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If your friend jumps off a bridge will you jump too?

Posted by Diversity in Faith on March 23, 2014 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

If your friend jumps off a bridge will you jump too?

Everyone has a mother who has said that at least once to them right?

 

Exodus 23:2

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

How many watch the news or read the paper and just shake your head at how much violence there is daily. How many think God can’t there be just one day with all good news? Instead we see more and more people being hurt and many because of their position in life get away with it. People who are supposed to uphold the laws by a higher standard are the worse sometimes.

Exodus 23:2 erv Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. If you see a group of people doing wrong, don’t join them. You must not let them persuade you to do wrong things—you must do what is right and fair.

It’s like people are following each other into crime.

One person uses a gun against someone because they don’t like how they dress, the music they are playing is louder than they like or they don’t like that they are texting during previews at the movies. The next thing you know someone else has now done the same thing. Then to make matters worse…. There is no justice for the victims.

Proverbs 4:14 niv Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.

I want to tell you about two men. Both are respected men who people listen to when they speak. While one sees the violence all around the other experiences the violence first hand. During a time of despair both cry out to God and question him. Why have you abandon me? Why are you letting this happen? These two men turned that questioning into praise. Either one of these two men could be from this day and time in history.

The older gentleman spoke daily with God. The older man in his time watched as violence erupted all around him. Injustices were being made everywhere. He watched as corrupt people seemed to always win and those who followed God were persecuted as though they were ungodly.

The older man I’m about to talk about is Habakkuk. He looks at all the violence that is going on around him. Instead of peace, people are following each other into violence. He like many others with him are confused. What’s going on here? He tries to make sense of things but he just can’t. I’m sure we all can relate to how he feels. Then he questions God and his actions.

Habakkuk 1:1-4 from the msg bible. God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell ‘Help Murder Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fail to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.

Habakkuk could be anyone of us asking God what’s going on with everyone. Why does it look like God is letting evil run rampart? Habakkuk wants to know why it looks like God isn’t paying attention to what is going on. Why has God has turned his eyes away?

Habakkuk 1:13b niv “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

Can you relate to what Habakkuk is saying? How many times have things looked so bleak and you feel that God has turned his eyes from you or everything going on around you?

Instead of jumping off the bridge with these people, we should pattern ourselves after the actions of Habakkuk and what he did next.

Habakkuk 2:1 niv I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts. I will look to see what he [God] will say to me and what to answer when I am rebuked.

He does exactly that. He waits. We aren’t told how long he waits but God does answer him. The prayer Habakkuk then gave was so brimming with faith that it was later used as a psalm in temple worship.

Ephesians 4: 17-19 msg. And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore.

An example of people going along with the crowd and jumping off the bridge is:

Mark 15:15 niv. “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The younger of the two men was a humble man that came from a good family. He grew up speaking to God and shared his knowledge of God with anyone who wanted to know him. The younger man was hated for the truth he spoke. In back rooms and hidden places, plots to frame him were being discussed. Those who were put in charge to protect the people and uphold the law looked for legal ways to assassinate this man.

The cowards arrested him in the middle of the night. Guards stripped him naked then tied his hands to a post above his head; spit in his face, kick him with their boots, blindfolded him and beat him with their first. They beat his body stripping flesh with every blow.

Have you ever wondered how many lashes it is to be beaten to one inch of your life?

Its 39 lashes.

The whip was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends.

The following is a medical doctors’ description of the physical effects of flogging.

The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across the shoulders, back, and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper in the subcutaneous tissues. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.

The young man was made fun of, a crown made from a thorny plant shoved onto his head, a robe placed on his bloody body. They beat him upon the head driving the thorns farther into his scalp.

He was made to carry the beam on which he would give his life. This beam usually weighed 30 or 40 lbs. Imagine the pain caused by this rough heavy beam pressing into his bloody body. To be crucified was considered the most hideous punishment possible.

A heavy square wrought iron nail is driven into the depression at the front of the wrist deep into the wood. The actions are repeated with the second wrist, being careful not to pull the arms too tight. The cross is lifted into place. The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot and with both feet extended toes down a nail is driven through the arch of each.

Each breath is a labored breath filled with excruciating pain.

