From Our Hearts to Yours

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. 

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George


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