From Our Hearts to Yours

Does Your Faith Have the Flu?

Oftentimes, the rush of the holidays can bring on a cold that slows us down during one of the busiest times of the year. I’m sure you know how limited you are when you are ill — when you aren’t functioning at your best. While I haven’t found a cure for the common cold, I have earned a remedy for faith that has the flu. Similar to the symptoms of a cold you can sometimes feel limited in your faith.

I once spent time memorizing Philippians 4:8 knowing that it was a guideline for the kinds of thoughts God desired to occupy my mind. I found myself focusing on the rote memorization of the eight elements in the verse rather than the message of the verse: “whatsoever things are true…honest…just…pure…lovely…whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I realized that I hadn’t taken much time to consider each component separately. So, I decided to take the verse apart piece by piece. And that first piece stopped me my in my tracks and changed the trajectory of my life. I said out loud, “whatsoever things are true, think on these things.” I pondered, “What does true mean?” And my answer? “True means truth…the truth of Scripture. And true means the truth as opposed to lies. But, true also means real, because what is true is what is real.”

In just eight words I had a break­through—God did not want me to spend my precious time and equally precious mental energy thinking on things that are not true or real. It was also then that I realized how many of my thoughts were not based the truth — certainly not based on the truth of Scripture, and many not even reflective of the reality of my circumstances. I found that many of my thoughts were based on fears, assumptions, and lies. No wonder that on so many days I felt useless, tired, and depressed.

Take it from me, from that day on I learned that blessings abound when you and I think on what is true and real. And one of those blessings is strength for daily life—strength that includes energy, health, vitality, and purpose. God calls this the abundant life (John 10:10). Let me explain.

When you aren’t functioning according to what is real, it’s like trying to do something when you have a fever or the flu. Even though you force yourself to fulfill your responsibilities, something is missing. Your body’s ability and the demands of each task are out of sync! Sure, you go ahead and do your work, but there is little, if any, enthusiasm. And many times your work is half done or done poorly. Why? Because of poor physical health…which means less energy…and even less performance.

The same thing happens in the spiritual realm. Like a virus, your thoughts can drain your energy and cripple your usefulness. But, praise God, the opposite is also true. Your thoughts can be a source of strength. When you think on the powerful truths of Scripture, God uses His Word to change your way of thinking. And one positive—and much-needed—result is that you are strengthened and energized for daily life by thinking on the truth—on what is true and real.

Question: Have you ever taken a day and cataloged how many thoughts you have that are based on false assumptions, fears, imaginings, or fantasy? I challenge you today to do this and begin to take every thought captive!

Find more encouragement for your faith in, Loving God with All Your Mind.

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!

 

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George


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