Jesus has borne our sins upon himself.

Mark 15:33, 34 amp. And when the sixth hour (about midday) had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour (about three o’ clock), and at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? This means, My God My God, why have you forsaken me deserting me and leaving me helpless and abandoned??

How many times have you spoken the words from Psalm 22:1 My God, My God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

Instead of following the crowd off that bridge, give it up to the Lord, wait on him. Trust that God will care for you.

In closing:

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

You Are Blessed

Posted by Diversity in Faith on February 9, 2014 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

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You are Blessed

Matt. 5:11-12   Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In the Beginning of Matthew chapter 5 we have Jesus sitting down on the mountainside with his disciples to teach them. And in this teaching he describes 8 distinct characteristics of mankind.  The funny thing is He calls these characteristics blessed. If you’ve read The Beatitudes Your like seriously blessed??

Blessed… what does it mean to be blessed? The bible says that blessed means to be happy, to be spiritually prosperous, and to be in Gods favor.  At a glance none of these look like anything I’d celebrate and call being blessed. I thought maybe I’m not looking at them right. Let’s look at these 8 characteristics using the words that describe being blessed.

1. You are spiritually prosperous when you are poor in spirit. These are people who despite what their outward appearance may look like, they’re at their wit’s end You know the fake smile and they look like they have it all together, they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  God says that these are the ones I look on with favor.  Even when there are no words to pray, God hears those prayers in the tears. In John 14 it says “Let not your heart be troubled”; Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

2.     You are in Gods favor when your heart cries out, those who feel like they’ve lost everything that is most dear to them. Those who mourn for continual acceptance and mercy from God in Christ Jesus, and constantly seek the Holy Spirit.      Revelation says, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'" Do you think its coincidence when someone calls just when you needed it most, just the right song plays? Or in this age of Social Media, someone post something that speaks directly to you? It happens to me often. God will use whatever it takes to comfort you. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

3.     Spiritually prosperous are the meek, the gentle people, the humble. The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult silently, or return an insult with a soft answer. The meek or humble feel they have everything that they could want or need. They don’t feel as though they are missing out on anything. These are the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.   Psalm 37: says but the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

4.     You are in Gods favor when you hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who have worked up a good appetite for God. Righteousness may sound like an old-fashioned word, but it's a timeless concept. It’s a feeling or way of life that is all about doing the right thing: righteousness shows great concern for morals and ethics.

This is a word about taking a stand and doing the right thing. Trying to help poor and the oppressed. Doing an unpopular thing that is ethical requires righteousness. People like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela definitely walked the path of righteousness.  Those who earnestly seek God shall find him. Isaiah  says "Come, all you who are thirsty. In John 4 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman whoever drinks the water he gives will never thirst?  He said “Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And in John 6 Jesus says I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5.     Spiritually prosperous are the merciful, generous people, those who show care for others, we must do all we can to help those who are in misery, showing compassion. At the moment of being full of care you find yourselves cared for.  Also being generous to forgive others. Whether you’re straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, white, brown, or purple there is someone who is prejudiced against you. God is asking you to show mercy and patience to them, more so if they spat their hatred and try to use God’s words against you. Hate cannot overcome hate. Only love and mercy can overcome hate.  A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.   Proverbs 11:25
 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

6.     Happy are the pure in heart, those who have no hidden agenda, who are sincere in what they do,     Notice I said pure in the heart not in the head because you can have pure intentions but have an impure heart. It’s not pure in your outward appearance, it doesn’t matter what you look like, or what you wear, the Pharisees showed themselves to be righteous to the people, Jesus called them hypocrites and show offs.   In Matthew 6 it says the place where your treasure is, (that’s your heart) where that is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.    In Romans it says don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.    It is written that we must be born again; The only one with a pure heart is Christ Jesus and it is in him that we are born again.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

7.     In Gods favor are the peacemakers, those who show people how to cooperate with each other instead of competing or fighting against each other. It’s then that you find out who you are.  As a church we need to work together and not cause others to look on us badly. The DIF web page, it’s Facebook page, and prayer cloth page should only and always have positive and inspirational things placed on them.      Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

8.     Happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, those who stand on the principles of truth, whose commitment to God provokes persecution. These people who stand on the principals of God are mocked and hated by those who enjoy doing evil in the world. They are called names such as Jesus freak, religious nut and so on..  John 15:18-19 Jesus says, If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.   Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

 

The kingdom of heaven belongs to all who are Blessed, spiritually prosperous, in Gods favor. The kingdom of God belongs to you all.    Matthew 25:34
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Pastor Jowancka's Sermon.. Parts of the body of Christ

Posted by Diversity in Faith on February 4, 2014 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (1)

You are all the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Cor. 12:27.

