The Table Podcast

Forgiving Forward

Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Mr. Bruce Hebel and Ms. Toni Hebel discuss freedom and forgiveness, focusing on the ministry of Regenerating Life.

Timecodes
00:15
The Hebels’ work with Regenerating Life
08:10
Processes for resolving conflicts
13:11
The Hebels’ experience in the LEAD program
16:16
The ministry of Regenerating Life
23:28
Understanding forgiveness
28:39
Understanding reconciliation
31:15
Justice and the forgiveness process
38:09
How a relationship with God affects forgiveness
43:40
How can people contact Regenerating Life?
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table. We discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and our topic today is, among other things, forgiveness. And my guests are Bruce and Toni Hebel, who are – Hebel, sorry –
Bruce Hebel
We’ll forgive you. We’ll forgive you.
Darrell Bock
There you go. My life in Germany makes that hard. So anyway, who run a ministry called Regenerating Life and have written a book called Forgiving Forward.
Bruce Hebel
Correct.
Toni Hebel
Correct.
Darrell Bock
And they have had a ministry in this area for a long time, and forgiveness is something that pops up in life every now and again.
Bruce Hebel
A couple times.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it even gets a little spot in the Lord’s prayer. We’re in the sweet spot of relationships in some ways because how you manage and respond to both the offer of forgiveness and receiving forgiveness obviously is an important part of relationships. Let’s talk a little bit about how you got to this point in life. Bruce, talk about your time here at Dallas and then how you ended up in a ministry that has this focus.
Bruce Hebel
We came to DTS in the eighties, graduated in ’87, did internship with Gene Getz and mentored by a lot of good people here, and then we went into our ministry. My dad was a pastor so I knew what ministry was about, I thought, and thought I would learn some things from my dad and better, and not be hurt like he does. ‘Cause let’s just face it, sheep bite and so we go into our ministry and we get hurt a lot, really deeply, multiple times in multiple places over many years. And we suffered the consequences of unforgiveness in our heart. In fact, one of Toni’s – one of our darkest moments, Toni calls it focus on the family pastoral hotline for help, and they – when they heard our story, there was silence on the other end of the line. And a guy broke the silence by saying, “That’s the worst story we’ve heard. Why are you still doing ministry?”

And it’s ‘cause that was our call and so there was a point in my life about a year where the ministry is going well. I’d come into a church that needed a lot of development. It was in crisis and we brought some healing to it. It was moving well and my guests were going – flowing well, leadership teaching, all that stuff, but inside, I was a mess. And a friend of mine challenged me about forgiveness and I said, “No, no, I dealt with that ‘cause I’m a pastor.” We deal with that. We’re supposed to have that together and he challenged me to go away and just spend some time with God.

So about three or four days, just me and God, and God confronted me in the midst of that about a guy that I thought I’d forgiven, that I would – was struggling with for this whole year. I’m just in torment because of an old scab got knocked off by a current wound. And most the time, we find that people who – the wounds of today are really hitting wounds of the past. And when I chose to forgive, it just changed my life. That whole encounter in that lake house with God just freed my spirit in such an amazing way, and I went home and shared it with Toni and she got free. We shared it with our kids. Spent 11 hours in one day with our kids dealing with old stuff and we got free. It was amazing.

Darrell Bock
And you formed a ministry from there.
Bruce Hebel
Out of that, God gave us another graduate exam to forgive right out of that and then after a period of time, we were planning a little church and we were doing well. And the church was really healthy. People would come, get free. They’d go back where they were. Our church as not really growing that well, but it – God was doing amazing things. And Bruce Wilkinson is the one who came into our life and challenged us. You need to leave the little C church and go to the big C church and teach this message ‘cause God had just taught us so much stuff coming out of that.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. So Toni, you were along for the ride, right?
Toni Hebel
Oh, was I.

It wasn’t in my plan. I’d tell you that.

