Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 5, Day 5

Friday: Keeping Our Promise

Text: At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised. (Nehemiah 5:13b, NIV)

WP Neh dev 5-5 amen

Teach: It is one thing to promise, but it means nothing without follow through. Nehemiah chastised the people for their behavior. It could have easily become a divisive matter. Instead this confrontation turned into a worship service. They agreed and broke into praise.

WP Neh dev 5-5 promise

Take: Jesus reminded his followers of the former teaching that required the keeping of one’s vows. He was referring to Numbers 30:2, “When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Whether we keep our vows or not speaks to our integrity and our relationship with God.

Task: Jesus, and later his brother James, remind us that we need to let our yes be yes, and our no be no. Vows and promises are powerful things. Do not be hasty to make a vow or promise that you will not be able to keep. Consider some of the promises you have made and how God helps you keep them. Give thanks for his strengthening power that makes you able.

WP Neh dev 5-5 yes b yes

Sermon Seeds: Pursue the Things that Make for Peace

SP ephesians 4-3

Did you have a role in your family?

I was the peacemaker.

I’ve never outgrown it.

In an effort to “keep the peace” I have downplayed, ignored, and avoided. I believed the mantra, “Peace at any price.”

The problem is, that’s not peace.

And it’s way to high a price.

Sometimes it takes “wrestling” with the issue to find the blessing. Jacob learned that lesson (you’ll find the story in Genesis 32:22-32).

I don’t know about you, but I’m not finding much peace or unity these days.

I see a lot of taking sides.

There seems to be a greater desire to be right than to be related

Perhaps we would do well to make this our prayer:

SP bind us prayer

Advent 21: Controversy

I don’t like controversy. I run away from conflict. I avoid confrontation.

This is a difficult weekend to avoid controversy.

A few days ago, a man of faith, who also happens to be a TV personality, was asked a few questions about his beliefs. I wonder if he felt like he was being set up? The whole thing reminds me of the way that the Pharisees questioned Jesus in order to trap him. The celebrity answered honestly, as he felt Jesus would have wanted him to. And wham, bam, his show was pulled and a well-known family style restaurant pulled all his merchandise.

And the lines have been drawn and people have polarized. Boycotts are planned. Nasty, derogatory comments are being made by both sides of the issue.

It makes me wonder how much of this is pleasing to God? Is he getting any glory out of our pettiness? People who might have been on the edge of faith are repulsed by behavior that should woo them not make them walk away.

But there is the point…when did it happen that I can’t express my faith without fear of offense?

Perhaps that’s the problem…we fear offense.

Go back and read the Christmas story. Read the gospels. Pay attention to Jesus’ words.

He was an equal opportunity offender.

I want to say that Jesus wasn’t intentionally offensive. I’ve tried to write the thought several ways, but I don’t believe it.

Jesus didn’t come to make the people of his day, or ours, comfortable. He stirs things up. He made radical comments and shed all kinds of new light on tightly held traditions. He ate with the wrong people. He traveled the wrong roads. He challenged authority. Controversy, confrontation, conflict seemed to follow him wherever he went.

And it got him killed. But not just him. His cousin John could easily speak to this, if he hadn’t lost his head. He was asked what he thought about the King’s questionable marriage situation and he paid the ultimate price–he gave his life.

No wonder we shy away. Bite our tongues. Swallow our faith.

So Mr. TV personality lost his show. It happens. I know a teacher who lost his job because he always put his Bible on his desk. He kept true to his faith…and fortunately another job came his way.

Maybe that TV show ran its course. Did what it was supposed to do. And maybe God has something else for this family to be doing. Should we boycott that too?

We don’t understand persecution for our faith the way that some do in other parts of the world. Or in times gone by. Jesus seems to want us to be more aware. He actually tells his followers, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).” Peter went on to write: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:12-17)

Jesus’ birth was extremely controversial. Consider that the announcement came to shepherds, not the King.

We don’t have to go looking for conflict. It will find us. Sometimes it’s a set up. But however we encounter it. I pray that we faithfully face it and make sure we do all we can to speak the truth in love and glorify the one who is the foundation of what we believe.