The Enemy desires everything we have

2 Kings 19-20; Proverbs 14

In our previous readings, there were examples of two choices that could be made when faced with trouble. One could follow the one true God or follow their own god. Hezekiah was the king of Judah who chose to follow God, and we should too. However, Hezekiah was not exempt from later circumstances with choices to be made. The choice to follow God or not was – and is – ongoing.

At the end of Chapter 18, we see that Hezekiah stumbled. He accepted defeat from the Assyrian army after years of conquering and standing strong with his God. He gave the king of Assyria what belonged to his God (gold from the temple of Yahweh). Even after meeting their demands, it was not enough. The enemy desired everything of Hezekiah and his people. He desired their worship.

The king of Assyria sent armies to Jerusalem and surrounded it. The leader of the army told the people to accept defeat because their God would not deliver them from the king of Assyria. He went on to offer the people great things such as a land full of plentiful good food and drink. It could be theirs if only they would forsake their God.

This time (it was over the course of a few repeated circumstances with the same choice – following God), Hezekiah made the right choice. He prayed. He proclaimed the majesty of his God and asked that all would know that Yahweh alone was God. What a prayer. And then what a response from God! What an outcome! Yahweh heard and delivered.

Yet again, God prospered Hezekiah. While all the cities around him, even the northern kingdom of Israel, had been desolated and the people carried away into exile, God did great things in Jerusalem under King Hezekiah. The great things (good food and drink) that were offered to the people of Judah if they would just forsake their God and follow the king of Assyria became abundant in Jerusalem and a remnant was spared for years when they chose to follow God. Remarkable!

It is clear to me that Yahweh God alone wants our worship. He wants our hearts. When we are faced with a choice to follow him or not, he rewards those who choose him.

The people in Hezekiah’s kingdom were seeing defeat all around them. They knew what taking a stand against the king of Assyria might mean for them. The northern kingdom had starved to the point of eating their own dead children before they accepted defeat (as we read in other places, the king of Israel was told by God to surrender. Instead, he allowed his people to die). For Hezekiah’s people, having the temptation of a land full of food and drink dangling above them would have been hard to resist. Yet they did resist. In the face of temptation, they listened to their king and remained silent.   

I thought about Jesus when I read this passage and how he was led by the spirit to be tempted when he was hungry. The very last thing he was tempted with was being placed on a high mountain (maybe like the Asherah?) and given a choice to have all that he saw from that high place if he only worshipped the devil. Jesus said “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Yahweh your God, and serve him only.’”

If our Lord Jesus was not exempt from temptation in his time of need, neither should we expect to be. We all have a choice to make. Will we serve God in our times of trouble? Will we serve God when tempted with pleasure or even with our basic needs? Know what Yahweh has done for his people when they choose him. “Have you not heard?” (2 Kings 19:25). In our time, he has supplied every need through our Lord Jesus Christ. Choose him! He has already won. If we follow him, we’ve won too. Pray like Hezekiah. Command the enemy to flee like Jesus. When difficult circumstances arise again, keep choosing God. Tell Satan to Go!

-Juliet Taylor

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 19-20 and Proverbs 14

Lead

The Right Way

2 Kings 15-16


As a child, I was always told to be a leader, not a follower. The importance of leading with wisdom and godliness was engrained in my mind; it was repeatedly being taught by parents, teachers, mentors, and of course, leaders. I’m sure most of us grew up with similar advise. We all know the impact a good leader can have, as well as the impact a bad leader can have. That’s why
if we know what it means to be a good leader, we must take it upon ourselves to be one.


The thing is, most of us do know what it means to be a good leader. We all have it within us to lead as God instructs us to lead, because He gave us this whole enormous book full of leaders to read about and learn from. Jesus Christ was obviously the top dog when it comes to leaders…and everything else, but there are so many others we can look at too, including the not so great leaders.


Throughout the Old Testament, the importance of a strong leader is stressed over and over again. We see these amazing, capable, resilient, faithful leaders bringing God’s people into the light, guiding them in the direction God laid out for them, like Jesus someday would. But we also see weak leaders, lacking in faith and abounding in pride. When leaders like that are in charge, they
normally can be observed dragging their followers down with them. The readings of the past week have been absolutely full of leaders who could not leave behind the sins of their predecessors, which “made Israel to sin.” When you have been blessed with the knowledge of the truth, and you know the commands God has given us, it is your duty to be a leader. It is your duty to point others to God in everything you do, not to continually lead others in sin.

