What Was Necessary for Jesus to Dwell on Earth Is Also Necessary for Him to Dwell in You!

 God has many wonderful character attributes for which we should be thankful, and which we should seek to emulate. But the Lord has laid on my heart one attribute that was vital in order for Him to leave the glories of Heaven; to come to earth where He took on the form and restrictions of man and knowingly subjected Himself to suffer humiliation, rejection, and tremendous physical suffering at the hands of mankind; and temporary abandonment from God His Father because He took upon Himself the sin of the world. It is also the character quality that we must possess if we are to receive Him as our Savior and the King of our heart. That quality-- which is greatly undervalued in our culture but of inestimable value in God’s eye-- is humility. 

Have you ever considered where you’d be if God, the One Who created the universe and sustains it by the power of His Word, had not chosen to humble Himself and become ‘flesh and blood’? You—and I—would forever be condemned to death, hell and damnation due to our sin that only Jesus, a sinless, righteous man could remove from us.

 Human reason would say that if God were to humble Himself and choose to come to earth that He at least should have been born into the family of earthly royalty and lived in a palace-- or at least born to wealthy, influential parents. Instead, God chose to humble Himself even further by being born in an obscure town to a young virgin and her betrothed who were of lowly status and of no repute in the world’s eyes. He chose to humble Himself and be born to an ordinary couple in an ordinary city so that all people would know that He is approachable, those who are ‘down and out’ as well as those who are ‘rich and famous’ by the world’s standards. He is the only Living God Who came to save ALL people who choose to believe in Him and receive Him as their Savior and Lord.

Out of all of the character attributes that Jesus could have chosen to describe Himself when He walked on earth, He emphasized His humility:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 NIV

It is when we are willing to humble ourselves that we will find not only the rest that our souls desire, but we will also discover the joy of our life’s purpose, which is found in humbling ourselves, living in submission to His Word and His will, and having a relationship with Jesus at the center of our lives— worshipping Him and making His name known.

As we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth, have you ever considered that each of the focal characters in the Christmas story were willing to humble themselves; they were willing to risk being considered fools by others; and that in doing so they lived out the very purpose for which they were created? It takes humility to believe in and submit to the word of someone else when that ‘word’ seems to defy our logic, reasoning, and understanding, and when believing that word and acting upon it will likely result in others thinking we are foolish.

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 Mary, a virgin, had to be willing to humble herself and surrender her ‘understanding’ in order to believe the angel Gabriel’s word to her that she would bear a child who would be the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. She had to be willing to suffer the consequences of telling her family and Joseph about her pregnancy, as well as the humiliation of having the local gossips’ tongues wagging about her becoming pregnant during her betrothal period. Joseph also had to be willing to submit to the word of the angel Gabriel, and to risk having his family and the community think he was guilty of sexual sin, or just plain foolish to go ahead and marry Mary since she was pregnant by someone other than him. (Luke 1:26-55; Matthew 1:18-25) How different their lives would have been and what they would have missed out on if they had refused to humble themselves and obey God, His word, and His instructions to them!

 The shepherds who were in their fields tending to their sheep when all of a sudden they heard an angel joined by a heavenly host declare that a Savior had been born in a manger in Bethlehem had to humble themselves in order to believe the angel’s ‘far-fetched’ declaration. They had to humble themselves, risk rejection and being considered delusional as they left their flocks and went into Bethlehem to find the newborn King, along the way sharing with others the news they’d been told by a host of angels who had appeared to them, mere shepherds who weren’t considered to be a respectable profession. (Luke 2:8-20)

 The magi, highly revered in their eastern country, also had to be willing to humble themselves and subject themselves to criticism as many people in their country and along the way likely considered them foolish for choosing to travel such a great distance in pursuit of a shining star they believed was the sign of a newborn king.  And, especially given their worldly status, once they found Jesus they had to be willing to humble themselves to bow down before an worship a mere baby who was born to lowly parents. (Matthew 2:1-12)

 The devout and righteous Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38) also had to be willing to humble themselves as they acknowledged that Jesus, although a mere infant born to a couple lowly in status, was indeed the long awaited Messiah. Simeon may have wondered if Mary and Joseph would think he was crazy, but instead of focusing upon himself, he humbled himself before God and obeyed Him by speaking the very prophetic words about Jesus that God gave him to share with Mary and Joseph. Anna was willing to risk others’ rejection of her as she went about sharing her joy of seeing Jesus, whom she claimed to be the Messiah. 