Darrell Bock
Where did you all minister? What states were you all in, in terms of churches?
Toni Hebel
We left here and we went to New Jersey and then from there, we went to Oklahoma. We were there in a couple different places in Oklahoma and then into Georgia where we are now.
Darrell Bock
So north and south.
Toni Hebel
Yes.
Darrell Bock
East coast and central part of the country, very different places. Dynamics the same or were they – were there differences and similarities? How would you characterize what you went through just in terms of the general context in which you were ministering?
Bruce Hebel
Are you talking about the wounds that we suffered or the context?
Darrell Bock
Just the context.
Bruce Hebel
Obviously different parts of the country are different. New Jersey is a whole different animal than Texas and where we were at DTS, and then Oklahoma is a – just its own little country there in some ways and there’s a uniqueness to that culture. And then Georgia, where we are, is outside of Atlanta. It’s a suburban area, very affluent area. East coast, we were in a lower income. Not low income, but just moderate in Oklahoma and then more upper income in Georgia, but wounds are wounds, whether they’re from one area of the country or one socioeconomic. Wounds is a wound and our pain was similar in each one, just different context of it.
Darrell Bock
I’m not sure quite how to get into this, but – so you’re ministering along and I take it the first experience came relatively soon out of seminary.
Bruce Hebel
It did.
Darrell Bock
And you’re just ministering along, doing what you thought God had called you to do and rolling along, and what was the –
Toni Hebel
We want to be careful what we say because we want to protect the forgiven, but what we went through multiple times was all actionable by law.
Bruce Hebel
Most of it.
Toni Hebel
Most of it. We could’ve gone to court many times and won, but we chose to burn every bit of evidence literally of what happened to us. It was shocking because we went into ministry with a great passion to share the gospel to the world and to be wounded like we were was – we weren’t prepared for that. No one told us. It was just a shock and so we were reeling from that time and time again. Our kids were hurt in very significant ways and I was in severe depression because of all that, and what was wonderful was when God revealed this message of forgiveness in a way that – we pastured, what, 25 years before we even knew what forgiveness truly was like we know now.
Bruce Hebel
And it was all friendly fire. It’s inside the church stuff and – which sometimes makes it much more difficult to process and deal with because you think we’re supposed to be all together, but wounded people wound people, whether they’re believers or nonbelievers. And the consequences in our own heart when we don’t forgive is the same.
Darrell Bock
I’m saying walking carefully here, but did this involve some of the leadership in the church or was it –
Bruce Hebel
Most of the time.
Darrell Bock
That was my suspicion and so –
Bruce Hebel
And it’s always a small group. Most conflict in church of most pastors getting wounded and back and forth typically from a small group. It was never the large context. It was always just a small group of leaders or somebody who was insecure or something.
Darrell Bock
Often times, it’s people in a position to – if I can say it this way somewhat figuratively, to do damage in the process. There in a position to actually create, and to some degree, exacerbate the significance of the conflict ‘cause it’s not just with a member. It’s with someone who you’re actually trying to set direction of the church with.
Bruce Hebel
Correct.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, so I take it since you said this was unresolved that the initial way of resolving this was to just move on.
Bruce Hebel
Yeah and some of that was not given – that was not our choice [laughs].
Darrell Bock
That makes life a little clearer.
Bruce Hebel
Yeah, so we don’t want you here anymore, bye. We love you, bye-bye kind of thing, but so then you move on. And so it’s – we’re trained through seminary, trained through just life or whatever as you – and most people – we say it this way. We salute forgiveness, but we don’t know how to do it. We know it’s a good idea, but how to actually pull it off and what to do with it is more difficult. So we just did the band-aid stuff like so many people do and we stuff it and we move on, and we’re good and we’re trusting God and –
Darrell Bock
We’re starting over, clean slate.
Bruce Hebel
Clean slate, all that stuff, and then other things happen. And then you realize that you’ve got wound compiling upon wound, compiling upon wound, and if you don’t deal with the first one, you got new ones that are gonna come up and make – just make it worse.
Darrell Bock
Did you develop a sense or do you have a sense now that there was something that you were doing on your end that was contributing to what was happening or was it just –
Toni Hebel
It was really kind of shocking. Each situation was different. Jealousy came up because of course I’m his wife, but he got – Bruce is very gifted in his speaking and sometimes that was a threat and that’s how we perceived it and even to this point. But I think one of the darkest points for you, babe, was when one of the leaders in a very key position looked at him and said, “I don’t know who told you that you should’ve gone into ministry because you’re not gifted and you should’ve never entered the ministry, so you’re gone.” And it was a shock to hear that when our whole life had been given to ministry and God in a Christ relationship. We were told that, “Whoever told you that should’ve gone into ministry lied to you and you shouldn’t believe them.”

And so that one was a deep one, but God is so good because out of that, we have helped hundreds of thousands of people and many, many pastors. And we’re brought into situations that are deep. We’ve dealt with the molestation issue in our family. We’ve dealt with murder. We’ve dealt with a lot of deep wounds and so God has primed us to help so many people that have been wounded in those ways. We’ve been brought into the black white issue in America in a very significant way and have brought – God has used us there. Jews and Arabs, we’ve been brought into that situation in Israel. So, anyhow, what God was doing was training us for what He really put us on the planet to do.

