says not to be “drunk” with wine, not that we can’t “drink” wine. But I would say, I’d rather live a life that relies on the Spirit to meet my needs and comfort my pain, than believe the lie that alcohol is somehow able to do that.

I’ve lost count of how many families I know who have been destroyed by the effects of alcohol. How many church leaders have walked away from the faith and brought pain to the body of Christ because of alcohol.  How many teenagers have found themselves in compromising situations because of alcohol, their innocence stolen from them. How many husbands, or wives, have walked away from their families because of alcohol. 23 years in ministry puts you smack dab in the middle of people’s pain. And each time a person has been effected by the devastation of alcohol he/she will tell you, “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”

I’ve loved our recent blog series on walking in the flesh vs the Spirit. It has reminded me that we all struggle, but there is a real God who lives within each surrendered Christian heart, empowering him or her to deny the flesh.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

2 Corinthians 3:17

It is the Spirit that sets us free from the flesh.

It is the Spirit that empowers us to live in victory so that we are not attempting to meet our own needs, but leaning into Christ to have those needs met.

This reality is liberating. When we stop and realize we are living in a way that brings pain to ourselves and others we can repent, turning from our sin, and instead begin walking in the freedom Christ has for us. I would much rather be honest with my emotions, face my pain, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring me freedom, than live in the cycle of hurt that alcohol brings. 

I want to challenge you today. If you struggle with turning to alcohol to meet your needs, be brave and reach out to me. I want to help you find true healing that comes from a living God who knows you intimately and is always ready to meet your needs. 

With all my love, Julie Snellgrove

Rage Vs. Self Control

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Move me, O Spirit, to quiet my heart…”

Imagine you are writing a recipe to cook up the yuckiest, most rage-filled moments of your life. I can tell you mine in this season of life (to which I am sure some of you can relate at one time or another), but everyone’s recipe looks a little different. Mine goes a little something like this:

Ingredients:

1 C snoozed alarm (enough to make everyone frantic)

2 C early morning demands with no routine to follow

1.5 C argument with husband

½ C toddler refusing shoes

½ C hair drama

¾ C late night tv watching/Facebook scrolling

2 tsp horrible diet

2 tsp caffeine jitters

1 ½ tsp traffic

Directions: Preheat oven to 5,000 degrees. Throw all ingredients into a bowl. Mix vigorously. Pour mixture into a pan. Cook to a burnt, crunchy crisp.

I joke obviously, but I really have found myself cooking up this recipe time and time again, and not surprisingly, I lose my religion every time over something as mundane as a forgotten water bill. And although the ingredients may vary, this recipe always leads to an explosion of words and tears and all sorts of nonsense that ain’t nobody got time for!

In truth, when an eruption occurs, we know that it is not really the things on the surface that actually cause the explosion. It is all the feelings and emotions not being dealt with underneath the surface, simmering and pressurizing, and eventually exploding under the weight of life’s chaotic nature. It is the flesh holding onto feelings and control in such a deep way that it causes a blast of fury. It is desperately trying to control everything on the outside, instead of what is really happening on the inside.

Proverbs 25 says that “a person without self-control, is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” Our flesh is the same as this house. Even though the house is standing tall and strong, the enemy can just climb through a window or walk through the front door and go straight after all the precious valuables inside the home. When we allow our spirit to be pulled away from our flesh and we engage in a rage-filled frenzy, our defenses are down. Our beloved heart, God’s most precious treasure that He has filled with His wisdom and mercy, is left wide-open for attack by Satan, who loves to see us weak and broken. But friends, no one can live in a house with a broken door and windows. And no one can live with a broken heart that has no security or protection. That is not how God has asked us to live.

Choosing to live in the spirit with a heart that is centered on self-control begins with surrender. The Psalmist writes that God “rules over the oceans and the swelling seas…when the stormy waves rise, He speaks, and they lie still.” The wave of rage takes us over because we have failed to surrender all the overwhelming feelings that our Divine Maker never intended for us to carry around. But alignment and control are not on your shoulders. Surrender the feelings. Surrender the control. Surrender the idea that you are more powerful and mighty than the Creator of the Universe. Believe me, you are not. And you don’t want to be!

You have the greatest defender of them all in your corner.

Next time you are standing in the middle of a raging storm of chaos, stop and think about who is fighting your battle and protecting your heart. If you are standing firm in the spirit of the Living God, your windows and door cannot be broken, and you will not feel rage. You will feel peace. Because God is the Prince of Peace. And He will be your Peace, even when you don’t feel peace.

At the end of the day, all the craziness and chaos that make this life hard, will not cease. But remember friend, you are ruled by the One who already has your heart completely.

I’ll end with this beautiful scripture from James 1: 19-21, in one of my favorite translations, The Message. Tend to the weeds and thorns in your heart, so that your Father God can “make a salvation-garden of your life.” Love you friends.

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So, throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” James 1: 19-21 MSG

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