November 2012

Part 3: Time and Time Again

One day Peter asked Jesus a question that had prob­ably been forming in his mind for some time. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Peter was being generous when he sug­gested forgiving someone seven times, for the traditional rabbinic teaching was that an offended person needed to forgive a brother only three times.

However, Jesus’ reply communicated that we need to exercise forgiveness to a much greater extent. “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (verse 22). Jesus was teaching that forgiveness has no limits. We’re to forgive no matter what the number of sins committed! Jesus set no limits on our forgiving an individual who has committed limitless offenses against us.

Then Jesus, the Master Teacher as well as the Master Forgiver, told a parable that illustrated the concept of unlimited forgiveness (verses 23-35). He told of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed an enormous amount — the equivalent of about a million dollars in today’s economy. Well, of course the servant couldn’t pay. So, according to the custom of the day, the king ordered the servant and his family to be sold as slaves to recoup part of his debt. But when the servant pleaded with his master, begging for time to repay his debt, the master took pity on the servant, canceled the debt, and set him free.

So what did the forgiven debtor do? He went out and found another servant who owed him a much smaller amount—the equivalent of a day’s wages. The first servant demanded payment and refused to show mercy toward his debtor. In fact, he had the second servant thrown into prison until he paid the debt.

Others went to the master and told him what had happened, what his forgiven servant had done to a fellow servant. When the master heard this, he called back the first servant and jailed him for failing to show mercy to a fellow servant when he had been forgiven a much greater debt.

By way of this parable, Jesus was teaching that forgiveness should be in direct proportion to the amount we’ve been forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he in turn should have forgiven all. If you are a child of God, all your sins have been for­given through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when someone sins against you, you are to forgive that person fully from your heart, no matter how many times the act occurs.

Now, this does not mean that you are to continue to place yourself in a position to be abused. But, the spiritual act of forgiving another helps you recall that we are all sinners, and it is God who is judge, not us. As a believer, you have the love of God within you to praise God for His grace to you and forgive another’s actions against you in order that they know that a kind, good, and forgiving God can rescue them from their sin too.

A Prayer to Pray

Jesus, may I always remember with appropriate humility and gratitude the sin condition that was mine without your intervention. Help me to demonstrate this forgiveness to others who have hurt me in order that they may know you and change the direction of their destructive lives.

Fore more encouragement read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.

Part 2: Forgiveness, the New Normal

You know what it’s like when a friend commiserates with you when you are upset. They often assure you that the emotional reaction you described is “normal.” They often tell you that “anyone would have felt that way.”

So, what do we consider normal when we’ve been hurt by another person? Whether our injury is emo­tional or physical, it’s “normal” to move into retaliation mode. Normal thinks, “You hurt me, so I’m gonna hurt you.” This kind of response is the natural, normal pattern of the world. It’s no secret that forgiveness is not the normal response.

But Jesus shows us a new normal. In fact, He calls us to give the oppo­site response when we’ve been wronged. We’re to reflect Jesus and give the supernatural response. Returning evil for evil is not how Jesus responded to the abuses heaped upon Him. He responded in the exact opposite way! He said, “if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25). With these words, Jesus Himself lets us know what He desires from us.

Jesus is asking you and me to forgive as He did—to reflect Him. He wants us to respond to a higher standard, a divine standard. Like the saying goes, “To err is human, but to forgive, divine.” This means that if the person who hurts you or devastates your life never repents…or never acknowledges the pain caused to you…or never asks you for forgiveness…or never even says “I’m sorry,” you are still willing to extend forgiveness. Forgiving that person will free you of a heavy burden of bitterness. Forgiveness is not about “them.” It’s not about those who hurt you. It’s about you and your connection with God.

A pure heart filled with God’s security and love will enable you to forgive someone who’s wronged you. Forgiveness must come from the inside and work its way out into a physical response. Jesus knows your heart and He also knows that at times it’s difficult in your heart to forgive those who have hurt you. So, as an act of your will, try responding with a new normal:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:27-31).

How is this done? You can reject the “normal” response of bitterness and holding a grudge. First, mentally refusing to constantly rehash or dwell on a hurt will demonstrate a new normal. A next step would be to extend kindness and goodness. You can send a note. You can give a helping hand. You can smile at that person. Many times you’ll discover that your first move will melt their coldness toward you. But regardless, you will have activated — or defrosted! — any coldness in your heart. You will be moving forward in forgiving a person who’s wronged you. You’ll find your heart melting so you can freely forgive another just as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

Question: How would our churches and outreach to the world be affected if we applied Jesus’ “new normal” for forgiving others? Have you ever witnessed a supernatural act of forgiveness that impacted you?