So what does it mean to be a part of the body of Christ? It means that each one of us is a major part that makes up the church.

Our name Diversity In Faith comes from the diversity in our church, from our different up bringing’s, our different experiences, different religious backgrounds. But what we have in common is the work of God’s spirit in us. Together we are baptized into one Body, Christ body.

The church is many members; all the members separately are important and needed yet all the members make up one body.

No one body part is more important than the other. The pastor is not more important than the music minister, the music minister is not more important than the treasurer, the treasurer is not more important than the secretary and the secretary is not more important than the members. The hand is no more important than the foot. No one part of the body is it’s whole. Each limb, each organ, each cell make up our bodies. This is the same for the church. No one member is more important than the other. We need all the members to make up the body of Christ church.

There are those who are the eyes of Christ, who seek Gods truth, who see others not by what they have or don’t have, but really see them.

In Acts 3 we have a beggar at the gate called beautiful. Daily people passed him without really seeing him. When the disciples came up they saw this man. Peter looked straight into his eyes. There are those we pass daily who just want to be seen. To know that they are not invisible but that they are somebody to someone.

Some are the ears of Christ. They listen to what others have to say. In Romans we learn that faith comes from hearing.. Sometimes all a person wants and needs is someone to hear them and that leads to them listening to the message of Christ.

Be the arms that open wide who welcome both believers and non believers. Romans 14:1 amplified says: As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him into your fellowship, but not criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions.

Jesus answering who among the disciples were greatest answered; whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me;

We are the children that Jesus is speaking about.

Paul using humor asked can the eye be the body. Think about that. What would it look like if we were only an eye, only an ear, arms. We have eyes to see Gods love everywhere we look, in the plants that grow, in the smile of a child. We have ears to hear the word of God, arms that reach out for him. We have legs so that we can walk in faith.

Using the body as a way to describe the church lets us visually see how we are all connected to one another. If one part of your body hurts doesn’t it affect the other parts as well? If one part of the body were missing, isn’t the rest of the body aware that it is missing something?

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t , the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. Msg 1 cor. 12:25-26

We need each other not just the people who are here today but those who have come and those who have not come yet.

The lyrics to the song I need you to survive are very true for our church.

To make the body of our church stronger we have to concentrate on bringing more people into the house of God. Tell someone this week.. I need you, you need me, we are a part of God’s body. Stand with me, agree with me. I need you to survive.

We do very well with our out reaches.. It’s time for an in reach. To make our church body stronger we have to concentrate on bringing more people into our church. The Bible tells us that we should all have a mutual interest in and care for each other.

You are Christ’s body--- that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. Msg 1 cor. 12:27

 

 

With closing prayer…. Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit--- just as you were called to one hope when you were called.

 

Healthy Child Healthy World

Posted by Diversity in Faith on February 4, 2014 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Feburary 9, 2014

4:30 pm-5:30 pm

St. James Lutheran Church 1424 Morganton Road, Fayetteville, NC 28305- Join us for Church Services afterwards with Diversity in Faith!

Have you wondered how you can make your children safer and healthier?

Parents take steps every day to prevent harm to their children. We use car seats, bike helmets and electrical cover outlets, just to name a few. It makes perfect sense to protect our kids from unnecessary chemical exposures, too. We believe that practicing a “better safe than sorry” approach is more important than ever.

At Healthy Child, we believe—like you do—that there is nothing more important than the health of our children. With more and more scientific evidence linking the chemicals we are exposed to every day to asthma, autism, cancer, allergies and diabetes, it’s especially crucial that we spread the word about how to reduce toxic exposures. As you embark on this journey to create awareness, it’s important to remember just how powerful you are.