When Israel had weak kings who did evil in the eyes of the LORD, the whole nation was brought down as a result. On the other hand, when Israel had strong kings who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, the entire nation would be lifted up. You can see when God favored Israel and its king, because He would lead them to victory in battle, and bless them with prosperity. When the king and Israel failed, however, they would often be delivered into the hands of their enemies.


It is clear how much of an impact a leader can have in the Bible, and that hasn’t changed at all today. We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the truth, and to know that we are loved by the Almighty. To have this knowledge, and to have a real relationship with God, we also have to accept our responsibility on this earth to be leaders. Not the kind that will lead others into sin, but the kind of leader God can count on to be a light, just as His son was. The kind of leader that has unwavering faith, because they know who holds the future. The kind of leader that obeys the words of the LORD in every circumstance. The kind of leader that shows the unconditional love of God to each and every one of His children, everyday.


Let it be our prayer that we become the leaders God made us to be, to be a bright light that guides others to Him even in this dark world.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 15-16 and Proverbs 12

It’s Not Enough

To Just Start Out Good

2 Kings 13-14


As we read through these accounts of the kings of Judah and Israel, a divided kingdom, we notice the reoccurring evaluation of how good or bad each king is. The standard by which their goodness/badness is measured is based on their obedience and faith in God. There were definitely a few truly good kings, such as David and Jehoshaphat. However, most kings, we find, were very, very far from perfect, and often ranked quite low. There were also a lot of kings that started off okay, but eventually became just as disappointing as their father before them.


Amaziah, not to be confused with Ahaziah, was one of those kings. In the beginning of chapter 14, it is stated that Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done.” He was a good king in the sense that he adhered closely to the law, but like his father, Joash, his loyalty to God and the law had its limits. Amaziah justly struck down only the assassins who killed his father, and not their whole families- which was a common practice at the time. This was a righteous and honorable thing to do, as it aligned with the instructions from Deuteronomy 24:16. His trust in God also carried him to victory over Edom, killing ten thousand Edomites; a strong display of his ability as a warrior
as well as a king.


But that’s where the righteousness of Amaziah’s reign ended. Just like his father, Joash, he continually allowed the practice of sacrifices and incense offerings on high places, which was a violation of the instructions God gave to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem. Amaziah also made the mistake of bringing back false idols to worship from the defeated Edom, and did not heed a prophet’s warning to stop. This interaction can be found in 2 Chronicles 25:16. And at the end of chapter 14 of 2 Kings, Amaziah fails his kingdom in challenging King Jehoash of Israel, despite Jehoash’s gracious advise to back down. Amaziah let his pride guide his decisions, instead of God, so the army of Judah was defeated, and Jerusalem was plundered. Not to mention Amaziah was also captured, and later conspired against by the people of his own nation.


If Amaziah had simply continued following God’s instructions, he could have had a very long and successful reign over Judah. But that wasn’t the case, and rather than being remembered as one of the good kings, he was remembered as just another almost good, but in the end a failure kind of king. How will you and I be remembered? Are we going to live our whole lives for the glory of God, taking heed of every instruction, obeying every command? Of course none of us
are perfect, but as sons and daughters of God, we have to continually strive to be obedient in all things, and never lose sight of who we were made to be.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 13-14 and Proverbs 11

Led Astray by the Sweet Aroma

Proverbs 5

Have you ever tasted vanilla extract? Vanilla extract is a kitchen ingredient that has a decadent scent. Whenever I use it in recipes, I am always tempted by its sweet vanilla aroma. However, I know better because of giving into this temptation when I was a young child. I remember when helping my grandma make cookies, I smelled the extract. It smelled so nice. So, I tried a bit and quickly spit it out as it was very bitter. Did you have the same reaction?

Vanilla extract smells as though it should be pleasing to the taste buds, but it leads us astray. It is, in fact, not delicious as its scent would make us believe. It instead leaves us with the desire to wash our mouths out.