For more encouragement read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.

Our Hawaiian Thanksgiving

Aloha! Our Thanksgiving was probably a lot like yours–some housework and food prep for the big dinner. However, we began the day with a walk along the water and nearby marina. This sight brought me great peace. Our verse for the day–and all days–is Psalm 118:29: “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” Praise Him!

 

Turkey Day found Jim hauling “the turkey” from our home across the street to my daughter Courtney’s home for dinner with 19 kids and adults! And, by the way, it was perfectly cooked! One special blessing was being with a family whose husband/dad is deployed to Afghanistan. Many prayers were lifted for him and his safe return in January after a year away from home and loved ones. Join us in praying Matt home!

 

This picture was taken while I was thinking of you during our Thanksgiving Day festivities, and your loved ones. God’s overarching word to us in the area of thanksgiving is not to reserve it for one special day each year, but to be “giving thanks always for all things” (Ephesians 5:20).

We thank God for your continued support of our books and ministry! We are honored to be a part of helping you live after His own heart!

 

Part 1: Forgiven First

Let’s take a look at the very origin of forgiveness for the human race by turning back the clock to Genesis 3. What happened after Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden? Well, there were consequences. First, the couple was sentenced to a life of pain and hard labor, neither of which they had ever experienced in the sin­less perfection of Eden. Then they were expelled from the garden paradise they had always known and thrust into a sin-laden world to fend and provide for themselves. That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that God forgave the sinful couple He had lovingly created to have sweet, intimate, perfect fellowship with Him. Furthermore, He clothed them (Genesis 3:21) and sent them out to have a new life as opposed to the death their sin mer­ited. Though their new home in the world was nothing as lovely and perfect as what they had experienced in the garden (verses 17-19), God provided for their needs.

Forgiveness back then began with God, and it still does today. God took the initiative to forgive Adam and Eve’s sin. His first act of forgiveness and cleansing toward them was to clothe them with the skins of sacrificed animals. The physical deaths suffered by the animals should have been theirs, but it was the animals that died — a preview of Jesus’ substitutionary death for our sins.

In this act of providing animal skins to cover the nakedness of the man and woman, the Almighty set up a system for forgiving the sins of His people. That system found its final sacrifice for the for­giveness of sin in the death of Jesus. Throughout the Bible, God the Father refers to Himself as the God of forgiveness. And this forgive­ness was modeled for us in the life and death of Jesus, God’s Son.

What confidence is yours when you know that you are forgiven in Christ! That forgiveness of sin produces life everlasting, which you began participating in from the moment of salvation. When Christ is your Savior, God’s Holy Spirit comes to reside in you. That means you can exhibit Christ-like behavior (Galatians 5:22-23).

Here’s how it works. Christ in you enables you to reflect Christ-­like character. For instance, it allows you to be “longsuffering” or to show “patience.” Longsuffering or patience refers to your ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and your willingness to accept annoying or painful situations. In Christ you are capa­ble of not only withstanding great pain and suffering inflicted by others, but you also possess the strength and power of Christ to forgive — with His love — those who cause the hurt.

A Prayer to Pray

Lord Jesus, thank You for forgiving my sin, and help me in turn to forgive others. Search my heart for situa­tions in which I’m not fully forgiving a wrong inflicted upon me. Whenever I recall the injury, pain, or mem­ory of that hurt, let the beauty of Your forgiveness wash over me. Give me your love and perspective to forgive. Amen.

Find more encouragement to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in my book, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.

Special Thanksgiving holiday offer:
Get the e-book of A Woman After God’s Own Heart
for only $2.99 at select retailers during November 22 – 26.

Click here to purchase. 

Is It Just Me (or Is It Them)?

In Matthew 18:15, Jesus offers a principle for healthy relationships that revolutionized my mindset when I sensed conflict with others. He says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” The primary application of this truth is for me as the reader of the verse to simply obey the command and go to any person who sins against us directly.

But think for a minute about what this command means for you and me when it is reversed, and other believers are called to obey it. It means that if we’ve offended others unknowingly, they are to come to us in pri­vate to talk about it.

Because of this revelation, I’ve quit wasting time and energy wor­rying about what other people think of me, or about what I might unintentionally do. I’ve stopped wondering what others might be thinking…or what I might have done wrong. Why? Because if I’ve done something wrong, they are to come to me and tell me. Until that happens, my guesses are just that. They’re guesses…rather than fact, reality, or truth.