 Do you think that those mentioned above who are such an integral part of the Christmas story had some fears about what others might think of them? I would imagine that it at least crossed their minds that others might think they were fabricating a tale and would not be believed…HOWEVER… they were ALL willing to humble themselves and risk being considered ‘fools’ for Jesus’ sake! How did they overcome their fear of what others would think of them—a fear that is always rooted in pride? By humbling themselves and getting their focus off of themselves and instead fixing their eyes and thoughts upon pleasing God! The very God Who had humbled Himself for their sakes to come to earth in human form so that He could give His life as a ransom for them so that they could be reconciled to their holy, Heavenly Father! 

Jesus had to be willing to humble Himself to come to earth to be born a man, and we have to be willing to humble ourselves if we are to come to Jesus. The ONLY way that we can receive Jesus as our Savior is if we are willing to humble ourselves and admit that we need a Savior. We must be willing to humble ourselves and admit our need, and also to humble ourselves and believe what others may consider a ‘foolish word’—that God so loved the world that He sent His only beloved Son Jesus to take on human flesh so that whoever would believe in Him and receive Him as their Savior would have eternal life and become children of God. (John 3:16; John 1:12) 

 Jesus’ focus on earth was never on Himself and doing His own will. He was always focused on doing the will of His Heavenly Father. He trusted that whatever His Father asked Him to do was always for His good and out of love for His Son.  Jesus has left us an example of humility and obedient submission for us to follow. (Philippians 2:1-11) When we humble ourselves, put our faith and trust in God, and walk in obedience to Him--like Jesus and those who were part of the ‘first Christmas’ did—we will receive the blessing of playing an integral role in God’s great plan of drawing people to Himself to save them. And like them, we will realize that the value of our life is not to be found in doing our own will, but in walking in humility before God and even being considered a ‘fool’ by others so that the King of Kings will be magnified and made known to others. We will also have the privilege of sharing in the glory that God has prepared for all who love Him and demonstrate that love by humbly submitting to His will— and His will is that we believe in Him, receive Him as our Savior, and obey His commands that He gave to us for our good (2 Thessalonians 2:14; John 6:29; John 14: 15). Like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna, we will realize that the value and joy of our life is found in centering it upon Jesus, the One Who is the center of all of history—better known as ‘His story’— because Jesus willingly humbled Himself for our sakes, so that we might be reconciled to God, have fellowship with our Heavenly Father, and be glorified with Jesus, the ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’, Who alone is worthy of all praise, honor and glory! 

 

What about you? How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very humble and 10 being very prideful? How do you think those who know you best would rate you? Is your life focused upon making a name for yourself, or upon making Jesus’ name known? Is pride standing in your way of coming to Jesus and acknowledging that you need a Savior? I encourage you to ask Jesus to give you a heart like His that is humble and gentle, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. He longs to have you come to Him, and He will never turn you away!  

Lord, help me to get my focus off of myself and help me to fix my thoughts, emotions, and actions upon living for You and your glory. Give me a humble heart that is always obedient to the will of my Heavenly Father. And may I be willing to risk being humiliated, rejected, and abandoned by others as I go forth and share with them the good news of Who You are, why you chose to come to the earth to take on the form of a man, and that salvation is found in Jesus, and in Jesus alone! In your Name I pray. Amen.  

Written by Julie

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3 Ways to Positively...Get Rid of Negativity

Have you ever found yourself in the presence of a person that regularly focuses on the problems in their life with negative statements like:

  • This is just my luck (don’t expect positive things)

  • Go figure, of course this would happen to me (expects bad things)

  • I have bad news, imagine that… (sarcasm)

  • _______ (fill in the blank) will never change (making negative assumptions)

  • I’m not as talented as ___________ (negative comparisons)

  • This ________(person, situation, event) makes me scream (the desire to blame others and be a victim)

negative person

I often tell my kids that their friends will be like elevators in their lives; they will either bring you up or take you down.  Negative people are like elevators that can take you down into the pits of life. Recently I was with a person like this and she was complaining about an upcoming medical procedure. She asked me for help to overcome her fear about the procedure.  Here’s a few bullet points on what I shared with her:

  • Change the phrase ‘I have to’ about the procedure to ‘I get to’, and thank God that you live in a country that has wonderful medical facilities and that you are able to get help there.

