Forgiveness part of cycle of disobedience


By Woody Woodrick


Nov. 5

Depending on God’s Power

Purpose: To encourage us to act in ways that demonstrate our trust in and dependence on God’s power.

Bible Lesson: 1 Kings 18:20-24, 30-35, 38-39

Key Verse: “When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord indeed is God, the Lord indeed is God.’” — 1 Kings 18:39


Prophets of old had a tough time. They alone were able to admonish kings, yet they were not special people. They didn’t seek power and often didn’t’ seem to relish their roles in sharing God’s messages with the Israelites.


The nature of their duties made prophets tend to be loners. Few folks probably liked hanging around with the guy who had the job of letting you know when God wasn’t pleased. Yet, they also accepted and faithfully carried out their responsibilities.


King Ahab and the people had drifted toward worshipping Baal. Not everyone had abandoned God, but many had while others seemed just wishy-washy. They seemed more concerned with following the crowd. Elijah’s response was to challenge the pagan priest to see whose God really was all-powerful.


We know the story. Each side was given a chance to call upon its god to start a fire on an altar. The Baal worshippers prayed and pleaded for hours. Elijah stood to the side, confident that victory would be his. He even talked a little smack.


When Baal failed to respond, Elijah had water poured on the wood, and then prayed to God. The response was immediate. The soaking wet wood burst into flame.


Anyone who might be considered a prophet today likely receives similar treatment to those of ancient days. Those who say they speak the message of God and his warnings are viewed as oddballs; not someone to invite to the cookout.


Do we have prophets today? Whom might you consider a prophet of God?


While most would scoff at the idea of worshipping Baal today, we do have “gods” to whom we seem more devoted than God. What are the gods that people worship today?


Elijah did something that few of us today are willing to do — he openly challenged those who worshipped idols. He also did it on their turf. Christians today face obstacles to remaining loyal to God that are generally, but not always, more subtle. Yet, how many of us take a stand? We have allowed secularists to create among many Christians a timid attitude. It’s understandable. When so many seem so eager to ridicule us for what we believe, standing out from the crowd is hard. It’s much more comfortable to remain quiet and shake our heads in Sunday school about the state of the world.


Our culture seeks to remove faith from the public square. What is the Christian’s prophetic role today?

Is your faith strong enough that you would challenge others to the kind of contest Elijah proposed to the prophets of Baal? Why or why not? In what circumstances would you be willing to challenge others? How would you do it?


Nov. 12

Seeking Renewal

Purpose: To recommit ourselves to reading and hearing the scriptures as they key to the renewal of our covenantal relationship with God.

Bible Lesson: 2 Kings 22:8-10; 23:1-3, 21-23

Key Verse: “The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord … to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.” — 2 Kings 23:3


Almost every group within the Christian church has in the past few years issued some kind of call to renewal. Some want to see the church more focused on spiritual growth, while others say the church will only be renewed if it reaches out to others.


These differing opinions often to lead to conflicts on both a large scale and a local scale. Some local churches have experiences conflict because some members want to engage in more outreach ministry, while others want to focus on “saving souls.”


Who’s right? Maybe both.


Now, before you write me off for straddling the fence, hear me out. Certainly, Christians today could be much better versed in scripture. It’s not uncommon to hear debates of socio-religious issues and realize that non-Christians often know the Bible better than some of those in the faith. By the same token, some congregations get so caught up in works that they forget about faith and evangelism.


I believe God calls congregations to fill certain roles in their communities. The key is seeking God’s plan for a congregation and devoting itself to the plan. For some churches, that might mean more outreach. For others, the focus might need to be spreading the word of the gospel through basic evangelism.


These kinds of issue always bring to mind the verse that states “faith without works is dead.” Yet, works alone are also meaningless.


Our lesson points out that times of strong faith and disobedience to God tends to go in cycles. It certainly did for the Israelites. First, they’re following the law, then they drift away, bringing God’s wrath. John Wesley helped prompt a reformation in England. In the past 50 to 75 years, the United States has gone through such periods.