In Proverbs 5 an adulteress in mentioned. The adulteress, it reads, has lips that drip honey, but in the end are actually bitter. Much like the seductive nature of the adulteress, so is sin in our lives. The things that tempt us may look good at first. But in the end will only be bitter to us. What looks pleasing to us in the moment, may not be so pleasing if we fall into the temptation.

The book of Proverbs time and time again tells us to listen to instruction so that we may be able to stay away from temptation. My grandma had told me that the vanilla extract was bitter and that I would not like it. But I didn’t listen. I could have avoided the bitter taste, but I was led astray by the sweet aroma. I forsook her instruction for the vanilla extract that looked pleasing in the moment.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 1-2 and Proverbs 5

Watch Your Step

Proverbs 4

Have you ever seen the videos of people walking down a street when suddenly they fall in a construction hole? They were too busy watching their phone screen that they did not look where they were going. Because they were not watching, they stumbled and fell into something that was well marked as being dangerous. Maybe you have experienced something like this yourself.

Sometimes in life we can be like this. In our walk of faith, we don’t pay attention like we should. Something other than the path draws our attention and we stumble. In those videos, the person usually walks right into a construction zone that is marked with bright orange cones and construction tape. It is not a secret that what they are walking into is dangerous. However, they refuse to look at their path and keep walking regardless.

Proverbs 4:25-27 tells us to look ahead and to keep our eyes fixed on the path ahead. When we allow our eyes and our thoughts to be distracted by other things, we are more likely to fall into the pit. We need to instead put our eyes away from such distraction and turn to the LORD. We need to keep our eyes on Him and His Word so that when temptation comes our way, we can see it and turn from it. Just as Proverbs reiterates, we need to listen to instruction. Instead of ignoring the warning signs, we need to avert our path away from them. We need to follow the directions that guide us away from the hole. We need to keep our eyes on the path.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 21-22 and Proverbs 4

The Early Church : The Purity and Persecution of the Early Church

Acts 5


Today, I’d like to focus on two more aspects of the church, both of which defined the church in its earliest days: purity and persecution. 


Purity


Yesterday, we read how God used his church to care for the least fortunate. No one in the church had any need. One of the ways this was accomplished, remember is that those who had property would sell it and give the proceeds to the church. There was no demand or command to do this, but those who did were honored by the church. In Acts 5:1-11, we read about a husband and wife duo who tried to buy the affection of the church. They sold a piece of property, but kept back a portion. But that wasn’t the problem. In verse 7, Peter asked Sapphira whether this was ALL the money they received for the land. THAT was the lie. They wanted everyone to think they were just as good as those who gave ALL their money to the church. 


But the church is not about building up our own ego. The church is about caring for those who need help. When Ananias and Sapphira lied, they lied to the Holy Spirit and they lied to God! In our world, some use church or religion for their own status. God has shown since the birth of the church that he’s not fooled. He desires to keep his people pure, focused on his mission, his goals, and not on themselves. 


Persecution


The disciples kept proclaiming Jesus. Those who were powerful were being told there was someone more powerful. Those who denied the resurrection were shown there was a resurrection. Those who considered themselves righteous were proven to be wicked. That is going to make people mad. They had told them that they couldn’t preach in the name of Jesus, but the apostles reply “We must obey God rather than human beings!” What an AMAZING testimony. They are not worried about people. They aren’t worried about the commands of men, of governments, of those who can kill the body but not the soul. 


God said “Go!” and so they go. Jesus said “Disciple others!” and so they disciple. The Holy Spirit gives them words and so they speak. 


Because of this, they were flogged (v40) and ordered not to speak. And the reaction of the disciples is fascinating. They were rejoicing. Rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace. Counted worthy to suffer. God thinks of them highly enough to be humiliated. 


Because in our humiliation, in our suffering, in our rejection, we look most like Jesus. God reverses our fortunes in the same way that he raised Jesus from the dead and sat him at his right hand.

In our humiliation, God gives glory. 

In our suffering, God gives joy. 

In our rejection, God gives acceptance. 

In our weakness, God gives Jesus. 

May you, my brothers and sisters, be more like the early church, today. 

May the message fill your mouth and the mission compel your feet. 