  • Praise God that there are tests that can be done for your condition, and that there is likely a cure for it.

  • Focus on being thankful in all circumstances throughout the process.  It was at this point that she said, “I try to be thankful all the time, but it doesn’t work. Like I’ve been very intentional that whenever I start thinking about my procedure I start to look around and be thankful for the sunshine, things in nature, and things like that.”

When God commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV, to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”, He does not mean for us to give thanks for other things that are worthy of praise, like His providing us with sunshine— if you’re facing a scary medical procedure.  Being thankful for nature is a good thing and it blesses God when we give Him thanks for sunshine or nature. However, God wants us to learn to be thankful for the very things that we may not realize to be thankful for in the midst of all of our circumstances, including the trials we face in life. He wants us to give thanks in ALL circumstances! So, for example, what could a person be thankful for in the midst of a scary medical procedure? God asks us to find the one thing if that’s all there is to be thankful for within the situation you are facing and focus on that with your thoughts, words and actions.  If you struggle to find even one thing to be thankful for in your situation, you can always begin by thanking God that you have Him and that He will never leave you or forsake you. I personally would like to lovingly challenge you if you are struggling to be thankful in any area of your life to write down 5 specific things that you can be thankful about regarding that very situation.  Need help?  Contact us and we will help you to create a list to focus on for your particular situation.

In His Love,

Jamie

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Happy Thanksgiving! Plus, Two Thanksgiving Traditions

I love everything about Thanksgiving! I love going to church in the morning, the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven all day, eating it along with the stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes, vegetables, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream! Most of all, I love gathering around the dinner table with my family to give thanks to God for His immeasurable blessings. After we’ve enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast, we have a family tradition of going around the table from the youngest member to the oldest, and each person shares three things for which they are thankful. We encourage everyone to do their best to come up with something different to thank Him for than what was stated by the person-- or people--who preceded them. You may wish to do this or something similar to this for your family.

Another idea is a twist on that one. It is this: To go around the table and focus upon different aspects of God’s character for which you are thankful. This would be acknowledging God and being thankful to Him for Who He is, not just thanking Him for the gifts He has given to you. A great way to do that might be to go down the alphabet and start by sharing an attribute of God that starts with A, then B, then C, and all of the way down through the whole alphabet. The following is just a sample list of His attributes that you could share.  I encourage you to be creative and come up with as many other attributes on your own as you can. Or, you may just wish to incorporate all or a portion of the list below in your Thanksgiving prayer to God. The main goal is to make sure that we as His children keep our focus upon God this Thanksgiving, the One from whom ‘all blessings flow’!

Thanksgiving Meal

 

A= Alpha and Omega (the Beginning and the End)

B= Beautiful beyond description

C= Compassionate

D= Deliverer

E= Everlasting 

F= Faithful

G= Gracious

H= Holy

I= Infinite

J=Just

K=‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’

L=Love (Loving)

M=Merciful

N= Name above all Names

O= Omnipotent, omniscient

P=Prince of Peace

Q=Quiets our soul

R=Redeemer

S=Sovereign

T=Truth

U=Unchanging

V=Victorious

W=Wise (Wisdom)

X= He “x’s” out—or crosses out all of my sin

Y=Yahweh (‘I Am”)

We would love to hear from you whether you use this way of thanking God to celebrate this Thanksgiving (or even during your Christmas celebration), as well as to hear about any other Thanksgiving or Christmas traditions you have that you’d like to share.

We are incredibly thankful for the gift of you in our lives, and we thank you for supporting our ministry with your prayers and financial support. May your Thanksgiving be extra blessed as you keep your eyes, mind, and heart fixed upon God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)—Who gave us the greatest gift of all—His beloved son Jesus!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and love in Him Who makes us one,

 Julie and Jamie

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When the Church raises her eyebrow: How to overcome the fear of judgment from your peers

The Bible is very clear about numerous things as it relates to how to live.  Do not lie, do not envy, and love your neighbor are just a few of many things that God specifically tells us to do or not do in His Word, both for our benefit and His glory.  What about all the things He doesn’t specifically tell us in His Word?  Such as the age your children should be when you trust them with a cell phone or other responsibilities; how much money is too much to spend on a vacation/home/car/clothing/college etc.; when to extend mercy and when to allow natural consequences to occur for your loved ones and the list can go on and on.  

