From Our Hearts to Yours

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.

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George

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