Road Blocks  Part I

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Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

----- Nehemiah 4:1-6 (ESV) All scripture ESV unless otherwise noted.

           

           

            When last we looked at Nehemiah in Chapter three, he and a host of volunteers were hard at work rebuilding the gates and walls of Jerusalem. We discussed how like Nehemiah, we too, if we are to be successful in rebuilding our lives, must have a team to help us.  There is a biblical mandate for us to have fellowship (communion, which is unity, close relationships, working together) with God and other likeminded believers.

            As we explore Chapter Four and Five our theme will be Roadblocks.  You can be assured that during our rebuilding process we are certain to run into many of them. We will break Chapter four into three main types of Roadblocks: verses 1-6 mockery or ridicule, verses 7-14 threats of attack and verses 15- 23 we will see them by way of by way of discouragement.

            Before we begin in earnest let me be clear ALL Christians have roadblocks, obstacles, trials call them what you may in their lives. James 1:12-13Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Some of these Roadblocks will come from our own making and some as in our text will come from those who oppose us. It is how we react and handle these obstacles that will dictate where our futures lie.

            I wish to start tonight with the one obstacle that for many of you may be the hardest to overcome. If you have your bibles turn with me to Matthew 10:35-36For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household”.  The Reformation Study Bible comments on this, Although coming to Christ brings peace to the heart (Matt 11:29), embracing the gospel also makes life more difficult in some respects, because Jesus demands allegiance that takes priority over the natural ties of life.”

            Some of you came to the place you are at in life now with no real faith in Christ. Oh you may have gone to church on Sunday but that’s not what I am referring to. I am speaking of a true deep personal relationship with Jesus. It is a relationship that makes Him both Savior and more importantly; LORD of your life.

            When you get out the family you left behind will notice this change and for some they will not know how to handle it. A few will quietly accept it. A few may just ignore you and some will even mock you.  You must be prepared for this, you must remember that they are just as confused and living in the dark (John 3:19) as you once were. Your response must be to pray for them. Never abandon Christ for your earthly family.

            In Job we find; Job 14:1 “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble”. Job understood the facts. Man can and will apart from constant interaction with God get into trouble. Psalm 73:26 says: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  You too will have set backs simply because you are not perfect. It is alright to make mistakes, to fail at things. The mark of a true Christian is how we handle these roadblocks in our rebuilding process. Do you use these trials as reasons to quit and go back to drinking, drugging or other criminal activities? Or are these opportunities to call upon God; to draw closer to him in joyous fellowship. The choice is yours.

            Ok let’s look at verse 1-6 again. That lowly gofer of Satan Sandballat is at it again. You know the type, a whole lot of mouth especially if he has an audience, which it seems he may have here: 2 “And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” I don’t know about you but when I was in the U.S. Army I could talk all kinds of smack. I mean I had the men and the goods to back it up. This guy though does it not for any good or noble reason he does it for evil. He is trying to upset, irritate and provoke Nehemiah and his teammates.

            You know the type the guy (or gal) that knows just the right button of yours to push. The near magic words to make your blood seem to boil. So what do you so? Fly off the handle punch them in the face because the deserve it. That is one option; a wrong course of action certainly and costly too.

            Let us consider who is Sandballat and those like him mocking? Are they really mocking you? In most cases I would say probably not. Look at Isaiah 57:4 with me “Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit?”  Isaiah is describing the futility of Israel’s idolatry by asking them whom is it you think you are mocking? Later Jesus confronts the Pharisees by pointing out a similar issue in Luke 16:13-15 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

            It is not really Nehemiah that Sandballat and his clowns are making fun of it is God. It is not you; most of the people who mock you are making fun of it is our Lord and Savior. That my friend is a good thing for it means they are seeing Christ in you. If they are truly mocking you then the light of Christ is to dim in you today.

            We have Jesus as our example He was mocked, ridiculed scorned call it what you may. We as His followers should expect the same. Especially if it is being done so because of the things we are doing for Christ: Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

imageThere are many running around today claiming to be doing “things” for Christ. I would be very cautious of and weary of any person(s) or organization that does not have the full support and backing of their local church.  Just because someone uses Jesus’s name does not mean they are on Jesus’ team.

