Love Your Enemies

Reading the Word

Proverbs 25:21–22 (ESV)
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The first line of this proverb is simple enough, but the second may seem kind of surprising, depending on how you interpret it. Some take the second line to mean that by doing good to our enemies, we heap up future punishment for them. This means that by doing good, we are secretly just waiting for their future punishment and our revenge. This seems like a strange way to understand this passage.

A better interpretation is to understand burning coals on the head as a picture of repentance. By loving our enemies and doing good for them, we can have a profound impact on them. Doing so may even lead our enemies to see the error of their ways and to a point of change, even looking to our God. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). By doing so, we imitate what our Savior did for us and we put reaching the world with the Gospel as our top priority.


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Affliction

Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read his archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com .

Psalm 129:1–8 (ESV)
1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”
4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”


Israel has been through a lot of suffering throughout history. But without wishing to downplay that fact, I believe this Psalm is ultimately about the Promised Son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man of sorrows, and familiar with grief.

The talk of ploughers ploughing Israel’s back and making long their furrows immediately reminds me of the fact that Jesus was scourged to set His people free. The Lord is righteous and will cut all cords of wickedness. But Jesus endured that for us.

May unrepentantly guilty sinners of the torture and death of Christ get their comeuppance. May those of us whose sins nailed Him to that tree not be blessed, if we fail to acknowledge Him and be sorrowful for what we have done. May the Lord have mercy upon us for our guilt over the death of Christ!

“Almighty Lord, we acknowledge Your righteousness and confess our wickedness. Please have mercy upon us for our sins that nailed Christ to the cross. In His name, amen.”


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Do Not Hide Your Sin

Psalm 325 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 32:1–5 (ESV)

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unrepentant sin weighs on a person. The psalmists speaks of his sin causing his bones to waste away resulting in groaning all day. He felt like God’s hand was heavy on him and his strength was dried up. He was miserable and he needed relief

Relief from sin comes when we confess it to God. He has told us that he is gracious and merciful and ready to forgive. We only need to repent. When we do that, our burdens are lifted and our lives are restored. Do not try to hide your sin from the all-knowing God. He is ready to show you grace if you will go to him.

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Jesus Pronounces Woes

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 23:1–7 (ESV)

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus saved his harshest words for the religious elite of his day. They were the ones who thought they were favored by God because they spent their lives dutifully living by the law and holding others to the same. They were the religious legalists of their day. There was just one problem. It was all for show. Their religious devotion was to look good in the eyes of others and to gain favor from God.

The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and that we need to be saved from our sins. We cannot just try harder to do better because we are sinful to the core. Even our best efforts are as filthy rags. Even if we could keep all of the rules, our attitudes and motivations would be wrong. We need grace not better rule keeping. Jesus preached that grace was available to all who would repent of their sin and believe.

The scribes and Pharisees could not admit that they were sinners who needed to repent. Instead, they stood in their pride and resisted Jesus and tried to persuade others that Jesus was a fraud. Jesus warned these leaders of their failures throughout Matthew 23 in an unforgettable confrontation. Take the time to read the entire chapter in your Bible. How do you respond to Jesus’ teaching about repentance and faith?

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Salvation in No One Else but Jesus

Acts 412 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 4:5–12 (ESV)

5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The religious leaders of Israel had rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior of the people. At every turn in Jesus’ ministry, they challenged Jesus and sought to discredit him. When they could not and when they saw that his influence was becoming too great, they sought to get rid of him. Eventually, they were able to have him crucified. Peter reminded them of this truth in his preaching. It was through the power of Jesus that a crippled man was healed. This was the same Jesus that the leaders had rejected. And Jesus was the one and only way of salvation. There was no other way.

The truth of the gospel for today is still the same. Jesus came into the world to save mankind from our sins. Through his sinless life and selfless sacrifice, our sins are paid for and we can have eternal life. But we must repent of our sins and turn to Christ in faith. Many simply will not do this. Many are convinced that Jesus is not who he or his followers claim he is. Others cannot accept that they need to be saved or that there would only be one way. Yet, Jesus is the only way to be saved. There is no other way. Will you go to him today?