I was recently in a conversation over the phone with someone and it quickly became evident that a decision my husband and I have made regarding our children was a ‘surprise’ to this person and her tone of voice, and the questions that followed indicated her critical judgement.  I found myself using phrases like ‘we have prayed and we have peace about this’ only to be met with “REEEELY???? Well, ok I guess that’s all you can ask for,” in a tone that communicated ‘I disagree and you’re an idiot.’  I realized after hanging up that I was trying desperately to have my friend understand and agree with our decision.  Why?   Why was I doing this?  I’ll tell you why, because I don’t like feeling criticized, being told what to do or made to feel like I’m judged as a Christian because I made a choice that is different from what she may make in the same situation, a situation that is not written plainly in God’s Word as to what would please God and be best for my children. I was feeling fear of what my friend would think and had fear of being judged as ‘bad’ because of it.  


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That’s when God spoke to my heart.  He reminded me that the church is the ‘body of Christ’ and that He is the head…He is the head because it’s only His eyebrows I should be concerned with raising and His Words that I should be concerned with obeying; both His written Word and that which He speaks personally to my heart. He is the head and He wants us to think what He thinks, say what He says, see what He sees and as the ‘body’ we are to do accordingly.  

Colossians 1:18 English Standard Version (ESV)  “And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church…”

To overcome the fear of judgment I had to do the following:

  1. Remember that only God’s judgments matter

  2. Pray for my friend to fully know and receive God's love

  3. Recite verses that remind me that God loves me, He knows me, He knows my situation and I do not need anyone else’s approval

  4. Recall the times I have made judgments of others’ choices and ask God to forgive me and help me to not do it again.  In other words, my friend is misguided in her judgement as I too have been in the past and we are all in the process of learning to be more like Him.

One of the many amazing things about God is that He is deeply committed to and knows every detail about each person created in His image, even the hairs of our head are numbered. He has plans and a purpose for each of us and that may also mean that different things are permissible for different people at different ages and in different circumstances and only God can truly know.  Obey Him and do not fear man and you will have peace.

“And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” Daniel 10:19 ESV

Fearless in Him,

Jamie

Do you struggle with ‘people pleasing’ or have a strong desire to have others like and agree with you?  Julie and I would love to give you some personalized tips for your situation at no charge in a 20-min. call which you can schedule here.

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Overcome the Fear of Rejection in Your Marriage & Relationships

“I’m married and haven’t had sex in two years,” a person recently shared with stress and disappointment in his/her voice (names and gender not mentioned for privacy).  “I don’t know how it got this bad and I’ve been sleeping in another room for quite some time now.  My spouse says that he/she needs ‘time’ to sort things out and while I’ve given her/him a lot of time out of respect, I’m still treated terribly and I want to address the situation about how I’m treated and our intimacy problem, but I’m afraid to.  I’m also feeling tempted sometimes by other people in my life who are around me at the gym and where I work, who are very nice and are giving me attention that I’m not getting at home and I’m afraid I might cave to the temptation and make a bigger mess.” 

What is this person and many others we have talked to really afraid of?  Rejection.

Some psychologists would tell you that fear of rejection is rooted in low self-esteem, and Julie and I would tell you that it is rooted in a low ‘God-esteem.’   To esteem God is “to regard highly or favorably; regard with respect or admiration” 

When we have a low view of God and/or are ignorant of His nature and promises, or do not believe His promises are for us personally we will fear rejection from people. 

We will avoid hard conversations because they are hard, and because it will require strength and courage to face the problem and the people or person that the problem is with.  In the situation above there are 2 fears that this person is struggling with:

  1. Fear of rejection…what if his/her spouse says ‘no’ to any intimacy and does not want to work on the marriage?  What will that mean?  As humans we get to choose what that means. Fearful vs. faith-filled people will define the meaning of rejection in very different terms.  How do you define rejection when it happens to you?  What meaning do you give when you feel rejected?

  2. Fear of succumbing to temptation…what if eventually I can no longer stay strong and I ‘cave’ to the temptation of other ‘offers’ for love, attention and intimacy?

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The first fear is based on this person’s belief that another human can determine his/her value instead of believing God that his/her worth is found in Him, not in the actions or opinions of others.

