How Many Times, Lord?

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

Some translations indicate that the math is actually seventy times seven which would be 490 times.

The major point, though, is beyond three or four times is too many, let alone 77 or 490! We become very impatient when forgiving people, especially for the same actions.

You can forgive the person but trusting that person is a different matter. If someone lies to me, I can and will forgive but I won’t be so quick to believe him next time. The more he does it, the less I am to believe.

Similarly, if a spouse is unfaithful, it doesn’t mean the other spouse can’t forgive. Trust has been broken and restoration will take time. The other spouse can forgive but she won’t – nor should she – trust him until sufficient time has passed. If the unfaithfulness happens again, divorce proceedings are probably in the works. At that point, the issue is trust alongside forgiveness.

The disciples wanted to do the least amount of forgiving possible. They tried to nail him down to a number. The number seven seemed to be reasonable to them, and probably to us as well.

But God’s view of forgiveness is different.

Remember that He has forgiven us our sins, all of them. Yes, we sinned against others and against Him.

“How many times will you forgive us, God, seven?”

Thankfully no.

Much much more than that.

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Keeping Short Accounts with God

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:15-20

If you’ve ever confronted someone about their sin, you know how difficult it is – or should be. In other words, you shouldn’t get any glee out of the action. You also know that your life had better be in order first lest the finger is turned back on you accusing you of some egregious sin (not a prerequisite but you can do it with a free conscience. No one likes to be confronted about their ways – no one.

But God’s plan for restoration is sound: private, semi-public/semi-private, and then public.

Normally the grievance will not make it to the public sphere, unless, of course, that someone didn’t follow this plan. If it gets to the public, the person will probably have left the church being too embarrassed to remain.

That’s why it’s important to keep short accounts with God, examining your life frequently to make sure there is nothing in your life to hinder your relationship with God. God will impress upon your heart about things you’ve said or done.

It’s also why it’s important to listen to those promptings or uneasiness when you go before God. He will lead you in the right path to restoration no matter how small. 

God is faithful.

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Pray Them Home

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14

The imagery in this parable is vivid.

The shepherd is out in the fields calling, searching for that lost sheep. The sheep knows its voice, as the scripture says later. The shepherd knows the dangers the sheep will face if he doesn’t find him soon. He knows that coyotes and wolves could easily devour a small sheep without a second thought.

Similarly, Jesus does not want any of those children to perish. Unfortunately, life rears its ugly head and the forces of evil seek to destroy the innocence long before is necessary.

We see this destruction in our schools, on the television, in movies, and in music. The willful and harmful indoctrination of alternate lifestyles and behaviors began in the 1960s and has incrementally worked its way into those institutions.

Today’s children face battles that you and I have never faced nor would we want to. The pressures and burdens placed on these children by parents and teachers alike are a lot for kids to bear.

This generation of children will need our generation to pray them through a lot of junk. We know the dangerous teachings: homosexuality, transgenderism, Islamism, witchcraft in literature, “if it feels good, do it,” exploring and experimenting with early childhood sexuality, and tearing down the fundamentals of Christianity.

Not all of these are taught in school every year, but in 12 years they will get an unhealthy dose of each.

Now that we know how to pray for these children, we need to pray these kids through their formative years, beginning today.

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Their Guardian Angels Can Only Do So Much

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10-11

Jesus returned to the subject of the children who were still in His presence. He had a special place in His heart for children, widows, and foreigners – all vulnerable and neglected groups in a society.

At least two of those three groups have garnered quite a bit of attention lately because of mass arrest of those who trafficked children and foreigners, sometimes they were on in the same: foreign children. It is an evil in this world that Christians should be on the front line fighting again. The loss of innocence through sexual exploitation of minors is evil and should be confronted. Jeffrey Epstein’s list of the rich and famous who visited private island is about to be exposed. Watch carefully the rich and powerful who oppose that action.

Unfortunately, Epstein is a mere tip of the iceberg as it relates to the trafficking of children, young men, and young women in this world. One of the most outspoken men regarding this issue made a startling comment: “human trafficking exists in every zip code in America.”

So, while we’d like to think that it can never happen in our town, it is already here.

It’s quite easy to think it will go away too, but it won’t without people like you and me getting involved. Fortunately the subject is getting some of the attention it deserves, but it needs more.

Take some time this week to read up on this worldwide and local problem. Chances are good someone in your town has begun organizing to help in this fight.

Seriously pray about what you (and I) should do, if anything, in this war on our children and young men and women.

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Causing a New Believer to Stumble

6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 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! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. Matthew 18:6-9

Jesus’ words are harsh for those who abuse their responsibilities over new believers. As a new believer is just “learning the ropes” of the Christian faith, anything that entices him or her to sin would be in this category. It’s especially important for the Christian who is discipling a new believer to be an outstanding example.

The second half of this teaching lies in verses 8-9. If there are activities the Christian does that might offend the new believers, those activities should be cut out of that person’s life so as not to offend.

Perhaps you know someone new to the faith. That person needs encouragement every day as he or she begins to understand the Bible, prayer, fellow believers, and living a Christian life.

New believers are full of doubt, insecurities, and questions. They need to know that people care for them as often as possible. They also need to know that what they’re experiencing now is not new to them. We have all been through those difficult transitional stages.

Encourage while the day is young.

 

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