As I’ve stopped analyzing my every move and second-guessing other people’s ideas about me, I have experienced more peace and greater openness in my relationships. I no longer fear or dread encounters with standoffish people. I’ve stopped presuming that they have a problem with me. Instead, I’ve begun looking to God through prayer, His Word, and the affirmation of mature Christian mentors to reveal any wrong attitudes and actions, rather than con­stantly looking for fault in things I’ve said or done.

What kinds of thoughts do you tend to have about people’s perception of you? I doubt that they are always positive and confident. No one’s are! After all, who hasn’t been plagued by self-doubt or crippled by negative thoughts, insecurity, and worry? And who hasn’t slipped into second-guessing, analysis, and suspicion? Instead of such unhealthy, cynical thinking, applying God’s principles to your thoughts —

  • Choose to think on what is true and real.
  • Corral your thoughts and refuse to second-guess or draw conclusions about people’s behavior.
  • Count on others to tell you if you have failed in your behavior.
  • Count on God’s Spirit to point out when you have offended someone.

By God’s grace and with His help, choose to think no evil about people or their perception of you. Determine to trust what others say and do. Count on others to come to you when you have failed them and count on God to reveal where you have offended them. Thoughts about people that are based on what is true and real liberate you to generously love and serve others. And, that’s what the Chris­tian life is all about!

Question: Do you tend to presume that others are thinking positively or negatively about you? Who can you go to for wise counsel and genuinely ask if you need to make changes in your interaction with others?

For more encouragement read, Loving God with All Your Mind.

Special Thanksgiving holiday offer:
Get the e-book of A Woman After God’s Own Heart
for only $2.99 at select retailers during November 22 – 26.
Click here to purchase. 

Thank Thee!

Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day is a food-filled celebration associated with expressing gratitude to God for the harvest of His bounty. Praise, thankfulness, and gratitude should be a regular part of our everyday life as Christians. Think about it — we have so much! But unfortunately our affluent society has dulled our sensitivity to God’s grace and gracious provision. Let’s look at Jesus’ examples of offering up prayers of thanks to His Father for an entirely different kind of provision.

In Matthew 4:12-13 Jesus and his teaching were rejected by the people. He performed many wondrous miracles in the area and spoken of God’s love. Wouldn’t you think the people would enthu­siastically embrace Him as Messiah? Yet they showed complete indifference to Him.

Rather than being downcast, Jesus offered up thanks to His Father: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Matthew 11:25-26).

Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus continued to offer up prayers of thanks and gratitude to the Father for all He had accom­plished for and with Him, His Son. In His prayer in John 17, just prior to His betrayal, Jesus…

… thanked the Father for the power and the opportunity to secure eternal life for all believers (John 17:2).

… thanked the Father for giving Him the disciples (verses 6-7).

… thanked the Father that believers had heard and obeyed the Father’s Word, which Christ had spoken (verse 8).

Then, with a heart of thankfulness, Jesus turned His focus on the cross and His death. How could Jesus be thankful? And what was the reason for this grateful attitude? He knew the Father was in absolute control. He knew everything was going according to God’s divine plan.

Has something happened in your life that doesn’t make sense? Are you facing a Thanksgiving Day that is not full of celebration? Has this been a tough year for you and your family? Maybe you couldn’t understand how a loving God could let something like that hap­pen to you or a loved one. Well, you are not alone. Most people have events happen that are difficult or impossible to understand. Rather than question the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, with your whys, take a page out of Jesus’ life and be thankful. As the Bible says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Is yours a heart filled with thanksgiving? Is there any reason you don’t exhibit more of Jesus’ thankful attitude? For instance…

Maybe you don’t know Jesus and are facing an un­known future without confidence. Ask God to grant you His grace to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and give you the gift of eternal life. Then you too can be abundantly thankful (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Maybe you are a Christian who’s forgotten how hope­less your life was before you knew and belonged to Jesus. There is no greater gift than the gift of salvation. And, as with any gift, you should say, “Thank you” — constantly! Pause for a moment and thank God for His indescribable gift in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:15). Then purpose in your heart to respond with gratitude, praise, and joy to God for Jesus and the treasure of His salvation.

A Prayer to Pray

And now, O Lord, I bow before You with a heart of grat­itude. In the words of King David, I marvel “Who am I, O Lord God” that You have blessed me so abundantly? For Your salvation, for the forgiveness of my sins, for my family and church, I offer You inadequate but sin­cere praise and thanksgiving. Thank You, dear Lord!

For more about God’s wonderful character read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.

Blessing Others

The bible tells us that as Jesus grew, He “increased…in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Do you ever wonder how to increase in favor and therefore increase your godly influence on those around you? Try these three ways to improve your relation­ships with people.