Darrell Bock
Interesting.
Bruce Hebel
There was never anything actionable against us in the –
Toni Hebel
No, there wasn’t.
Bruce Hebel
It wasn’t brought up anything, but obviously I’m not perfect. Neither one of us are perfect and so often times in leadership, we expect perfection or we have a mindset of what someone is supposed to be and do. And we don’t deal with their failures, their fault, their flaws, their weaknesses is probably a better term, the things that they’re not good at. And we – people can manipulate those to get their way on certain things. Were we perfect in our whole life in ministry? Absolutely not, but none of it really seemed to justify some of the things that happened to us. But as Toni was saying, God uses what he doesn’t plan and manipulates it to where it looks like he planned it that way all along. And so he takes what he doesn’t necessarily initiate and he uses it to accomplish his goals in our lives and take us to places that we wouldn’t have gone before. He’s used the pain in our life to take us to do extraordinary things with extraordinary people.
Darrell Bock
And of course my mind immediately leaps to the story of Joseph where he says to his brothers –
Toni Hebel
That’s our story.
Darrell Bock
“You intended it for bad, but God’s used it for good.” That is very much the story that you have.
Bruce Hebel
Absolutely. God permits what he could prevent in order to bring about his great glory and our greater good, and that’s really been the case for us.
Darrell Bock
Not to do internal promotion, but actually to do a little bit of internal. I know you also participated in lead.
Bruce Hebel
We did.
Toni Hebel
Yes, we did.
Bruce Hebel
We did, 1998.
Darrell Bock
Tell us about that experience. Did that play a role in the – in your process at all or how – where did that fit?
Bruce Hebel
It really did. We were coming out of difficult circumstance and transition at the time the way it worked and it really was an important part. Of course, Bill Lawrence was leading at the time. Bill was one of my two mentors here and so there was a special part with that, and God just took me completely to the core and broke me down in the midst of that deal and then rebuilt us. And we got a lot of insight into who we were, into our strengths as to why some of our strengths impacted other people the way it did in a negative way. And how we could maybe mitigate some of that, but can’t always mitigate those things.
Darrell Bock
And just to let people know, LEAD is program we have at the center. It deals with leaders and it’s a pretty intensive self evaluation of a couple really. It’s not just the leader who goes through it, but they – your – it’s the husband and wife together going through it and it’s multiple coaches in multiple areas and is pretty intense, but it’s – it usually is dealing with people who are wrestling with aspects of their ministry in one way or another. And designed to help them take a step back, take a look, and do some self assessment in the midst of that. So you found that helpful?
Bruce Hebel
Yeah, kind of a –
Toni Hebel
Yeah, in fact, I think we’ve even actually applied that to our own – we do forgiveness coaching and we meet with couples all the time and many, many pastors and their wives. They hear about. They come to us and we use a lot of the way in which LEAD – their methods and we use that in our coaching as far as – it’s a different topic. We deal with forgiveness, but we go to the core. It’s not fluff with us. We’re coaches and so we don’t – we get down there with where it is, where – what’s going on. We take them apart and put them back together so to speak. Yeah and it’s been very effective.
Bruce Hebel
If you don’t get to the root, you don’t really accomplish much.
Darrell Bock
Exactly and part of our goal in LEAD, we’re almost in a – often times, we find ourselves in a ministry recovery mode to some degree with the person and what we’d really like to do is get ourselves in a position where it doesn’t – isn’t that serious before you’re dealing with some of this. And so we’ve done recently a lot of efforts in terms of dealing with conflict and getting out of ahead of it and dealing with it at the start as opposed to just stepping back and say maybe this will just go away and take care of itself. And then find people who have been damaged in the midst of all that needing restoration in many ways. It’s a challenge in that regard. Let’s talk about what you do. You went through this and God rebuilt what you were doing, and you ended up with this ministry. Tell us about what this ministry does, who it’s open to, and then we’ll get into some specifics about dealing with forgiveness.
Bruce Hebel
It’s only open to the people who have been wounded.
Darrell Bock
Okay, just those few [laughs].
Bruce Hebel
The people who don’t – who have never been wounded don’t need what we teach.
Darrell Bock
If you’re perfect, you don’t need to apply, right?
Bruce Hebel
I don’t know. There was one perfect guy who walked on the planet and when they killed him, so –
Toni Hebel
He was wounded, too.
Bruce Hebel
He was wounded for our ____.
Toni Hebel
________.
Darrell Bock
____ poorly, huh?
Toni Hebel
They did, they do. We all get wounded. It’s actually open to everybody. We do a lot of churches. We do a lot of individuals, do a lot of couples. We travel. This year, we were in Israel. We led a retreat in the Dead Sea area of both Arab pastoral leaders and Messianic pastoral leaders. And even though both groups are Christ followers, they’re at odds because the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Isaac are not forgiving each other for what their dad did. So you’ve got a 4,000 year old series of wounds and what God did in that meeting was unbelievable. The people there said they’ve never seen it in Israel before ‘cause they begin to – historically, they’ve always said these are our – when they come to these meetings – these are our grievances. What are you gonna do to fix it?

We came in and said that’s the wrong way because this is the answer. Whatever your grievances are, the blood of Jesus has already resolved them. And to demand anything beyond that is to say the blood of Jesus is not sufficient, and that’s not okay with the father. You have to repent of your sin of unforgiveness and you need to forgive whether they repent or not. You forgive and you bless, and that’s where your freedom lies. And at the end of the session, the last day, both groups got up, repented of their own forgiveness, embraced one another, said whatever happened has happened in our history and our past as nations and as individuals has been covered by the blood of Jesus. And we’re brothers and they came together blessing one another across the room. It was unbelievable.