May the Spirit of God give you power and the love of God give you passion.

May the dedication of the apostles and the purity of the church define your own worship of God. 


May you do all this so that God is glorified, Jesus is honored, and many find faith. 

-Jake Ballard

Jake Ballard is pastor at Timberland Bible Church. If you’d like to hear more from him, you can find Timberland on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TimberlandBibleChurch/ ) and on Instagram (https://instagram.com/timberlandbiblechurch?igshid=t52xoq9esc7e). The church streams the Worship Gathering every Sunday at 10:30. Besides studying and teaching God’s word, he is raising three beautiful children with the love of his life, plays board games and roleplaying games with amazing friends weekly and recently celebrated both Cinco de Mayo and May the Fourth (Be with you). If you’d like to reach out to talk Bible, talk faith, or talk about Star Wars, look Jacob Ballard up on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336 )or email him at jakea.ballard@yahoo.com
God bless you all!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 21-22 and Acts 5

Dealing with Sin

Joshua 7-8

Yesterday we got to see the thrill of victory, even if it didn’t come as expected or immediately, an incredible victory was given to those who did it God’s way. And the walls came a-tumblin’ down at the battle of Jericho.

Today’s lesson is in the agony of defeat – and what happens when we don’t do it God’s way.

The story of Achan and Ai rarely makes it into anyone’s Top 10 stories of the Old Testament. I don’t believe it has a VeggieTales episode or children’s Sunday School song devoted to it. We much prefer talking about victory and Jericho than sin and Achan. But when we don’t talk about it, it’s so much easier to fall into the pit ourselves.

With their confidence bolstered from the impressive win at Jericho, the Israelites send a small delegation to bring down the little town of Ai. But, instead they are met with strong resistance and lose 36 men in their forced retreat.

Even strong and courageous Joshua crumbles at the news. Defeated, already. Why God? Where were you? Why were we even trying to follow you? What will people say of us now?

Doubting and blaming God comes so naturally. It’s often the first response to tragedy and difficulty. But, God was not impressed with Joshua’s line of thinking. I love God’s answer (perhaps I love it a little less when it is directed toward me, though).

Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV)

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

We were having such a good pity party while pointing the finger at God. But, He will have none of it. Israel has sinned. They have violated God’s covenant. They have brought this upon themselves. And they won’t see victory again unless they destroy what has led them into sinning against God.

It is powerful to remember how the sins of one affects so many. My sins have the power to destroy not just me. My sin has tentacles that reach out to negatively impact and harm and destroy those closest to me – my family, as well as my church and my community and even sometimes my nation.

So it was with Achan when his greed led him to steal a few of the treasures of Jericho, just for himself. But as he hid them in his family’s tent, he was utterly destroying their chance for blessing as well. Even the 36 Israelites who died fleeing from Ai would not have perished if God had been blessing their mission. The devastating effects of this sin could have continued to snowball if the sin and the sinner were not revealed and dealt with quickly.

Of course, every tragedy suffered in your country is not a direct result of your own personal sin. But when we turn to blaming God we would be wise to check ourselves first. Perhaps He would tell us, too – “Stand up! _________ has sinned.” Perhaps blessings and victory are being withheld because there is sin in your life, your family, your church, your community, your nation that must be dealt with. Can we trace the defeats of our nation to the sins of our nation? It is easy to think like Achan, that we can hide sin and it will only affect us. But, we are wrong. Sin is serious and it has serious long-reaching effects on many. What are we trying to hide that has led us into sin? It is time to dig it up and destroy it. When we deal with sin, we can have another chance at victory.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 7-8 and Psalm 59-61

Remember

Deuteronomy 9-10

The year was 1990-something and it was a Friday night. High school football playoffs were intense that year. We were headed into an away game against one of our biggest in-district rivals for a spot in the next round of playoffs. 

While I wasn’t a member of the football team, I was a member of the marching band. Our high school administration had gotten wind that we might be greeted with some hostility by the hosting team’s fans. Any MHS student who was riding a bus to the game got the same warning and encouragement:

It doesn’t matter who our opponent is tonight.

Remember who you are…

Remember what is expected of you

Make good choices so we can be proud of you!

As I read through Deuteronomy chapters 9 and 10, I can see similar reminders to the Israelites. 