            The mocking of God’s people is nothing new. In the Old Testament God in His loving kindness sent messenger after messenger to Judah in an effort to get them to reform : 2 Chronicles 36: 15-16  The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.  Well, no to disagree with the word of God but there was a remedy of sorts if you will, it was called an invasion. God had enough and He allowed the Babylonians to invade Israel and the nation of Israel ceased to exist in approximately 582 BC. Not to regain national status until 1948 AD a period of 2530 years.

            The admonitions continued and we were left with the same warnings in the New Testament:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But understand this, that yin the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, obedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

2 Peter 3:3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires

Jude 17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

            So how do we handle these folks those who would mock, ridicule and scoff at us. We already mentioned one way was to haul off and clock them. It is ungodly solution for sure one that would prove their point and show your lack of faith in God.

            First rely on God and His word. The bible says only a fool says there is no God Ps 14:1. Those that mock believers for being believers are denying the existence of God. Do not be mad at them pray for their souls. You were once like them lost without hope.

            Next do as Nehemiah does in verses 4-6:

4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives.

5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

What do you do in times of trouble PRAY. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I am not going to lie and tell you that is an easy task. I will tell you it is a doable task.            

            Remember last week’s theme? That is correct teamwork. Who was the most important teammate we had, God of course? Not only is He numero uno, He is all powerful so let Him handle it. Why get your hands dirty? Look at what Nehemiah prayed. His prayer was not so nice goody covered in love for his enemy’s thing, nope. It was a in your face I am upset and you need to handle this God kind of prayer. He says:

·         Do not cover their guilt

·         Do not blot out their sin

·         They provoked you God

·         So turn back their taunts

·         Give them up to the land for plunder

            In closing I wish to relate one last verse this time from Colossians. Paul is closing his letter to the church at Colossi and imparts these words of wisdom: Colossians 4:5-6 (AMP) 5 Behave yourselves wisely [living prudently and with discretion] in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians), making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity. 6 Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].

            If you wish to mitigate or lessen the opportunities for mockery and ridicule there is no better advice to follow than that given by Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Act appropriately in a manner at all times that brings honor and glory to God and the devil and his followers will have few occasions to establish roadblocks in your recovery.

Let’s pray.

In HIS Service

Mike

 Trials or Tribulations?

 

            Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I thought it a good opportunity to reflect again upon what many Christians refer to as trials and tribulations.

 

            I have heard and read from many with illness, financial woes, the incarcerated and those with a variety of other problems that they must endure the tribulations that they are going through. That they can with God’s help deal with these great present tribulations, While the sentiments are nice they are somewhat lacking in biblical standing.

 

            As much as I can understand their feelings, I must first caution them that Biblical tribulations are always something one endures for the sake of Christ. Tribulation always equals suffering via persecution.  Even Nehemiah’s situation was not one of tribulation. A trial certainly, but true persecution for God; I think not.

 

            As we learned last week Nehemiah was living as an outcast in the land of his captors. Yet as the King’s cup bearer and trusted servant of the court his life could hardly be described as one of suffering. Although he has a lofty position in the court of King Artaxerxes, he is as a prisoner. He could only do what the King ordered and allowed. He may have been trusted but as we have seen in Ester the Persians probably did not approve of his high post. Finally he is a Jew in a pagan nation much like we all are as Christians in the World today.  Nehemiah must have been in daily conflict. To live as a Jew was greatly different than that of a Persian.

 

            The lesson from last week is this; most Christians today, like Nehemiah, go through trails in their lives. Some are brought upon themselves by illegal, immoral or unethical actions. While others through no direct action of their own (illness, injury, work cut backs, etc.) have equally challenging trials.

 

            I want to take a minute or two to expand on this for a moment. Verse one says:

 

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

 

            Do you remember why Nehemiah was in Shushan and not say Bethlehem? He was there as a direct result of the actions of his forefathers. They had broken God’s law and there was a price to pay for such actions. Listen even though Nehemiah was not one of those who had broken God’s law that led to the Babylonians conquering and enslaving the nation of Judah in 586 B.C. he must endure the consequences.