Toni Hebel
Yes.
Darrell Bock
I’ve still got background questions I wanna go through. What was this like for you going through this as a spouse? I often feel like the spouse of a pastor is in this helpless zone. I don’t know what else to describe it.
Bruce Hebel
That’s a good way.
Darrell Bock
Where all this stuff is happening and it’s happening to the one you care about, and you’re watching it and you have absolutely no ability to – no significant ability to address or fix or control what’s going on. What is that like?
Toni Hebel
It’s difficult, but it’s good because it put me in a place of having to really abide in Christ. All my hope was there and did I – was I there all the time? No, it was just very difficult. The way I dealt with it, which I didn’t know I was dealing with it this way, was to – it just set me into a deep depression. And I think because as so many things had happened and they were – we don’t want to speak of that because we want to protect the forgiven, but they were very, very, very large, big, deep things. I would’ve never wrote my life that way and so it was shocking. Actually it was shocking. Bruce and I have a very open communicative style of living and so he would keep me informed of everything. Sometimes maybe wasn’t a good idea that I knew what I knew.
Bruce Hebel
There was some things I didn’t really – yeah.
Toni Hebel
The day came when I remember and it was just in 2006 when God confronted me with my unforgiveness and I didn’t know how to – because all these – I say I forgive them. I said it multiple times, but I didn’t realize that just to say I forgive so and so really wasn’t from my heart. As Matthew 18 talks about to forgive your heart and to forgive from your heart is to really deal with what they did, to choose to forgive them for doing – listing the wounds. And so I found myself at a lake one day and I sat with the Lord and asked him to reveal to me who I needed to forgive. I knew I had unforgiveness, but I didn’t know who I needed to start with. And so a name came to my mind and I started with that person, and it was a deep wound, deep betrayal.

And so I just said, “All right, Lord, you’re gonna have to teach me. How do I do this?” And he led me step by step. We call the protocols, which we can go over later, but – and every single protocol is – he just revealed it to me and I walked through it. When I was finished, I was completely set free and what I mean by that is the depression lifted immediately, and it was bad. I was in the suicidal category and it was gone completely. And that was – that’s my story and I’ve been able to help so many since then because of that. Forgiveness never says what they did is okay. It wasn’t okay what happened to us. There was no reason. There’s no way you could say what happened was okay. It just says that it was paid for, that Jesus paid for it, that they don’t owe me anything. He took all the wounds on himself and he paid for it. And so I transferred all of their debt against me back to the cross where it belonged.

Darrell Bock
Interesting. That Matthew 18 passage is a passage I love and I think most people aren’t aware of how significant that parable is, and it’s pretty strong actually.
Toni Hebel
It is, it is.
Darrell Bock
Basically it tells us if we can’t be forgiving people, how should we expect to sense forgiveness, if I can say it that way, and to draw from it. It’s a challenge, that passage and it’s an important one.
Bruce Hebel
I think it’s even more shocking than that because if you really understand it, when he says he – you get this servant who is forgiven a – literally a –
Darrell Bock
I call Bill Gates’ debt.
Toni Hebel
Yeah, exactly.
Bruce Hebel
Literally, a ___ was worth 15 years wages. That’s 150,000 years worth of wages.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, you’re not making that up.
Bruce Hebel
No, no one’s getting a 150,000 year mortgage anytime soon. And then he won’t forgive it a hundred days wage, and it says he handed him over to the torturers. He literally gave permission, the authority. The king didn’t do it, the – but he allowed – he gave permission for him to be tormented and that word torment is used 18 times in the great New Testament, and maybe one exception. Every other time, it is connecting with hell or demonic activity. What he’s saying is he – when Jesus says my heavenly father will do the same to you, he’s saying my father will actually give authority for us to be tormented when we don’t forgive. He withholds his protection when we don’t forgive.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. What do people think forgiveness is that’s not forgiveness. In other words, how do we do forgiveness poorly initially? And maybe it’s not a great question ‘cause maybe we do it by default. What are the things that we do or we think we’re forgiving, but we’re actually still not there?
Bruce Hebel
I think one of the key answers to that question is when we forgive a person and we don’t forgive the wound. To say I forgive my dad, it doesn’t work. For what, existing? He’s created in the image of God. We’re to honor all men. We’re to honor our parents, but Jesus said Father forgive them, they know not what they do. And so wounds are transactions. They’re injuries. There’s debts in our lives. You have to forgive the wounds. Like I said, it doesn’t say father – I mean, I forgive my father. I forgive my father for not ever showing up at my ballgames, for cheating on my mom, for leaving or whatever. I forgive my mom for telling me I would never measure up. It’s these deep wounds that we have to deal with. To just say I forgive and move on, you’re not really dealing with the debt and so those are – then suddenly it goes deep and it metastasizes into torment and depression and anxiety and addictions and all those things.
Darrell Bock
In review.
Bruce Hebel
Yeah, so it’s important to say these are the wounds that I’ve suffered. Understand it’s a pain and it doesn’t say it’s okay. It says it was paid for.
Toni Hebel
When we just say I forgive my mother or I forgive my father, we’re staying in our head. In Matthew 18 is clearly – Jesus clearly says to forgive from your heart. And how do you get to your heart? You go down there where you were wounded. That’s where you were wounded was your heart. You take those wounds out of your heart. I see them like arrows being pulled out of my heart and I’m laying them at the cross. Every wound is an arrow and that’s how you get to your heart is by declaring the wounds.
Darrell Bock
You were saying earlier that when you really dealt with this in 2006 that God put someone in your mind and I take it that you decided on – for lack of a better description, on a plan of action, that this wasn’t just something you privately said okay, there’s the name. I’ve checked the box and I’m walking on, but there was a plan of action that you undertook when this name came to mind.
Toni Hebel
Yes.
Darrell Bock
What was the follow up? What did you end up doing?
Toni Hebel
It was kind of crazy. I just heard God say do you really understand how much I’ve forgiven you? So I started by just praising God for my forgiveness, for thanking him for what he did for me, and thanking him for the cross, for the blood. And then I’d asked him who ‘cause I wanted – I knew I had – my heart was all in a prison and so I said Lord, I need you to – I don’t even know where to start. So he gave me a name and I began to forgive by what we just described. Lord, I choose. It’s a choice, not a feeling, to forgive this person for, and I listed everything that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind. I didn’t even depend on myself for that and he just kept bringing scenarios and things, and I went through everything he brought till there was nothing left.

