‘You will heap coals of fire on his head.’
Proverbs 25:22 NKJV
It’s not enough to simply leave your enemies alone; you must demonstrate God’s love towards them. ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.’ (Proverbs 25:21–22 NKJV) What does it mean to ‘heap coals of fire on his head’?
Charles Swindoll explains that in ancient days, homes were heated and meals were fixed on a small portable stove, somewhat like our outside barbecue grills. Frequently, a person would run low on hot coals and need to replenish his or her supply. The container was commonly carried on the head. So, as the individual passed beneath second-story windows, thoughtful people who had extra hot coals in their possession would reach out the window and place them in the container atop their head. Thanks to the thoughtful generosity of a few folks, they would arrive at the site with a pile of burning coals on their head, and a ready-made fire for cooking and keeping warm. ‘Heaping burning coals on someone’s head’ came to be a popular expression for a spontaneous and courteous act one person would voluntarily do for another. When you treat an enemy this way, the Bible promises, ‘The Lord will reward you.’ You have a choice. You can experience the short-term satisfaction of retaliating and get into trouble with God for doing it, or show mercy and kindness and be rewarded by God for doing it. So, the word for you today is—treat your enemy with kindness.
‘Look with your eyes… hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you.’ Ezekiel 40:4 NKJV
If you train yourself to listen carefully to what someone is saying, they will generally tell you who and what they are before you get into a relationship with them. Prevention is better than cure! But more times than not, when someone begins to warn us of their weaknesses and what to expect, we jump in with our motivational ‘Oh no, that can’t be true’ thoughts, and encourage them to move forward with us. We need to learn the priceless art of listening without interrupting. If you do, you’ll save yourself years of tears, secret disappointments and negative experiences. Rather than using your optimism and persuasive style to coerce somebody into accepting your goals and objectives, you need to know when a person can’t become something just because you want them to or believe they can. They can’t run on your fuel! Your character and maturity won’t make up for their lack of it. Without your awareness of this principle, these high-maintenance relationships can weary you and drain your strength for years. In private or professional relationships, if you have to keep motivating to get started, you’ll have to keep motivating to maintain. On the other hand, if you look, listen, pray and observe, you can decide whether it’s worth the effort to engage in the relationship in the first place. And if you ask God, He will guide you in this: His Word says, ‘Look with your eyes… hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here… that I might show them to you.’
‘So [you] will produce even more.’ John 15:2 NLT
Jesus said the vine dresser: ‘cuts off every branch… that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes [cuts back] the branches that do bear fruit so they… produce even more.’Notice two things:
(1) God cuts some things off. ‘What kind of things?’ Things you’re comfortable with but that stand in the way of your progress. Things He hasn’t chosen for you. Things that will bring you trouble. Things that refuse to change. Things that have served their purpose.
(2) God cuts some things back. A fruit tree that’s just been pruned certainly doesn’t look its best. And when God starts cutting back certain things in your life in order to redirect your energies, for a while you may not look so good either. Sometimes this means letting go of things you thought would always be there, or reprioritizing your life, or making do with less for a while, or not being able to explain to your loved ones why you’re going through the pruning process. But life-giving sap flowing into a barren branch with no potential for fruitfulness is a waste! And so is time, attention, and energy taken from first things and given to second and third things.
Understand this: God knows what needs to be cut off in your life, and He knows what needs to be cut back. And although you may not understand what He’s doing, pray: ‘Send whoever You will and take away whoever You will. I’ll praise You when they come and I’ll praise You when they go, because Your approval is my reward and Your purpose is my reason to live.’
‘The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?’
Psalm 27:1 NIV
What hope or help does the atheist or agnostic have? None! Writer and editorialist WO Saunders said in American Magazine: ‘I’d like to introduce you to one of the loneliest and unhappiest individuals on earth… the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I myself am one, and in introducing myself you shall have an introduction to the agnostic or skeptic in your own neighborhood, for he is everywhere in the land. You’ll be surprised to know that the agnostic envies your faith in God, your settled belief in a Heaven after-life, and your blessed assurance that you’ll meet with your loved ones in an afterlife where there’ll be neither sadness nor pain. He’d give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, but for him there is only the grave and the persistence of matter. After the grave all he can see is the disintegration of the protoplasm and psychoplasm of which my body and personality are composed, but in this materialist view, I find neither ecstasy nor happiness… He may put on a brave front but he isn’t happy… He sometimes yearns for a staff on which to lean. He, too, carries a cross. For him, this earth is but a tricky raft adrift in the unfathomable waters of eternity with no horizon in sight. His heart aches for every precious life upon the raft—drifting, drifting, drifting, whither no one knows.’
But when you put your trust in Christ, you can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?’
‘We are the clay, and You are the potter.’
Isaiah 64:8 NLT
Ever watch a lump of clay being transformed into something beautiful? The clay can’t change itself; the power to do that lies in the hands of the potter. Isaiah says, ‘We are the clay, and You are the potter. We are all formed by Your hand.’ That means you don’t have to live the rest of your life with your phobias and hang-ups; God can change you. Even if you’ve been a worrier all your life, you don’t have to worry for the rest of your life. So, what if you were born in poverty or prejudice? You don’t have to die that way. Where did you get the idea that you can’t change? What’s the source of comments such as ‘It’s just my nature to worry,’ or ‘I’ll always be pessimistic; I’m just that way,’ or ‘I come from a family of alcoholics and addicts so I’ll never be free’? Would you make the same statement about your physical body? ‘It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.’ Of course not. If your body malfunctions, you seek help. Shouldn’t you do the same with your sinful appetites, sour attitudes, and selfish tirades? What the world sees as rubbish, God sees as treasure. And like the potter, He can take you, mold you, and make you into a vessel of honor (see 2 Timothy 2:21). All you have to do is place your life in His hands. We sing, ‘Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay.’ When you stop trying to change yourself and surrender to God, true and lasting change takes place.
