Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Revelation 14:6-7; Matthew 24:14; Galatians 3:22; Luke 23:32-43; Genesis 22:12; Revelation 14:8-12
The hour of judgment arrived this week for the Vancouver, Washington teen who ignited the massive Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge with fireworks last year. The restoration bill (so far) comes to $36,631,687.10. “It is an extraordinary amount of restitution being sought,” Judge John Olson says. “It is an extraordinary loss.” The restitution covers costs of firefighting, repair and restoration to the gorge and damage to homes. The judge is obligated under state law to order that the teen pay the full amount of restitution, though it’s virtually impossible for him to earn that kind of money in his lifetime. The law allows the Oregon Department of Revenue to garnish the teen’s bank accounts or paychecks. If he’s due tax refunds, the state could take those. If he wins the lottery, the state also could collect all of his winnings.
The lawyer for the 15-year-old called the staggering amount “absolutely silly” at the restitution hearing last week. Ordering a teenager without any money to pay more than $36 million “frankly is on its face absurd,” attorney Jack Morris said. He criticized the state’s restitution law, calling it “cruel and unusual punishment.” Morris urged the court to recognize the “impulsivity of kids” and their inability to make rational decisions. Throwing the fireworks was a “single stupid act. It’s a 15-year-old boy who did something incredibly stupid that none of us could’ve imagined.”
Jeff Bonebrake, cost recovery coordinator for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said his agency has recovered substantial amounts in juvenile fire-setting cases, sometimes through a homeowner’s liability insurance. The agency weighs the costs of pursuing a civil case with the chances of ever recovering the money. “We want to hold people accountable when it's justifiable.”1
This week’s lesson looks at the first angel’s message of Revelation 14:6-7. This message incorporates the seemingly contradictory concepts of judgment and mercy. Our mountain of debt due to sin is virtually an impossible amount for us to ever pay back on our own. Even though we could try to claim impulsivity and the inability to make rational decisions, the reality is, do the crime, do the time. There is no rationalization or justification for sin. The angel is clear: “the hour of judgment has come.”
The angel is equally as clear that there is an everlasting message of merciful good news available for every person who has ever lived on the earth. Do you have an overwhelming amount of debt because of your sin? Fine. We have a Savior who is bigger than any sin, larger than any amount of debt due to sin that we can compile. Our ability to sin is minuscule compared to God’s ability to forgive. No one can commit a sin so big that God can’t blot it out. There is, however, only one way to access that mercy: worship the Creator.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Think about a time when you shared good news with another person. Perhaps you passed a difficult school exam or landed a new job. Share the experience with your group.
Sharing: Reflect on Luke 23:32-43. How could a thief hanging on the cross so quickly receive the assurance of salvation?
1. It goes to show that witnessing can take place in just about any circumstance.
2. The thief on the cross must have had some prior knowledge of Jesus.
3. We need to accept the fact that people can receive Christ without a complex set of Bible studies.
4. It’s incredible how quickly and generously Jesus responded to the faith of this penitent thief.
5. The passage is problematic and needs deeper study before we draw any conclusions.
Applying: Can you give a simple “gospel presentation”? If someone wanted to receive Christ, what basic steps would you share? Write a brief outline.
Valuing: Pray with one or two others in your group, asking that God will help you this week to share the good news of God’s love with at least one other person.