Children may only make up 24% of the population, but they are 100% of our future. Protecting our children’s health is now more important than ever.

• Do you know how many chemicals are registered for use in the US without needing to be tested for pre-market safety?

There are more than 80, 000!

 

For additional information contact Kimball Sargent @ 919 606-6092 or

Angel Roberts @

910-339-6011

Blessings

Pastor Jowancka Mintz

 

Meet Up

Posted by Diversity in Faith on February 4, 2014 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (1)

We have a meet up page!!!

Look us up and join. Diversity in faith a church for all people.

Announcements

Posted by Diversity in Faith on January 20, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

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Here are some things that will be happening in Diversity in Faith Church for next week and the month of February.

First please join us next Sunday January 26th as we celebrate our 3rd anniversary!  We will have a pot luck dinner.  Bring a covered dish to share.

In February along with the music from our Minister of Music, we will have Live Music from 3 of our members!  

February 9th we will have guest from Healthy Child Healthy World give a Seminar from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. everyone is invited to come whether you are a Parent, Grandparent, Aunt ,Uncle, or a friend of someone with a child this information will help you. Immediately following will be church service with live music and the sermon “You are Blessed”.   I am personally challenging our members to bring someone with them to church that day! Let’s see who can bring the most people!

 

Pastor Kat's sermon on James 2

Posted by Diversity in Faith on June 7, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Here is an audio recording of Pastor Kat's recent sermon on James 2.  Please continue to study through James on your own and feel free to listen.

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200040015

Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200040015/play

Book of James, Part 1

Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Sunday's sermon, beginning a series on the book of James, by pastor Kat Royal, at Diversity in Faith, and including a youth message by Ashley Young...  available in audio format as a Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200033734     

and for Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200033734/play

Finding God's Strength in the Midst of Challenges

Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 12, 2013 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This Sunday's sermon was brought to us by Ashley Young, who has volunteered to help begin a youth program at Diversity in Faith.  I hope it blesses you.

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To hear online, check us out at

 

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200024496

 

Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200024496/play

 

 

 

Challenges

 

by Ashley Young

 

Text:

 

· 1 Timothy 3:16 “Great is the mystery of godliness.” (Read in the beginning)

 

· Psalm 120:1 “I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.”

 

· Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. "Selah"

 

 

 

(Sermon)

 

Challenges. We face them everyday. Challenges can be anything from a paper cut, first thing in the morning, to being late to class or work, the printer or fax machine jamming, or losing electricity due to a storm. And when we have days—or weeks—when all of these things and more pile up on us, we may think, “Okay, God. How much more are you going to throw at me?” In situations like these, it’s easy to think of God as a five-year-old kid, with a magnifying glass, beaming sunlight down on us, like we were ants. And when we face even bigger challenges, like the death of a loved one, being diagnosed with cancer, becoming disabled, or trying to create a church community, like Kat talked about on February 24, it’s easy to think that God has forsaken us. Forgotten us. Left us to suffer. And it’s times like these where we may question our faith; question the existence of God, as a higher being, watching over us.

 

It’s with challenges like these where we have to take a step back, in order to see what God is allowing to happen, so that our unification with one another and our faith in Him may be strengthened. In John 17:21, Jesus prays, “that they all may be as one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You.” God wants us to be a people—united in one, with Him. And the challenges we face, whether they are big or small, serve as a reminder that God is always with us and He is our ultimate answer.

 

God shows us firsthand how we can overcome challenges when He allows Jesus to be challenged in the Bible. In Matthew Chapter Four, Jesus was led out into the wilderness, by the Lord, where he fasted for forty days and for forty nights. After this, Jesus was hungry and thirsty and tired. And the devil came up to Him and challenged Him saying, “Hey, if you’re the son of God and you’re so hungry turn these stones into bread.” To that Jesus responded by saying, “It is written, that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” So the devil said, “Oh, ho, ho! Well, then,” and he took Jesus into the city and placed Him on the highest point on the chapel, then said, “If you’re the Son of God, then jump, because it’s written that the Angels will save you and prevent you from hitting your foot against a stone.” Jesus said, “It is also written that thou shall not tempt the Lord.” The devil said, “Hmmh!” And he took Jesus to a really high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms in the world, with all of their glory, and the devil said, “Now if you will bow down and worship me all of this can be yours.” And Jesus said, “Go away, Satan. For it is written that, ‘Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and you should only serve Him.’” With this, the devil left and angels came down and ministered Jesus, for Jesus had ignored temptation and had overcome this challenge by keeping His faith strong in the Lord.