And then I – after that, I said okay, Lord, I declare that this person is no longer in my debt and I transfer all that debt to the cross. And then I followed it up by blessing ‘cause if you can’t bless someone, you haven’t truly forgiven them. And the verse came to my mind about bless your enemies and this person was an enemy. And so I blessed them. I asked God would you please do – and I listed whatever that was that at that time to bless them. And at that moment, I was free. What was interesting was I was sitting at a lake at that day and I put a blanket out. It was an intentional act. I went to this place to be alone to do this and the – it was a clear day and we live near the Atlanta airport. There’s lots of planes overhead and it was – I don’t know what it’s called when those planes go across and there’s that little white tail.

Darrell Bock
The end trails.
Toni Hebel
Yeah, there was a lake and there was trees, and then there was this plane that went across the sky as I was forgiving. And when I got down to the very end of blessing them, the plane was gone and the whitetail was gone and had dissipated, and I heard as much as I’m sitting right here, this – in my heart, Jesus say or the spirit say, “As far as the east is from the west, I’ve removed your sin from you.” And I went whoa and I felt such freedom that I hadn’t felt in so many years. I was all for this at that point. I said okay, “Who’s number two? Who’s the second person I need to forgive?” And another name came to my mind. As I began to forgive this person, now another plane – I didn’t notice that, by the way, and – while I was doing it till that verse came to my mind. And then the second plane from this side now went across the sky and this one, I noticed. And when I finished forgiving that and blessing that person, the plane was gone. The tail was gone and I was like, whoa.

So I said, “Okay, who’s the third person?” I was gonna stay there all day, and I waited and I waited and I waited, and no names came to my mind. There was nothing there left that day to forgive and there was – I waited 30 minutes and in that 30 minutes, there was not one plane that went overhead. So I went home. Now that doesn’t mean I was done forgiving. I was done forgiving those people, but as the days went on and the weeks went on, God led me in different scenarios to forgive every person who had ever wounded me and I was completely set free.

Darrell Bock
Now a natural question I think that comes up in the midst of that is so this was obviously something that you did for yourself and your own reflections before God for your own well being. Was there or has there been any effort to touch base with the people involved or the – or was this –
Bruce Hebel
Yeah, it’s interesting. That’s a great question ‘cause a lot of people – one of the impediments to forgiveness is how do I related to the person who wounded me if they’ve not repented. And part of that is because so many people confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. They’re not the same thing.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Bruce Hebel
Reconciliation requires forgiveness on the wounded party’s part and repentance, changing of their mind on the repenting party. And if they’ve not changed their mind, they’re not repentant. They’re not a safe person, but God calls us to forgive before he – most of the time, before he calls them to repent. Our job to bless is we’ll reach out to people, but we suggest to people, unless God specifically tells you to do it and most of the time, it’s if you’re in a married relationship, that you don’t go tell them I forgive you. You let the Holy Spirit do that ‘cause he’s really good at his job at bringing – and if they ignore him, they’ll ignore you. And if you go to them and they’ve not repented, they’ll reject your forgiveness and it’s another wound you have to forgive. We say forgive. Sit at the table of reconciliation with the Father, Son, and the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring them to the table. And then you bless them whenever you can.