If we agree that our world needs some kind of reformation, let’s consider some pointed questions from the lesson:

            How might a renewed emphasis on the reading and study of scripture fuel a reformation?

What reforms do you believe the church needs? How could your church do a better job of meeting the material and spiritual needs of people in your community?

What significant role can Christian festivals, especially Christmas and Easter, have for reformation?

In what ways could our leaders today bring about reformation?


Nov. 19

Making Wrong Choices

Purpose: To understand that there are disastrous consequences to breaking covenant with God.

Bible Lesson: 2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Psalm 137:1-6

Key Verse: “By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.” — Psalm 137:1


Throughout the Bible we see example after example of God’s patience. God calls his people to him, sends leaders to carry out his will and demonstrates his love for his people. Yet, repeatedly they (we) drifted away. He sent (sends) prophets to issue warnings, until finally God must act.


Often as a parent the hardest time to discipline a child is when the parent knows the child is truly sorry and remorseful for what has been done. Yet, the consequences of the actions must be faced. That’s how we train our children to understand the difference between right and wrong.


A former pastor told a story about a boy who had been disobeying his father. The father told the child that the next time he disobeyed, he would have to spend some time in the attic of the house. Unknown to the father at the time, the boy was terrified of the attic. Well, the boy disobeyed and the father ordered him to the attic. The boy cried and begged his father for other punishment, finally revealing his fear. The father sent the son to the attic anyway. However, a few minutes later as the boy sat silently crying, the door opened and his father appeared. The father then sat with the boy in the attic until the punishment time was completed.


God wants to follow him and gives us ample opportunity to do just that. We put him off, and he finds another way to beckon to us. We put him off again, and he sends someone to prod us. We scoff, and eventually God must act.


The wonderful thing is that in the midst of his judgment and justice, God loves us. His love doesn’t absolve us from the consequences of our actions, but even as we face the result of our poor choices, God walks with us.


Some view God’s loving patience as a sign that he wants to help us avoid the consequences of sin. We must remember, however, that God is loving and merciful and just. Do you think God sometimes moves too slowly to what we consider justice? Do you think God ever gives up on people?


One of the debates that pops up every now and then involves prison inmates becoming Christians after committing crimes. Some argue that the change in the inmate’s life should lead to a lesser sentence. Others contend that while the change in the inmate’s life is good, it doesn’t make up for the crime committed.


Recall the dilemma a few years ago when a woman in Texas was convicted of murder. The evidence was overwhelming, and she was sentenced to death. After spending time in prison, she was saved by Christ. When her execution date arrived, the debate raged.

What do you think? Should Christians be absolved or face lesser punishment for crimes? Should not those in charge show their love for Christ and his mercy by showing mercy of their own?


Nov. 26

Experiencing Forgiveness

Purpose: To acknowledge and celebrate that in spite of the ups and downs of the church’s faithfulness, God is sovereign and will achieve the divine purpose in the world.

Bible Lesson: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:5-7

Key Verse: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem … Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord God be with him! Let him go up.” — 2 Chronicles 36:23


Despite our character flaws, shortcomings and humanness, God continues to bless us. Sometime he does it in the midst of the misery brought about by our own disobedience.

Can you think of a time when you paid a price for disobedience, yet also found a blessing and forgiveness?


God’s covenant with the Hebrew people helped sustain their communities. One of the strengths of our nation has been its sense of community, but many believe that is starting to wane. What lessons during this quarter could help us deal with the often confusing social and political situations we face as a nation?


The church could still play a key role in solving or at least addressing many of those issues. Some believe the church hasn’t taken the kind of role it should in our society. In what ways has the church disappointed you?


In the midst of his people’s loss, God stirred the spirit of King Cyrus to treat the Jews with compassion and even allow them to return home. What message of hope does this offer us today? How does this relate to forgiveness?


Much in the world today could leave Christians feeling despair. Yet, our faithfulness should provide us hope in times of trouble. What evidence to you see that God’s plan is working despite the church’s roller-coaster faithfulness?


What do you believe God plans for the church in general? What do you believe he has planned for your church? What role should you play in that plan?