 

Sometimes it can be difficult to put ourselves into Jesus’ shoes, because we don’t have the same kinds of challenges in our lives that He did. I, personally, faced a number of challenges with my disability advocacy at Methodist University. I don’t know if any of you have ever worked in an advocacy situation, but going into college, I had no idea what advocacy even was. Then my second year, my Academic Advisor and professor, Dr. Colonnese, signed me up for two night classes and worked with the campus police to get me a security escort. Man, was I excited! I thought, (THUMBS UP) “Alright! Going to get ahead in my studies!” So a few days into my first creative writing class, we’re on the second floor of the Trustees Building and Dr. Colonnese says, “Let’s go downstairs.” I’d been up and down the stairs many times during the day, so I didn’t think anything of it. We walk out into the hallway and there is one extremely small light glowing and I looked over the rail at the stairs and they were only being lit by a very dim streetlight outside. I have no depth perception in broad daylight and at this time, I did not know anything about a cane, much less that I was entitled to one!

 

(ACT OUT) So we walk over to the stairs; I reach down and put the death grip on the rail and s-l-o-w-l-y put my foot down on the first stair. Then I brought my other foot onto that stair and cautiously proceeded from there. Getting to the bottom of those stairs, in the dark with my vision, was a serious challenge and that night I decided that some serious changes had to be made to Methodist University’s overall campus. I presented the idea to the student media advisor, then embarked on a three month research article for the school’s newspaper. During those three months, I went to the financial coordinator for the school, with all of the research I’d dug up thus far, and told him that the Trustees Building needed an elevator. (SQUINT & LOOK FROM SIDE TO SIDE) And he started laughing, like I’d told him a really funny joke. When he calmed down, he said that the idea of installing an elevator into a more than fifty-year-old building was preposterous and would most likely cost half a million dollars. (TURN HEAD SIDEWAYS) So I smiled and quietly left his office. But I was hot, let me tell you. As I walked outside, I looked up and thought, “This challenge is going to be the end of me.”……But it wasn’t. God brought me through. After three years of pushing and proposing idea after idea, Methodist finally approved the project and installed the elevator. This challenge taught me that God works on His own timeline and we cannot rush Him…

 

As we go forth into this week, remember, God is our ultimate answer. This week, I want you all to work through challenges you face by keeping your faith in Him strong and by helping others to do the same.

 

 

 


Discovering Your New Life in Christ (Part 5 of 5)

Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 6, 2013 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (0)

From Shame To Service

To hear the audio of this, see

Download: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200020358

Playback: http://diversityinfaith.sermon.net/da/1200020358/play

 

 

 

In the midst of our mistakes and failings – and the names weare called by others-- we can be so overcome by shame we don't knowhow to move forward. We can feel trapped, stuck, and powerless. Like a shadow falling overhead before a storm, all light and hope canbegin to be eclipsed by our heartache, guilt, and shame.

Just such a moment happened to a young business named Bill Wilson. A real go getter, an up and coming star in the business world, Billhad a dirty little secret: to get through his day he had to turnagain and again to the bottle. It began to wreck his home-life andhis marriage. Then the hold the bottle had on him cost him his job. Broken, not knowing where to turn, head hung in shame Bill admittedhimself into a sanitorium, desparate for change. Yet what broke himbeyond even his addiction was the life-wrenching shame. In his mind,he was not an alcoholic; he was a drunk. He was not a man who lost ajob; he was a failure. He saw no hope, no goodness in his life.

Just such a moment came in the life of a young preacher named Troy. A married father of 2, he too was rising star in the preachingworld. Yet he had hidden for years a dark secret: he was gay, and noamount of prayer or sacrifice could take away his attraction to men. Like all well-kept secrets, this came out and he lost it all. Hiswife left him, taking the kids away. He was kicked out of thechurch, defrocked. Jobless, with his marriage shattered and childrencut off from him, Troy began a nose-dive of doubt, loneliness, shame,and self-hatred. One day, as life hit rock bottom, Troy took aknife, slit his wrists in the tub, and waited to die.