They are about to enter into the Promised Land and they would be facing the biggest, most intimidating opponents on that side of the Jordan.  

Remember who you are…

You are God’s chosen people, not chosen because of your righteousness, but because of God’s great love for you.

Remember where you came from…

You were held in captivity for 400 years and by God’s great hand, you were released to enter a land that has been hand-picked just for you.

Remember what has been done for you…

Even though you are a rebellious people, deserving of God’s wrath because of your disobedience, you have been saved. 

Remember what is asked of you…

Love God with all of your heart. Show the same generosity towards others that has been shown to you.

Remember the promise that has been given to you…

Even though there is a mighty opponent currently occupying the land – it is yours; I am giving it to you.

Believe what will be done for you…

I (God) took you from seventy people and grew you into a nation as numerous as the stars. Believe what I am telling you.

Since the time of Abraham, God had laid out a vision for the Israelites and now the time had come for this particular generation to take action.

I hope that you have realized that God has also given you a vision for the life that He longs to give to you. Does it scare you just a little bit, because you aren’t really sure how it’s all going to come together? 

Richard Bach, the author of “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”, once said, “You are never given a dream without the power to make it come true.” 

It doesn’t matter what kind of opposition you are facing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of past you have lived.

It doesn’t matter that your resources are inadequate.

As a child of God, you possess the power to make it come true.

So remember who you are…

Remember who loves you…

Remember what has already been done on your behalf…

Remember the promises set out for you…

Believe and go do great things! 

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 9-10 and Luke 13

Confessing & Confronting

Leviticus 3-4

Yesterday, we looked at the seriousness of sin and the reason why the Israelites were expected to offer sacrifices for those sins. Before we continue on, I want to offer some helpful advice for reading the first few chapters of this book, so that you don’t become overwhelmed. There are only five sacrifices listed here: the burnt offering (ch. 1), the grain/cereal offering (ch. 2), the peace/fellowship offering (ch. 3), the sin offering (ch. 4-5), and the guilt offering (ch. 5-6). Each of these sacrifices are included for different purposes, not always for sin, and all of them have their own process of being offered. Usually a good study Bible will point this out, but just in case you don’t have one, I wanted to offer this to help you along the way.

Have you ever considered how your sins have affected someone else, whether in your family or in your church? When you act out in a sinful way, you are not only affecting yourself, but are infecting the entire community that you are involved in. Leviticus is very strong in chapter 4 on this point, and calls out the leaders and the congregation in the same breath. For those leading churches, homes, or any other area of life, you are responsible for those whom God has put under your care, and when you sin, you are affecting everyone. In Leviticus 4:3, it states that when the anointed priest (i.e. the leader) sins, he brings guilt on the entire congregation. What a responsibility! Maybe that is why the New Testament is so strong on the moral qualifications of those who want to be leaders in the church (see 1 Timothy 3).

It is not just the leader who affects the whole congregation, but the people that are being led also. Leviticus 4:13-21 discusses how the whole congregation is responsible for the sin that takes place within their midst. This truth still carries on today; whatever you do in sin affects those within your community. From “minor” sins like lying and gossipping, to “major” sins like being sexually immoral; these all have results and those results are deadly. The whole congregation of people has an obligation to confront the sin in their midst (in a loving way) and remove that practice from their group (see 1 Corinthians 5).

Church, we need to do better about both confessing sin and confronting it within our midst. When we allow sin to continue unchecked in our churches and homes, we are allowing a deadly cancer to affect everyone within. Leaders, you are responsible for making sure that the people you are leading are taken care of and being as holy as possible for God’s presence. Those of you who are being led, you have a responsibility for keeping your leaders accountable and for doing everything you can to personally confess and deal with your sin. We can all improve in this area, as difficult and awkward as it can be to admit to our faults. However, there is much peace and healing that comes from confessing and confronting the sins in our lives (James 5:16).

