Nehemiah Devotions Chapter 2, Day 4

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel. (Nehemiah 2:10, NLT)

WP Neh Dev 2-4 memo

Not everyone got the memo.

Nehemiah watched as God prepared and provided. Nehemiah witnessed the overwhelming kindness and favor of the king as he supported Nehemiah’s plan 100%.

But not everyone was on board. Not everyone wants to see the plans of God succeed. There will always be those who’s self-seeking and self-serving plans come against God, and us.

WP Neh Dev 2-4 opposition

Awareness of this doesn’t necessarily make it easier. Jesus wanted us to be ready for this kind of thing. He told his followers: 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12, NIV)

WP Neh Dev 2-4 persecuted

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.

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