ThoughI can't relate with these two men's exact journey I know what it isto wake up, feeling you are powerless to move forward. Feeling thatyou have failed too much to move forward, and having the shame of allthe ways I feel I am wrong fall over me like a dark winter chill.

Have any of you had such moments in your life you would be willingto share about?

Tonight we will be joining one final disciple in their encounterwith the risen Jesus and the new life he makes possible. Thisdisciple, Simon, has hit rock bottom, not knowing where to turn.

This is in John 21. Lets turn there together. We will start inverse 1 and go on to verse 19.

 

 

Later, Jesus himself appeared againto his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. This is how it happened:2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus[a]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and twoother disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter told them, “I’mgoing fishing.”

They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in aboat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early inthe morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’trealize it was Jesus.

5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caughtanything to eat?”

They answered him,“No.”

6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boatand you will find some.”

So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’thaul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said toPeter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard itwas the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked)and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in theboat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far fromshore, only about one hundred yards.

9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, andsome bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fishthat you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up andpulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundredfifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so manyfish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Whoare you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, tookthe bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish.14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciplesafter he was raised from the dead.

15 When theyfinished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John,do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied,“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked asecond time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied,“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 Heasked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was sad thatJesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” Hereplied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you thatwhen you were younger you tied your own belt and walked aroundwherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out yourhands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’twant to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death bywhich Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said toPeter, “Follow me.”

 

 

Lets pray.

LivingJesus, who promises us that you will never leave us and forsake us,whom we know is so present that if we turn over a rock we can findyou there, and if we split a log, there you are, open our eyes. Helpus to see your presence. Help us to hear your voice. Amen.

Does anything stand out to you about either how Peter experiencesnew life, or how the risen Christ responds to Peter's moment of crashand burn?

Thereare a few things I want to focus in on: First, that Peter wasimmobilized by shame and guilt. Second, that Jesus confrontsdirectly Peter's failure andfeelings. Finally, Jesus invites Peter to replace his shame with alife for others.

First,we see that Peter was immobilized by shame and guilt. We can seethis because Peter has returned to fishing. If you go back and readMatthew 4, you will find outthat when Peter was called by Jesus he was a fisherman. That is theold life, the old job Peter left when he answered Jesus' call to fishfor people.

What is amazing about this is that Peter knew Jesus was risen. Johntells us that Jesus already had showed up to all the disciples,proved that he was risen, and commissioned them to go out and do thework Jesus did.

Peter's response? He hung his head low. He sighed. He said “well,good for you Jesus. Glad you're back. I bet the rest of you folkscan do that just fine. Me? Let me do what I know how. Let me gofishing.”

Atfirst glance, this may seem strange. But if you can think about whatit is like for you when you are filled with shame, wracked by guilt,and failure you can see why he did this. When we are wracked withguilt and shame, we become stuck in the past. We are unable to imagea better future or, if we can, cannot imagine ourselves in it. Webegin to see ourselves as unable to do good, unable to make adifference. What we have done, and what it makes us look atourselves as gets us stuck. When we are stuck and cannot go forward,we turn back. We go back to what had been comfortable before ourfailure.

Peterwas wracked with guilt, shame, and failure. Peter had left fishing,his comfort zone and all he knew before Jesus, to embark on anadventure of following Jesus. To Peter's perspective, that missionhad failed when Jesus died. But it was more than the mission thatfailed. Peter had failed. Peter had promised Jesus he would notleave his side, that he would fight and die before letting theauthorities. When Peterraised his sword to try and defend Jesus, he failed to chop off thehead of the man coming for Jesus and only lopped of his ear –which Jesus promptly healed as if nothing had happened. When it wasclear no amount of fighting could keep Jesus free, Peter ran for hislife and hid. It wasn't Peter, who the other disciples had treatedlike a spokesman and leader, who had the courage to stand by Jesus'side, it was women. Peter had shook in fear, hiding and afraid.