While the fact that being sexually deprived in a marriage does put you at risk for temptation to arise (see 1 Corinthians 7:5), the fear for this person is that he/she will eventually not be strong enough to continue to ward off sexual temptation which opposes the promise of God in 1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP that says: “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” 

As Julie and I have mentored people we have discovered that many believers are believing God will be true to His promises for others, but they struggle to believe that He will be true to His promises for them personally.  So if that is you today, perhaps this verse will be a great reminder that: 

“He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”  Romans 8:32 AMP

Do your words and ‘stories’ you have told yourself reflect the truth in God’s Word above?

We encourage you to ask God to help you with your unbelief.  He desires for us all to possess and exhibit great faith in Him. Ask the tough questions, start the hard conversation and believe God to overcome the fear that is keeping you from transforming your life and relationships.  What are you waiting for?

If this post resonated with you and if you would like a free 20-min. consult with Julie and I to receive personalized tips on how to ask tough questions, or start the hard conversation and overcome your own fear, worry or anxiety click here.

Fearless in Him,

Jamie

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The Key to a Fear-Free Life: Have You Received It?

‘What the World Needs Now is Love’ is the title of a very popular song written by Burt Bacharach in 1965 and it’s certainly as true today as when it was released during the height of the Vietnam War.

 What the world—and you and I-- need more than anything else-- is indeed love! We are all desperate for love, and the One Who is love—in fact, perfect love—Jesus!

 Interestingly, even though the need is great, there is no lack of supply of the love that we all need. It is available to all, and without measure! However, first we need to hearof Jesus’ love for us, and secondly, we need to believe that He does indeed love us! Many people who hear of Jesus’ love for them have a hard time accepting the reality of His love for them because they are used to human love that is unlike God’s sacrificial, completely unselfish love. It can be hard to fathom how a holy God could possibly love us since we know in our hearts that we are sinners who are so undeserving of His love. Yet, it is only through faith in God and a willingness to receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord that we are connected to God, the Source of Perfect Love, Who is able to cast out all fear. (1 John 4:8;18)

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It is one thing to know in our head that ”Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”, and something altogether different to know in our hearts that He really loves me. I know that my life was radically changed when someone came up to me—someone I didn’t even know well-- and told me that he felt led by God to share with me that God loved me. I had heard about God’s love all of my growing up years, and when I was a young child before committing what I considered to be any ‘big’ sins, it was easy enough to believe that He loved me. Later—when I knew I’d done things that violated his commands-- I started doubting His love for me, and distancing myself from Him. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties when that young man came up to me and spoke the words, “Jesus told me to tell you that He loves you”, that the revelation of God’s love for me broke through—and forever changed my life! I realizedthat He didn’t just die for the world, but that He chose to die for me; that despite my sinHe would have given His life on the cross even if I’d been the only person. It was in recognizing both my unworthiness of His love, while simultaneously believing the reality of His love that caused me to grasp the truth that I can trust the ‘Man Who died for me’ with everything in my life! 

God proves His love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans5:8 Berean Study Bible

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 ESV

The ‘ALL things’ that faith in His unfailing love has given to me, and is the gift to all who receive His love, includes freedom from fear, worry and anxiety!

When you truly trust God’s love for you, you will: 

· Be able to totally trust in His faithfulness. 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:13; Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23

· Be set free from the fear of being alone, forsaken, or abandoned (Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5) 

· Be able to face ‘fearful’ situations and yet be unafraid. John 14:27; John 16:33: Romans 8:28,31-38; 1 Corinthians 10:13

· Be released from the ‘fear of man’ as you are more concerned with pleasing God. Proverbs 29: 25; Acts 5:29; Hebrews 13:6

· Be free from worry regarding the provision for your needs. Psalm 23:1; 2 Corinthians 9:8;Philippians 4:16

· Be set free from the fear that your particular situation is too big for God to handle. Luke 1:37; Matthew 19:26

· Be set free from the greatest fear of all: judgment from God, death, and hell (John 5:24; Romans 8:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:55)

How about you? Have you ever had the revelation of God’s extravagant love for you? Has the reality of His love moved from your head to your heart, and therefore impacted how you live?  If so, have you shared the truth that He IS LOVE (1Jhn 4:8) with anyone else, so that they too might have their greatest need—the need for God’s Perfect Love-- met? 