Mind your mind — It’s unavoidable. Your actions will reveal your attitude toward people. That’s the message of yet another proverb: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Thoughts that are critical, negative, harmful, and jealous not only go against God’s Word (Philippians 4:8), but they spawn actions that are critical, negative, harmful, and jealous. So train yourself to think loving, positive, generous thoughts when it comes to other people.

Mind your mouth — Our relationships with people are enhanced when we follow in the steps of the Proverbs 31 woman who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). If her thoughts weren’t wise or kind, her mouth was shut!

Mind your manners — The number one way to be pleasing to God and approved by man is to be the servant of all. Our servant assignment from God is to give honor and preference to one another (Romans 12:10). Regarding others as more impor­tant than yourself gives you the mind and manner of Christ (Philippians 2:4-5).

You and I are to focus away from self and outward to others. We are to become other-oriented. To do this, as mundane as it sounds, we have to train ourselves to, for instance, stop talking about ourselves (and our children or our grandchildren) and instead ask about the other person. We may also have to learn some good manners because love has good manners (1 Corinthians 13:5).

I love what Anne Ortlund says. First she writes, “There are two kinds of personalities in this world, and you are one of the two. People can tell which, as soon as you walk into a room: your atti­tude says either ‘Here I am’ or ‘There you are.'” Then she illus­trates the latter by describing “a Hawaiian woman who strings a number of leis early each Sunday morning, not for anyone in particular. Then she comes to church praying, ‘Lord, who needs my leis today? A newcomer? Someone discouraged? Lead me to the right people.'”

God calls you to love Him, first and foremost, with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27) and to allow that rich love you enjoy in Him to overflow into your family, into your neighbors, into the lives of others. How can you be a “there you are” person, looking around for how you can encourage someone with God’s love? He can make it happen as you let Him grow you into a woman after His heart.

Question: Is there a “there you are” person in your life that you can honor today by sharing a story of their service to others?

For more encouragement read, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.

God’s Gifting for us All

Sitting in our Sunday school class, I listened as my husband Jim continued his series on the “one anothers” in the New Testament. He was teaching about the ministries each of us Christians is to have to “one another” in Christ’s church. This particular Sunday Jim spoke on edifying one another — encouraging them, building them up, contributing positively to their lives, and benefiting them in some way.

Summarizing the lesson with a point of application, Jim chal­lenged our class. He exhorted, “With every encounter, make it your aim that people are better off for having been in your pres­ence. Try in every encounter to give something to the other person.” I have never forgotten these words. What a great — and simple — way to positively influence the lives of other people. Everyone needs edification and encouragement, and we are free to offer that when we have hearts filled by God

But, sometimes we can feel immobilized in our service toward God by and over-emphasis on “spiritual gifts” or a fear of not being the right person for the job. You might think, “If I am not a natural encourager, maybe I should serve on the parking team instead.” Or, “I’m not wealthy. How can my contributions make a difference?” We are all uniquely in our giftedness and the hurdles toward serving God and others. But, I found it a relief to learn that are three ministries that you and I — and all Christians — can have.

When I read Balancing the Christian Life by theologian Charles Caldwell Ryrie, I discovered three ways of serving others in the faith that are not only listed as specific spiritual gifts, but they are commanded of all Christians. They are serving, giving, and showing mercy (Romans 12:7-8). Hear how Dr. Ryries defines them:

Serving is sometimes called help or ministering. “It is the basic ability to help other people, and there is no reason why every Christian cannot have and use this gift.”

Giving is another ministry you and I could — and should — be involved in. “Giving is the ability to distribute one’s own money to others, and it is to be done with simplicity which means with no thought of return or gain for oneself in any way.”

Mercy is next. “Showing mercy is akin to the gift of ministering and involves succoring those who are sick or afflicted. ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction’ (James 1:27).”

Serving, mercy, and giving — each is a specific spiritual gift, but each is also commanded of us as Christians. And each was carried out and modeled for us by our dear Savior, in whose steps we are to follow. So commit now to kindle your efforts to serve, show mercy, and give — and thus fulfill the law of God and encourage His people.

Question: Are people better off or worse for having been in your presence? Ask the Lord to prompt this question in your heart at you wake-up or head out the door each day.

Find more encouragement for your soul in my book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart.

From Jim’s heart…Giving an Answer for Your Hope

Not long after I accepted a position at the seminary where I received my theology training, I attended a conference of professors from around the country. One of the speakers had a Ph.D. in religion and theology. It wasn’t long before it became apparent that this person knew a lot about God, but he did not have a personal relationship with God through Christ. So, during one of the lunch breaks, I sat with him and initiated a conversation about salvation and the gospel message. I will never forget this religion professor’s response: “Well, how can a good God let bad things happen?”