-Talon Paul

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 3-4 and Psalm 7-9

Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 35 & 36 and Matthew 18

I have watched just enough mobster movies to know the awful fate of those who anger the mafia boss and receive the “cement shoes” treatment. That is the vision that always comes to mind when I read of the seriousness of leading a child to sin. “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5,6 NASB) Jesus was giving a pretty heavy answer to the disciples who had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom. He answered that instead of trying to be great, they should focus on being childlike instead – not immature (we see enough of that), but humble, knowing that they don’t know everything and they need a Father and a Savior. And while the child is standing in their midst – Jesus commends those who welcome a child and blasts those who recklessly (or accidentally?) lead a child to sin. As a parent and a Christian this is a strong warning that I will be judged based on how I am spiritually leading and guiding God’s children. I do not know where the line will be drawn. We might be able to safely point out some cases that would definitely receive Jesus’ condemnation (those who exploit children and youth for sex trafficking, pornography, cults or gangs). But what of the parent who signs their child up for the youth sports, campouts and Sunday morning jobs knowing it will take them away from opportunities for God’s little children to grow closer to Him? I don’t know. But it seems wise to do my best to err on the side of caution. What else can I be doing to spiritually guide His children away from sin? Life is easier when you don’t feel the weight of a millstone around your neck or cement hardening in your shoes.

And, if that isn’t scary enough – Jesus broadens the picture next – to all people and sinners and the extreme measures that need to be taken to keep oneself from falling into sin. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7 NIV). And then comes the gruesome cutting off of body parts that causes you to sin. This gives a strong mental picture of doing whatever it takes to hold oneself accountable and keep oneself from sin. If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, to save yourself from judgment and hell. This is definitely true in a metaphorical sense. We need to do all we can, even what would be considered extreme measures, to keep ourselves from sin. And, sometimes that will mean cutting off the influence some people hold over us – cutting off a friend or family member or social media/entertainment who entices us to sin. It’s a hard thing to do, just like cutting off your hand – but it could save your eternal life. And, we must watch ourselves to make sure we are not the ones enticing others to sin!

While I love the parable of the lost sheep and it hurts to skip over it…I am going to skip ahead to the next two passages in Matthew 18 which both deal with the brother who sins against you. Having just established the seriousness of sin, the consequences for those who lead others to sin and the extreme measures we are to employ to keep us from sin – it is easy to assume that the best course of action is to shun all sin and sinners. But, wait, what kind of cut off, silent, lonely, bitter world would that be? While we are all sinners – God gave us a way to be forgiven and to restore relationships. Jesus begins to explain it here.

First, if a brother sins against you – go and talk to him. Matthew 18: 15-17 goes through an important series of steps to work towards either resolution or healthy distance and cutting off -and it starts with talking to the “offender”. Too often when we feel someone has sinned against us we talk to others about it. I know I am guilty of this and need to do a better job of lovingly confronting the person I have an issue with – first. So the steps Jesus laid out are: talk privately to the person, if he doesn’t listen take 1-2 witnesses and try again, if he doesn’t listen tell the church, if he still doesn’t listen cut him off. The goal is always to win him back to ‘God’s saving side’, not to humiliate, point fingers or feel better about ourselves or peace at any cost. But, sometimes repentance doesn’t happen, and then we must be willing to cut the ties that would bring others down to sin as well.

So, let’s assume we correctly followed the steps Jesus left. Peter asked how many times he needed to forgive a brother who sinned against him. He thought 7 sounded like a lot. But Jesus said no – 77 or 70 x 7 or whatever number you want to use to remind yourself to keep forgiving – the same way you want others to forgive you. And the same way God has forgiven you. I think we can safely assume this is not the brother who was unrepentant and cast out of the church, but a brother who was repentant and seeking to live a godly life – but still tripped up – like you and me. And so Jesus lays out the powerful Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (make sure you read it again). Now the harsh words and judgment are not for the sinner who tripped up, or even the one who caused him to sin, but for the one who didn’t forgive. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:32-34).

It isn’t that sin is nothing – and easily forgiven. Sin (of all kinds) is something huge and serious and able to block us from eternal life. If we could see how much our sin hurts others, handicaps ourself and damages our relationship with God we might more readily run from it. But we don’t always, and God in His mercy still lays out a way for us to restore a relationship with Him, ultimately it would cost Him the death of His Son Jesus. To accept the forgiveness offered to you, but not extend it to others puts you again in grave danger. Sin is a big deal – and so is mercy.

-Marcia Railton