Then, just like Jesus had predicted, when Peter was approached hedenied Jesus, saying he never knew the man – not just once butthree times.

Peter was broken. He knew he was no hero. He knew he didn't havethe strength to lead like people expected him to do. He knew whenthe going got tough, he ran like hell.

SoPeter, even afterseeing Jesus risen, is so full of shame he can't bring himself tomove forward into the bright future his new life in Christ makespossible. He slinked away in the shadows, into that comfort zonethat was the last place he remembered feeling safe before his failure– just as many of you have when you were immobilized by failureand shame.

This immobilization shows what shame and guilt are. Peter isstruggling with both. Guilt is simply feeling bad that you have donesomething wrong. It hurts awful, but actually can be a positivething. When I stub my toe I learn not to kick against a brick wall. When I feel guilt I learn which actions are wrong, and that painhelps me change by giving up bad action.

Shame on the other hand is immobilizing. While guilt is about whatyou have done, when you & I feel shame that feeling is about whoyou are. You no longer feel the remorse that you hurt a friend, youbegin to say “I'm a horrible person who can't keep afriendship. I don't deserve support”. When you feel the guiltof having lied or cheated, you commit to be truthful and honest, notbeing pushed into closets again. But when this becomes shame youbegin to say “I am lying good-for-nothing. No-one would likeme if they knew me, and I can never do the right thing”. Guilt can bring remorse, and with remorse you can change your lifefor the better. Shame causes people to shut down and regress.

Itis not Peter's guilt that keeps him from moving forward – ifanything his guilt makes him wish he could. It is hisheart-wrenching shame. His hatred of who he is for denyingJesus. It is shame thatdrives Peter back to fishing, making him unable to say “I willchange, and become a person of courage, no longer hiding in fear bythe fireside”, and keeps him from going sent as Jesus said heshould. That same shame was what immobilized Bill Wilson when heknew he must deal with his alcoholism, and that was almost fatal toTroy Perry when he decided he was too filthy as a gay man to be worthliving.

Howdoes Jesus respond?

Jesusresponds by directly confronting Peter's failure head on. He does itby doing two things. First Jesus brings Peter into a situationmirroring moments of Peter's life with Jesus – where Peter getsa miraculous catch of feet as he did at his call to follow Jesus; andwhere Jesus makes a meal for the disciples like Jesus did on thenight Judas betrayed Jesus & Peter abandoned him. And then Jesusasks Peter three times, in that moment doeshe love Jesus? These three questions are a chance for Peter toexperience saying “Yes” to Jesus as many times as Peterhad said no to him, when Jesus denied him at Jesus' trial. The risenJesus confronts Peter's failure head-on.

Sooften when we experience shame in our lives, instead of confrontingit head-on, we try to hide from it. We may run from it by jumpinginto new work at our job, in a hobby, or even in the church. We mayrun from it by jumping into a new relationship, or into bed withsomeone. We might run from it by diving into a bottle or lighting ajoint. Pushing down the shame, hiding from the shame only makes itworse, more

Inour relationships with others – whether in our families, or inthe church – we do the same thing. We see others slinking awayfrom feeling shame about actions. We say nothing – why bringup the past? Instead of speaking directly to what is happening, welet it. And people who are hurting slip through the cracks.

YetJesus directly confronts what is happening, and to borrow a phrasefrom fellow Progressive Christian Alliance minister TerryMcGuire, Jesus initiatesgrace. He directly speaks to what has happened, but in a way that affirmsto Peter that there is a future for him, that Jesus has place for himin his life, and that Petercan choose a path where the past doesn't define him. Jesus directlyinvites Peter to embrace their relationship again.

In a real this is very similar to what Bill Wilson and Troy Perryexperience. While in the hospital Bill Wilson cries out to Godsaying “God, if there is a God, show yourself!” and BillWilson has an experience of seeing blinding light and hearing thewords “You are free now”. That moment is a turningpoint for Bill Wilson where he is able to let go of the past becausehe knows his relationship with his Higher Power, with life, and thefuture isn't defined by his failings. He is not defined by themeither. Likewise, when Troy Perry reaches near death, he has theexperience of hearing what he feels is the voice of God telling himthat God loves him, just as he is, and that God wants him to sharewith others who, like him, have heard God detested them that Godloves them too. For both of them this experience gives them thesense that life is worth living, that they are not disposable, andthat there is a future for them. They experience the risen Jesusconfronting their shame and guilt initiating grace. This allows themto learn the lesson of guilt and change the direction of their lives.