His question brings up one of the most common fears most people have about witnessing. They worry, “What if an unbeliever asks a theological question that I can’t answer?” Well, the chances of that happening aren’t too great, for there are only about seven basic questions that non-Christians generally ask as they grapple with the truth of the gospel. And would you believe it — my unbelieving-Ph.D.-in-theology friend asked the number-one question from that list!

You may be among those who are afraid of the questions that might come your way after you’ve built the bridges, developed the friendships, and become a good neighbor. Well, cheer up — that’s a good thing. Hopefully, there will be questions! Witnessing is not a one-way street. Evangelism is not a monologue, but a dialogue. Evangelism is listening to other people; understanding their objections, fears, and questions; and then seeking to give solid biblical answers.

The Christian faith demands that we have enough compassion to learn the questions of our generation and go to the Bible for its answers. And to help you be prepared, I’m going to list the seven basic questions (objections) that unbelievers most often ask. Alongside each objection, I’ll also provide the most basic scriptures that will help you with the answers. My prayer is that you have developed the kinds of friendships with others that will make them feel comfortable asking you one of these questions.

Seven Basic Objections to the Gospel

  1. Why do the innocent suffer? (Answer: Romans 5:12)
  2. What about the heathen who have never heard the gospel? (Answer: Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:18-20)
  3. How can miracles be possible? (Answer: John 1:1,14; John 3:2)
  4. Isn’t the Bible full of errors? (Answer: 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
  5. Isn’t the Christian experience psychological? (Answer: Acts 9—the conversion of Paul; Romans 5:8-10)
  6. Won’t a good moral life get me to heaven? (Answer: Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5; James 2:10)

My friend, I pray that you will take on the task of building those bridges, making those friendships, and becoming a good neighbor so that you will have an opportunity to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The rewards are eternal, for those who come to Christ through your witness—both verbal and nonverbal—will become fellow citizens of heaven. Show people that you really care. Show them Christ’s love through your love. Show them your heart!

Question: What type of objections have you experienced when sharing the Gospel with other people? What answers do you find most useful to help overcome someone’s skepticism?

Fore more encouragement read, A Man After God’s Own Heart.

From Jim’s heart…Life Lessons from James, the half-brother of Jesus

James, who wrote the New Testament book of “James,” is the eldest son of Joseph and Mary. He is the half-brother of Jesus, who was born of Mary. He has three other brothers — Joses, Simon, and Judas (Jude) — and at least two sisters, whose names are never mentioned. Throughout his early life and until the resurrection of Jesus, James is not a believer in Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus appears to James and others after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5,7), James becomes a believer. As the then-eldest brother, James may have played an important role in the conversion of his other brothers, because he and his brothers are with the apostles and others in the upper room after the ascension of Jesus.

James quickly becomes a leader in the church of Jerusalem. By the time Paul returns after his conversion and three years in Damascus, James has received the title of apostle (Galatians 1:19), and is one of only two leaders Paul mentions meeting with on his brief visit to Jerusalem (the other being Peter). After several periods of persecution, during which many Jewish converts are scattered, James writes a letter to encourage these converts. Several years later, he presides over the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). Then years later he, along with the elders, receives Paul upon his return from his third missionary tour (Acts 21:18). Tradition has it that James was martyred in a.d. 62 just after the death of the Roman governor Festus, who is mentioned in Acts 24:27–26:32.

1. Salvation is possible for anyone.

James was an unbelieving skeptic. He spent years around Jesus and still wasn’t convinced. It was only after a visit from the resurrected Jesus that he believed. How many people like James do you have in your life — in your family, at work, or in your neighborhood? No one is beyond salvation. Follow James’s advice, and show by your good works that your faith is real. Then pray that the Spirit of Jesus will convict your unbelieving family, friends, and workmates.

2. Humility is the mark of a true spiritual leader.

Jesus said, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). James didn’t demand to be a leader because he was the Lord’s half-brother. James’s life reminds you that leadership in the church is earned. Your commitment to Jesus as His servant is what gives your life and ministry credibility and respect.

3. True Christian faith is active.

James exhorted his readers, which includes you today, to live out their faith with their actions. Your claim to be a Christian is not valid unless your life produces works of obedient service that validate your words. If you have doubts about the validity of your faith, look at the book of James and the series of tests by which you can measure the genuineness of your faith.

Question: Who is someone in your family or circle of friends that doesn’t trust Jesus? What can you do to help overcome their skepticism?

Read more about people in the Old and New Testament in my book, 10 Minutes to Knowing the Men and Women of the Bible.

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George


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