 

              Illegal actions that lead to our imprisonment have consequences not only for us but for our families and friends. While prison is not a fun time for anyone and can certainly be a trial in that it tests us in many ways it cannot be considered a time of tribulation. After all (in most every case) you put yourself there.

 

 

            Marital problems due to infidelity while trying are not a time of tribulation. Nor is the aftermath that while trying and seemingly under persecution (high alimony) again it is a problem of your own making.  Laziness that leads to financial woes cannot be blamed on the economy or anyone else. A man that will not work (at any legal job) to feed his family is not a real man in my book. Immoral acts such as gambling and drinking that lead to family, financial and health issues cannot be described as times of tribulation. Trying yes, but that is everyday life in a fallen and depraved world.

 

            There are many in the world today who face real tribulation. Who daily are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus.  We in America are blessed that true persecution has not reached our shores. But be forewarned that day is coming. The actions of a misguided mayor in Houston and the passing of Hate Crime legislation making it seemingly illegal to speak out biblically against abortion, sexual orientation, same sex marriage etc. are bringing the day ever closer.

 

            For real Tribulations in the life of Christians today Voice of the Martyrs is one of the best sites for information. I gleaned the following from a long list:  

 

Egypt - Akhom, was shot during an attack on his Christian neighborhood. VOMedical will help him get the treatment he needs.

 

India - House Destroyed an Orissa victim sits amid what used to be her home. “We are waiting for the next riot. We do not know where it will happen. We know this was a warning, not an end.”

 

India - Imprisoned Indian pastors are imprisoned for their evangelical activity.

 

India - Four young Dalit pastors in India - Shivashankar, Ramiah, Yesuraj and Jeevan - were beaten by Hindu radicals and police and imprisoned. We assisted in their release from the Karnataka jail. They have returned to Bible study and ministry!

 

Indonesia - Before Christmas bulldozers were sent by the Muslim government of Tangerang County to destroy five church buildings.

 

Indonesia - Police tried to protect Christians of the Batak church, but two of the church’s pastors, including Pastor Purba (in the red tie), were beaten by the mob in August 2010. One banner carried by radicals during the protest read, “The Muslim community rejects the building of a church in Mustika Jaya.”

 

Iraq - In 2011, militant Muslims burst into Afanan’s home in Iraq. They locked Afanan and her two children in a room while they tortured her husband. The family was forced to listen to his cries until they ended with a fatal gunshot. VOM is supporting this widow and her children.

 

Laos - Somchi, a young Khmu woman, handed us an unusual package — a burned Bible in a plastic bag. The Bible was still wet from the rain, but we separated and dried the pages. Somchi has underlined many scriptures in her Bible. The most underlined section was around I Cor 9:19. She put a blue asterisk by this verse.

 

Nigeria - Seyi was hit with a machete several times and almost burned to death during Muslim rioting in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria - Monica was attacked by Islamic radicals in July and has already had four surgeries. She is due for another one.

 

Nigeria - Godwin lost his arm in an attack by local Muslims. VOM provided him with a prosthetic arm.

 

Pakistan - When Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra, Pakistan, in 2009, Christians used a cart as a strecher to transport the injured.

 

Vietnam - Pastor Cong’s home was destroyed by local authorities.

 

Vietnam - Who can forget the stunning photo we printed of Vietnamese secret police officers swinging a club at a member of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang’s Mennonite Church in August 2006? About 50 police officers swarmed the grounds of the house church, beating congregants with nightsticks, nunchucks and electric cattle prods. Pastor Quang was arrested. Today, Pastor Quang, released from prison, is operating a Bible school. Currently, 47 young Vietnamese and tribal youth are studying in the three-year program. The course teaches them a thorough understanding of the Bible, how to use a computer, how to establish a church and qualifies them to serve in full-time ministry. Oh, and secret police are still coming by his church and home.

 

India - VOM helped a woman after Hindu radicals beat her husband and burned her Bible. Christians are attacked in India more frequently than in any other country.

 

            For a look at real persecution and tribulation in the lives of Christians today I recommend you watch the following video. Afterwards ask yourself are you ready to answer the call of God? Are you truly a Christian?

http://www.persecution.com/idop       Leana’s Prayer

In HIS Service