Whoever confesses and acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him.  In this [union and fellowship with Him], love is completed and perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment [with assurance and boldness to face Him]; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love [dread does not exist].But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear1 John 4:15-18 AMP

If you have yet to make the vital transaction between your head knowledge of God’s love to your heart, I encourage you to seek after God with your whole heart and ask Him to reveal the height, depth, width, and length of His love for you to you. (Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:7). I also encourage you…listen to the Lord, and when He nudges you to go and tell someone that Jesus loves them, step out in faith and do so in love and in obedience to Him! You could be the person God uses to give them the key that will open the door for them to experience a fear free, joyous, abundant life in Christ! 

Lord, give me an understanding, assurance, and deeper revelation of your love. Give me the power to understand how wide, long, high, and deep your love is for me so that I will know in my heart your extravagant, unending, unfailing love, and that I may be filled up with all the fullness of God, which is love. (Based upon Ephesians 3:14-19) 

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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What to Do When You Have Suffered an Offense...Or Been the Offender

 Recently, I unintentionally offended someone by a post I shared on Facebook that I would not have thought would have incited another Christian. The person’s venomous response to me pierced my heart and caused me to ponder about how easily people are offended in today’s increasingly polarized and self-focused culture; how offenses are used to separate the Body of Christ; and what our response should be when offenses do arise. Have you ever caused an offense that was totally unintentional? Or has someone ever offended you-- whether they intended to offend you or not? If you’re alive on planet earth, I’m sure the answer to the above questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

 It’s important to keep in mind that even Jesus, who is perfect Love, offended many while He walked on the earth-- and He is still an offense to many today (Matthew 13:57). If we follow after Him, as we have been called and commanded to do, we can be assured that we too will be an offense (John 15:18-20), especially in a culture that has forsaken and turned its back upon Him. When we align ourselves with Jesus, we will either be a sweet fragrance or a stench to others (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). No matter how hard you may try, you cannot live a life in which you won’t offend someone else. You just have to make sure that your offense is not caused by your ‘walking in your flesh’-- in other words due to your own sinful nature-- but is because you are following Jesus and ‘walking by His Spirit’. At all costs we must make sure that we are not an offense to God, even if others we love are offended by our standing with Him.

 The great news is that God’s Word gives us the answers for what to do when we have offended others, and what to do when others have offended us. When offenses come, we often want to ‘pick up arms and go to war’, but we must remember that our fight is not against ‘flesh and blood’—the other person---but it is against the powers and principalities of darkness that always are at work to separate us from God and from one another ((Ephesians 6:10-18).  Satan delights in stirring up offenses because they are the cause of division among people. Once an initial offense has occurred, Satan seeks to create a chasm in the relationship by having the one offended respond in such a way as to inflame the situation and cause the offending party to then retaliate in anger, hostility, or separation from the relationship rather than by responding in a way that will bring about the reconciliation and harmony God longs to see.

 God has called us to respond in a way that is totally contrary to the way Satan, our flesh, and the world would lead us to respond when an offense occurs. He has given us His greatest weapon to defeat the enemy’s scheme to create division when offenses arise, and that is demonstrating Christ like love.

 This is My command to you: Love one another. John 15:17 NIV

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 The kind of love Jesus calls us to have is summed up in this well-known passage:

 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.  It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.  It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 AMP

 So how do we put this kind of love into practice when we have been offended, or when we know that we have offended someone else?

1) First and foremost, go to God for His comfort and most of all His counsel. Only God knows your heart and the heart of the other person. And keep in mind that He created and loves you both. Feel free to ‘pour your heart out’ before the Lord as He desires to hear your innermost thoughts (Psalm 62:8; Psalm 142:2; Psalm 51:6). I assure you that He can handle whatever it is you are feeling! Due to our sin nature we are prone to justify and rationalize our actions; to deny any part we may have had in the situation; and to cast blame on others. Often after being offended we need to first ‘pour out our feelings’ before we are ready to be ‘filled up with truth’ that can only be obtained from God’s view. After receiving my friend’s response, I was hurt. In my pain I felt an offense against her welling up inside of me. I considered her response to me to be very divisive and unfair, and I wanted to defend myself. I knew I had to get before the Lord immediately to share with Him what I was feeling, or else I knew my feelings would take over and I would respond in a way I knew would not please the Lord nor help to heal the relationship with her. I shared my sorrow with Him and my disappointment that she would respond with such unkind words and in a way that presumed many things that were not true. I knew that I could not respond to her until I had first gone to God and bared my heart before Him, and received His heart of love for her. By His grace, I did not respond to her based upon my initial feelings, but I allowed God to hear and to heal my broken heart so that my response could represent His heart of love toward her. It is so important when we are offended that we not respond out of our pain but go to God so He can bind up our wounds and we respond with His Spirit of love.