This first person, close, close to us, we’ve reached out. We tried to bless. They rejected that and we’ve given them – we’ve blessed them with what they wanted, no relationship with us. And so that’s – so we’re free. If they ever came back into our life in one two, we’re open. Hello, we’ll talk. We’ll reconcile. We may not have the same level of relationship ‘cause those things have changed over years, but we’re ready. Just like Jesus is ready for any of us when we come to repent and he never waits and judges. He says come on. We’re ready when we forgive first.

Toni Hebel
Reconciliation is not proof of our forgiveness. I used to always think I must not have forgiven ‘cause I’m not reconciled with that person, but it is not a proof of our forgiveness just like it’s not proof of God’s forgiveness of us. He’s not reconciled to the whole world.
Darrell Bock
It takes two to tango when it comes to reconciliation.
Bruce Hebel
And there’s some people in our past who have wounded us, that have come back and said we were wrong. Others have not and amen. That’s in God’s hands, but we’re free.
Darrell Bock
The distinction of forgiveness and reconciliation is actually quite important. I can think of people who I’ve counseled in which they’re caught – I don’t know how else to say this – in this idea of until the person who wounded me responds to me, I’m holding on. And we talked earlier about what is not forgiveness and a whole series of people who have counseled in this one particular situation have said to the person now you’re still dealing with this because you’re tightfisted about what took place. And they were wrong. There’s a reason for the pain, but there are also – we also found ourselves saying you were wrong, but you’re also trapped at the same time. This clutching onto this space and waiting for this response and this sense – there’s a sense of justice that people deal with.
Toni Hebel
Absolutely.
Bruce Hebel
That’s right and that’s a great question. It’s a great question because we’ll actually take it a little further than you did. We’ll say are you enjoying your torment because you’re being tormented not because you were wounded. You’re being tormented ‘cause you haven’t forgiven the wound. Because – and people say I’ll have peace when I get justice, but justice doesn’t come from peace. It never has. Justice only comes from the injustice of the cross and we say forgiveness is applying the blood of Jesus as payment in full for every wound I ever have or will suffer. And when we don’t forgive, we’re saying it’s not enough and that’s not okay with the father. The torment comes because I haven’t forgiven and so we’ll ask people are you enjoying your torment.
Darrell Bock
Interesting.
Bruce Hebel
We had a man whose wife and daughter had been seduced by a pastor among others and that pastor is now in prison. And then ten years later, his son was literally murdered by the police.
Darrell Bock
Wow.
Bruce Hebel
And it was two or three years after that, we’re encountering him. I’m sitting on a couch and everyone knew him as one of the most bitter men on the planet and everybody knew his story because anyone who met him heard his story. And so when we – we’re sitting there and he said, “I can’t forgive either one of those.” I said, “Well, are you enjoying your torment?” And he goes, “No.” I took him to Matthew 18 and I explained that to him, and when he chose to forgive the pastor and the police officers who murdered his son, everything in his countenance changed, everything. The man who was at the – it was his house and the host was looking at he’s never seen him. He’d completely changed him when he chose to forgive because if we’re tormented because we don’t forgive, the torment is a discipline. And when discipline is given to us by God, when we repent, the discipline always ends and the tormentors have to leave, and freedom returns. It’s amazing.
Darrell Bock
I think this sense of – when the sense of I’ve been wronged overwhelms anything that you do, you actually perpetuate the problem.
Bruce Hebel
Absolutely. I did for many years.
Toni Hebel
And the truth is we have been wronged, but the greater truth is Jesus paid for that wrong. They don’t us anything and for me to expect or want them to pay in any kind of way is to say that the blood of Jesus is not enough for me. It is to not really value the sacrifice.
Darrell Bock
And I’m hearing you say something else that I think is pretty important, which is the only thing that you can control is the way you respond to what’s going on. You cannot control where the other person is before God.
Bruce Hebel
Absolutely.
Darrell Bock
And so part of that is giving up the – what I would see as the attempt to – and maybe this is strong, but the attempt to manipulate the situation so that you get the justice you’re longing for, which of course isn’t coming ‘cause the person isn’t responding ‘cause you can’t control that part of the relationship.
Bruce Hebel
That’s absolutely right.
Darrell Bock
So you lock yourself into this cycle that you can’t escape from.
Bruce Hebel
You step into a position you’re not built for.
Darrell Bock
You’re not equipped.
Bruce Hebel
You’re trying to work above your pay grade.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. We’re on the same page and so it’s a challenge in that regard because people end up – the – I guess the ironic thing or the sinister thing of it is that you end up entrapping yourself in the midst of something in which that’s not where you have to be.
Bruce Hebel
Someone once said bitterness is a poison we drink and we’re hoping someone else dies, but forgiveness is the medicine we give to someone else that gives us life. We get free when we forgive. We are in torment. We’ve literally seen people freed from drug addiction by forgiving immediately.
Toni Hebel
Immediately.
Bruce Hebel