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Now Is the Time to Repent

Mark 115 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:12–17 (ESV)

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus’ ministry was focused on moving throughout Israel and preaching. He often attracted large crowds because he was known as a miracle worker and the people wanted to see what he was all about. His message was quite controversial and caused great conflict with many, especially those from the religious establishment. What was his message that was so controversial? It was the message of repentance.

Jesus proclaimed to the masses that they all needed to repent of their sins because God’s kingdom was breaking into the world. Anyone who wanted to be a part of that kingdom needed to repent or they would be judged. Many were offended at such a message because they felt they were already righteous and accepted by God. Others were offended because they believed their ancestry was all they need to be a part of God’s kingdom. After all, they were Jews and descendants of Abraham! Jesus’ message was that only repentance and belief in the Son would save.

Jesus’ message is the same to us today. We too must repent and turn to Jesus to save us from our sins. When we do that, he promises forgiveness and an eternal future in the kingdom of God. This message still offends today, but it also still saves. Will you hear the words of Jesus and turn to him?

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Relief from Your Sin

Psalm 325 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 32:1–5 (ESV)

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

Sin robs us of so much. It destroys our relationship with our Creator. It destroys our relationships with other people. And it destroys us from the inside out. The psalmist tells us that his sin weighed heavy on his soul. It made him feel as though his bones were wasting away as he groaned all day long. He felt that the Lord’s hand was heavy upon him due to guilt and shame and his strength was sapped from him as a hot summer day drains us. This is what sin does. It robs us of all that life could be.

There is a solution to sin. God is a forgiving God. When the psalmist opened up in honesty about his sin and called out to God for forgiveness, the Lord was gracious and forgave. He promises to do the same for all who will repent and call out to him. Are you feeling the weight of unconfessed sin? Is your guilt draining you? Call out to the Lord and find relief for your soul through the grace and forgiveness that he offers to all.

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Light Has Dawned

Isaiah 92 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:12–17 (ESV)

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. He was the light that had come into the world to illumine and teach us the truth of God’s will. The truth that Jesus proclaimed is that mankind needed to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This was a controversial message because Jesus said it was for all people, both Jew and Gentile. Many felt they had no need to repent. After all, they were wonderful, religious people.

Jesus’ message of repentance is still controversial today. Very few people like to think of themselves as bad. Most believe they are generally good, so there would be no need to repent. Scripture teaches us that we are all sinners and fall short. As a result, we are all guilty before God and stand condemned. However, if we listen to Jesus’ words and repent of our sins and trust in his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, we will receive forgiveness and eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came to be a sacrifice, but he also came to teach and lead us into the light. Will we listen to his voice and repent?

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A People Prepared

Advent Candles

Reading the Word

Luke 1:16–17 (ESV)

16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is December and we are quickly approaching the Christmas holiday. We just finished several days focusing on being thankful. Now it is time to focus on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. With that in mind, my plan over the next few weeks is to follow the readings as laid out in John Piper’s book, Good News of Great Joy. I will be using Piper’s daily readings, but will be offering my own insights. I do recommend Piper’s book for those who may be interested.

John the Baptist came on the scene preaching a message of repentance just as the book of Malachi had said he would (Malachi 4:6). He came as a forerunner to prepare the people for the coming King.

The Christmas season is a time when many are more open to hear the message of Christ. It is a time when believers must tell the world that there is a King who has come into the world and that he has promised to come again. All people must prepare themselves while there is still time through repentance and trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ for salvation. Let us take the message of Christmas to the world!

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Boldly Proclaiming Jesus Christ

Acts 238 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:22–41 (ESV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and began to preach. This is quite a change in Peter. Remember, he is the same person who had ran away when Jesus was arrested and then denied that he even knew Jesus. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit, he stood before the crowd and declared that Jesus was the Christ and that they had crucified him. When the crowd heard Peter’s words, they were convicted of their sin and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they too would receive the Spirit and be equipped to tell others.

The disciples went from being cowards to boldly proclaiming the gospel because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them. Their transformation is amazing! We too have received the Spirit and given all we need to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to the world. We have no reason to fear, but have been called to go bravely into the world and call for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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