‘Do not merely listen to the Word… Do what it says.’
James 1:22 NIV
When Nehemiah first saw the ruins of Jerusalem, he wept. Then he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. In the face of overwhelming odds and relentless opposition, he rebuilt the walls in just 52 days. How? Because it was his vision and his passion! Question: Are you afraid to say, ‘Lord, I’ll do anything You want me to do,’ in case He sends you somewhere you don’t want to go, or asks you to do something you don’t feel ready or qualified to do? You’ve got it wrong! The Bible says God’s will is ‘good, and acceptable, and perfect.’ (Romans 12:2 KJV) Now, while God’s will is ‘good’, it’s not necessarily easy. But He will give you a passion for it. When Jeremiah tried to stop speaking about the Lord, he said God’s Word became ‘like a burning fire shut up in my bones.’ (Jeremiah 20:9 NASB)
A God-given vision sets your heart on fire. You begin to see things you never saw before and get excited about them. You may have failed in the past, but God can take your chapters of failure and write a story of success. But it won’t happen if you’re just sitting on the side-lines. The Bible says, ‘Do not merely listen to the Word… Do what it says.’ You’ll get a passion for God’s will once you start doing it! And when it happens, you will say, ‘This is what I was made for.’ When you have a compelling reason for doing something, and you know God is watching and smiling on you, it makes all the difference in the world. So, the word for you today is: be passionate, proactive and persistent!
‘You will keep him in perfect peace.’
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
Here is a prayer for peace: ‘Lord, Your Word says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV) Your Word says, “The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11 NIV) Your Word says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) Your Word says, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV) Today I need this peace which transcends understanding to settle my nerves and calm my mind. Instead of thinking about my fears and worries, help me to focus on Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your healing power, Your overflowing resources, and Your forgiving heart. Take up residence within me and fill me with Your peace. Show me what’s robbing me of it. I really want to know, Father, so I can be specific in what I need to confess, what I need to commit to, and what I need to change. I open myself to You now. Teach me the secret of lasting peace. I thank You now for whatever it will take to help me receive the peace You have so generously offered to me. Your Word says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”(Colossians 3:15 NIV) Today I want to be ruled by Your peace instead of my fears and worries. So, I give all my concerns to You, trusting You to work them out for my good and Your glory. In Jesus’ Name I
‘On the seventh day you shall rest.’ Exodus 34:21 NKJV
One of the best ways to maintain your perspective on what’s truly important is to plan times of rest and recreation. The word recreation means to ‘re-create’: to recharge your batteries physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally. Rest and recreation restore your creativity, fuel your vision, and bring balance to your world.
The fact is, some of the people we admire most are socially and relationally dysfunctional. For example, if you took the pulpit away from certain preachers and the CEO title away from certain executives, they’d be totally lost. And if you’re honest, you’d conclude that in all likelihood they needed counseling. They’ve only one string on their fiddle—work. Without it they don’t know how to live! The Bible says, ‘God…rested from all His work.’ (Genesis 2:2 NIV) Now, since God doesn’t sleep and never gets tired, clearly He was setting an example for us to follow. Purpose-driven people can become obsessed with work and believe they don’t have time for fun. Some may even consider fun to be ‘carnal’. But Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ (Mark 6:31 NIV)
God, who thought that taking time off was so important that He put it in the Bible, said, ‘…if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord.’ (Isaiah 58:13–14 NIV) So the word for you today is: ‘Start taking time off.’
‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’
Philippians 4:11 NIV
Discontentment is a trap that can ensnare you and rob you of joy and fulfillment. That’s why the Bible says you must learn to be content ‘whatever the circumstances’. The notion that a bigger car or a bigger house or a bigger salary will bring you contentment is a myth. There will always be something ‘bigger and better’ out there. There will always be people who have more than you, so you’ll never be able to get off the treadmill. That’s not to imply you should be satisfied with being enslaved to debt or destructive habits, or settle for complacency and mediocrity and not fulfill the call of God on your life. Not at all! You must keep working to improve yourself, while remaining totally dependent on God to bless you, promote you and meet your needs. Contentment means not coveting another person’s position, possessions or personality. Your security and self-worth should be based on who you are in Christ, not what you have in material assets. What a great way to live! Paul lived like that. He said, ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:11–13 NIV) Each day you have a choice to make regarding your attitude. So, the word for you today is: learn to be content.
‘Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you.’
Luke 22:31 CEV
Luke writes: ‘Jesus said, “Simon, listen to me! Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you, as a farmer does when he separates wheat from the husks. But Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to Me, help the others.”’ (Luke 22:31–32 CEV) Satan’s attack proves you have an important part to play in the plan of God. That’s why he’s trying so hard to defeat you. The truth is, the intensity and duration of his attack is an indication of your value to God and the level of blessing that God has planned for you on the other side of the attack. So, if you belong to Christ, view the attack as a sign of respect. And remember Who is in control. Satan needed God’s permission to attack Job.
Jesus said, ‘All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.’
(Matthew 28:18 NIV) And this is proof. The purpose of this test is to provide you with a testimony to God’s goodness. Jesus was allowing Peter to experience a trial so that he could encourage his brothers. Perhaps God is doing the same with you. He knows that the church, and the world, need living testimonies of His power. So, your difficulty may be preparing you to be a voice of encouragement to others who are struggling. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers: ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ (Genesis 50:20 NASB) Since God loves you and is in control of your life, good things will come from the difficulties you are going through right now.