We’ve seen people free of depression immediately. We’ve seen people physically healed when they forgive and we don’t ask for forgiveness. We’re at DTS and I’m at DTS. I’m with you guys, but we’re watching someone – one lady who came in to our seminar and she could barely walk. And when she forgave, she’s running up and down the stairs and running around the room. She’s 78 years old and absolutely free because there is a physiological impact on our body when we choose not to forgive in some cases. Not all physical stuff is that way. There is an emotional stress on our body. There’s all sorts of things that happen inside of us that when we choose to forgive, they go and we’ve literally seen it. Ninety five percent of the people, Darrell, that we coach get free in one session.
Toni Hebel
It’s long, three or four hours.
Bruce Hebel
Three or four hours and it lasts. We have stories for horrific – some of the most horrific things and then years later, they’re still walking in the freedom because the cross works. The blood of Jesus is enough, as instantaneous as me putting – as someone putting their faith in Jesus for the first time that gets moved from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. It’s as instantaneous when someone forgives. They get freed from torment and into freedom. It’s that simple.
Darrell Bock
And the beauty of what I’m hearing is that it only takes two to get there. It takes you and the Lord.
Toni Hebel
Yes, it’s between you and God.
Bruce Hebel
Often times, we find it’s helpful in the same ways that it’s helpful for someone to lead someone to Christ to be trained to help people forgive ‘cause most people who need to forgive need help doing it. And that’s another aspect of what we do.
Darrell Bock
That’s actually where I’m going now.
Bruce Hebel
We’re training people how to help other people forgive.
Darrell Bock
Okay, so great. This is exactly where I wanted to go. You’re in a situation. You’re interacting with someone who you sense is in – is caught in this trap that – and how do you lead someone into really almost this revelation that rather than dealing with what their focused on, which is this person has done me wrong and something needs to change and they need to change. I call it owning our own junk. Instead turning the focus back on how are you in your relationship with God gonna deal with what you are stuck on. And so what does that look like?
Toni Hebel
We listen to their story. We let them tell all the details of their story and then we explain to them that –
Bruce Hebel
We empathize with it.
Toni Hebel
Yeah, we do because we – pretty much everything we’ve heard, we’ve had to deal with. And so we do. We empathize. We cry with them and identify that wasn’t okay that happened. It’s not right, but then we teach them Matthew 18. That has just been our thing. Matthew 18, when it was unlocked for us, was just huge. We teach them about Matthew 18 and we even throw in there sometimes about the importance of the sacrifice based on Eli’s son, Aaron’s sons, what happened to them when they did not honor the sacrifice, what – and that was just goal – boats – I can’t talk.
Bruce Hebel
Bulls and goats.
Toni Hebel
Bulls and goats, and so – but we ask them. We ask them the question, do you want to be free? And they have to decide whether they wanna be free or not. And if they say yes, then we say let us coach you through forgiveness. And so we take them through the five protocols and just one at a time, and let them speak. They’re praying to God out loud and they – and we are their witness, and then we watch the transformation take place. It happens every time.
Bruce Hebel
There’s seven protocols, but five of the ones that you freed. The last two are how to deal with memories and how to deal with future wounds, but it’s very simple as Toni was sharing earlier. It’s ask – or thank God for forgiving you.
Darrell Bock
That’s number one.
Bruce Hebel
Number one. Number two is ask God who do I forgive and for what, what are the specific things.
Toni Hebel
Because there’s root wounds usually and we need to get to the root. Let’s go all the way back and get to these roots.
Darrell Bock
It’s the act, not just the person.
Bruce Hebel
Yeah and every couple who comes to us, the conflict that’s – the wound that’s driving the conflict in the marriage predate the couple knowing each other. It goes back to bad mom or somebody early. The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals that and he’s really good at his job, so ask him to do his job and he’ll do it. Then you repent of your sin of unforgiveness. Basically align yourself with the mindset that the blood of Jesus does cover this and repent of those choices you made earlier not to forgive and to dishonor the _____.
Darrell Bock
That’s actually where you’re walking out of the trap.
Bruce Hebel
Yes, you recognize I was wrong to not forgive because I was wrong to say the blood of Jesus was not enough.
Toni Hebel
Because the blood of Jesus covers all sins including the ones committed against me.
Bruce Hebel
And then you move into protocol number four which is the forgive each offense from your heart. Lord, from my heart, from the depth of my – from where I’m wounded, I forgive this person for these things. And we just walk through it and it takes a while, and sometimes the Holy Spirit will help us understand some things they need to forgive based upon their story or whatever. And we just gently coach them to make the choice to forgive.
Darrell Bock
You’re actually putting them face to face with what they’re holding onto.
Toni Hebel
Absolutely.
Bruce Hebel
Yeah, absolutely and they’re making the conscious decision and we’re coaches. We’re directive. If they say I want to forgive, I go that – I want a Mercedes, but I drive a Toyota. Wanting is not doing, so I’m choosing to do that and then we transfer the debt to the cross. I declare this person is no longer in my debt. I transfer the debt to the cross. That’s protocol number four. Protocol number five is ask God to bless them and look for ways to bless them when possible. Because if you cannot bless someone, you’ve not forgiven. It’s a kindness of God that leads us to repentance. While we were still his enemies, God blessed us with the greatest blessing of all, the death of his son for us. We bless and we ask him to be generous, and often times bless them in the area in which they’ve been wounded. And when you choose to bless, that’s when we always ask how’s your heart and we get my heart is free, my heart is calm. I can breathe again.