2)  Ask God to give you a humble heart and to open your eyes to see the situation from God’s perspective, as well as from the other person’s. Consider and meditate upon the cross and how Jesus responded to offenses against Him. Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s position so you can better understand where they might be coming from. Ask God to convict you of any pride, arrogance, or other sin on your part that might have led you—even unintentionally-- to be an offence to the other person. Be willing to humble yourself and go to the other person and apologize, even if your offense was due to ignorance.

3)  After stating your ‘case’ before the Lord, wait and listen to the Holy Spirit who will speak to your heart and lead you if you seek His wisdom and guidance. Then do as He directs you. (Proverbs 2:6; 3:6; James 1:5; John 14:17, 26; 16:13) The Lord initially led me to respond to my friend by asking her to forgive me for offending her, and I addressed some of her assumptions in what I felt was a spirit of love. She responded in a way that indicated she was more interested in ‘winning a fight and being right’ than in mending the relationship. I sensed the Lord lead me to say nothing more at that time. Sometimes the best response is no response, especially if you have done what you know God called you to do and the person still is offended. Consider that Jesus said nothing during his ‘trial’ before Herod. He was doing what His Heavenly Father led Him to do, and sometimes God will lead you to remain silent if He knows that by responding you may ‘add more fuel to the fire’ or for another reason He may lead you to say nothing. If, however, He leads you to speak, do not be afraid to speak the truth even if the truth offends the other person, but never speak the truth in an offensive way. For example, if someone is offended because of a stand you have taken based upon God’s clear commands in scripture —for example, being pro-life or pro- traditional marriage or against any form of racial prejudice —do not compromise the truth of God’s Word, but speak the truth in a way that is loving and winsome rather than defensive and accusatory.  

A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1 AMP

4)  Forgive those who offend you as God has forgiven you for all of your offenses against Him (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:12). Do not allow the sun to go down on your anger if someone has offended you, and do not allow bitterness and resentment to take root in your heart (Ephesians 4:26, 31; Hebrews 12:15; Proverbs 4:23). When we are offended, our natural tendency is to want to get back at the other person, ‘to repay evil for evil’. That’s the problem…our natural tendency is our sin nature that must die if we desire God’s nature to be alive and at work in us. God’s perfect will and our sinful will cannot co-exist. You likely are thinking, “But you don’t know what they did to me! How could I possibly forgive what they’ve done?” On your own you can’t… you must be born again and have God’s nature at work in you to forgive as He has forgiven you. His Spirit in you will empower you to forgive the person, no matter the offense. I’m not saying it’s easy; it requires death to our own will that loves ‘nursing’ our offenses and taking vengeance, and it requires full surrender to God’s will. When we consider all of our offenses against a holy God, how can we not forgive someone else for his or her much smaller offense against us? Ask God to reveal to you the depth of the mercy He demonstrated when He died for you--and that He daily shows to you-- and ask Him to fill  you with His mercy for you to extend to the one who has offended you (Luke 7:41-47).

 5)  Bless and do good to those who have offended you, and seek to be reconciled with them and to live in harmony, if at all possible.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them….  Live in harmony with one another… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:14, 16-18 ESV

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28 ESV

 6)  Pray! A tremendous blessing that we can give to others is to pray for them. Pray that your heart will remain pure before God and before the other person so that Satan will not gain a foothold by your dwelling on the offense, which could hinder your relationship with God and cause you to withhold forgiveness from the other person. Pray for those who have offended you. Pray that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God and open the eyes of their hearts so that they will come to know Him if they do not already, and that they will walk worthy of the high calling He has set before them if they are a fellow believer (Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:10) Pray for the person whom you may have offended, and if you have sought their forgiveness and they have withheld it, pray that they will choose to obey God and love and forgive you as He has commanded them to do, so that they will not sin against God and miss out on blessings from God. Above all, pray that the love of God would be manifested and abound in and through you, and manifested and abound in and through the other person involved in the offense. For love covers a multitude of sins, and love never fails! (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 1213:8)

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

 

 

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