Youmay not have had a visionary experience. In fact I hope you haven't– a visionary experience is something God usually gives us onlyafter God has tried to quietly speak, guide, influence us and we weretoo distracted by life's busyness, too caught up in our own pain andangst, to listen. I challenge you to not wait for that, but insteadtake time to confront your feelings of guilt and of shame. Take themto God. Look and listen for God's response. I believe as you lookand listen you will see Jesus reaffirming his relationship with you,letting you know that your failures do not define you, and carvingout a bright future with you. As you experience this Ithink you will find that these broken places in your life that cancreate shame, when you open up them up to God can become the placeswhere God's presence shines through. As you let go of the shame, youwill find God giving you the power to move forward, at timesaccepting what you felt was too broken to embrace and other timesempowered to change course where mistakes have been made.

Howcan we as a church help people learn to reach out toGod & othersinstead of letting shame consume them?

(allowdiscussion)

Finallyafter Jesus reassures him that their relationship continues, Jesusinvitespeople to begin his journey forward by focusing on others. Heinvites them to get outside of themselves.

Jesusdoes this in a number of ways. First by inviting Peter to share hislove for Jesus, Jesus calls Peter to focus on making amends in hisrelationship with Jesus. Making amends to others we have hurt can bea powerful way to mend our broken relationships and heal the pain ofguilt. Shame however immobilizesus so all we do is beat up ourselves, as Peter has been doing tohimself.

NextJesus invitesPeter to demonstrate a change by serving others – feedmy sheep.

This call to make do something outside of yourself is part of whatboth Bill Wilson and Troy Perry are led to do in the face of theirshame. Bill Wilson begins a process of making amends that laterbecomes a step in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, because it helpshim use his mistakes to learn how to become a healthier personinstead of immobilizing him with shame. Then he finds when he helpsothers work through their problems with addiction, it helps himmaintain his sobriety. For Bill this helps him move past shame to anew future, and gives birth the Alcoholics Anonymous movement

Troy Perry's experience where the living Jesus told him he was lovedwas linked with the call to tell others, particularly gay people whowere grossly mistreated in his day, that they are loved. In helpingothers discover that they are loved, in helping work with them tofind a place, Troy Perry begins to discover his own self-worth andreplace his shame with being gay with a sense he is loved, loveable,and worth respect. His work to follow Jesus' call births thegay-affirming Christian movement, and to his decision to chooseservice over shame our church ultimately owes its existence.

Thismovement the living Jesus invited Peter, Bill Wilson, and Troy Perryto – which we are invited to – is beautiful expressed bytheologian Jurgen Moltmann, when he prays: “For a long time Ilooked for you within myself and crept into the shell of my soul,shielding myself with an armour of inapproachability. But you wereoutside – outside myself – and enticed me out of thenarrowness of my heart into the broad place of love for life. So Icame out of myself and found my soul in my senses, and my own self inothers. The experience of God deepens the experiences of life. Itdoes not reduce them. For it awakens the unconditional Yes to life.”(TheSource of Life).

Jesus is standing in the midst of our shame, guilt, and brokeness. Jesus is calling us to open ourselves up, to share our unspeakableshame and pain with God, so that we can find those broken placesbecoming cracks through which God's light can shine into ourdarkness. As we do so, we are challenged to reach out to God, to ownour mistakes, and seek to turn our focus from how much we have failedto how we can be people healing the breaches for ourselves andothers. We are invited out of ourselves, like Peter, into lives ofservice.

Inclosing, I want to ask you to listen to a song by Jewel entitled“Hands” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk0bKfC8XSE) . As you do so, I want you to talk to God about whatever shame orguilt is holding you back. Invite God into it. Open yourselvesduring this time of quiet prayer to God's presence in the midst ofit, and let God embrace you. Look for how you can move outside ofyourself toward God and others, and maybe even let your experiencesof seeming failure be transformed into a time of service.

 

 

 


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