One lady who was molested when she was 3 years old, she’s 59 years old when she forgave. She had nightmares all of her life and when she chose to forgive her parents for allowing it to happen and the man who did it, she – that was 2009. She has not had a nightmare since. It just changes everything. That’s where the freedom happens. Protocol six and seven is choose not to remember the offense when it happens, when the memory comes back. The enemy is bringing it. God’s not bringing it. You’re not bringing it. It’s someone else who wants to draw you back into torment is there. So we say I specifically remember forgiving that and God would you bless them again. Thank you, God, for the freedom I got when I forgave and would you bless them. And protocol number seven is simply making pre-forgiveness a lifestyle. I choose to forgive everything ahead of time. I’ve made a choice ahead of time that whatever happens, the blood of Jesus is enough for me.

Darrell Bock
So it becomes a lifestyle.
Bruce Hebel
Absolutely.
Darrell Bock
As opposed to just dealing with a particular set of incidents.
Bruce Hebel
Yeah.
Toni Hebel
Yes.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. If people wanna find out about your ministry, where do they go?
Toni Hebel
Forgivingforward.com, you can get everything there you need. You can give us a call, but our website is forgivingforward.com and we travel the world. This is what we do full time. We speak in churches and businesses and all kinds of scenarios, but we’d be glad to come help. We’ve actually helped some churches that have been really – there’s a lot of unforgiveness going on and conflict between staff and elders and those kind of things. And we’ve been brought in and great life has come out of that.
Darrell Bock
We’re running out of time, but I take it there are different formats that you – there’s the single speaking. There can be weekend seminars, that kind of thing.
Toni Hebel
Yes, we do a lot of seminars. We do a lot of seminars, yes.
Bruce Hebel
We actually have a small group curriculum that – Forgiving Forward Home Edition. We call it an eight session DVD series that’s in 13 prisons in Alabama and just amazing stories we’re getting of freedom that’s happening.
Toni Hebel
A lot of small groups use that.
Bruce Hebel
And a lot of small groups use that.
Darrell Bock
In the space of a weekend or something like that, you’re able to unfold what’s going on.
Bruce Hebel
Absolutely.
Toni Hebel
Yeah, a Friday night, Saturday morning is what we prefer.
Darrell Bock
That’s what I was gonna ask next.
Toni Hebel
That’s the best because it breaks it up at just the right space for them to sleep overnight on it. Friday night, Saturday morning, they will have – they will not only get free, but they will know how to help someone else. We teach that as well.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. I really do appreciate you taking the time to come in and talk with us about this. I forgive you for coming in.
Bruce Hebel
I forgive you for waiting so long.
Darrell Bock
There you go.

It’s just a pleasure to see you guys again and to hear what God has done in your life and how you’ve taken something that was very, very painful and turned it into something that God has turned it into something that’s been very, very positive.

Toni Hebel
It’s been amazing.
Bruce Hebel
It’s an honor to be back on campus. We love this place.
Darrell Bock
It’s great to have you here and we just thank you for helping walk us through what forgiveness is about and I hope that those of you who listened may have caught a glimpse of what forgiveness can be and how freeing it can be. We thank you for being a part of The Table and we hope you’ll join us again soon.
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Bruce Hebel
Dr. Bruce Hebel is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and serves as Adjunct Professor at Carver College.Raised in a pastor’s home and educated to pastor the local church, Bruce is now following God’s call to the Church at large. Through ReGenerating Life Ministries, Bruce and his wife, Toni, are committed to bringing life back to the Church and its leaders through the power of forgiveness.
Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 40 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Toni Lynn Hebel
Toni Hebel is a gifted communicator who serves alongside her husband and often speaks with him at events. She has been a guest speaker for various ladies events and retreats nationally as well as internationally. For over 25 years Toni has enjoyed teaching the Bible to women. In addition, Toni is a skilled musician who has taught piano for over 25 years.
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