This is the message I delivered at my church on April 15, 2018.
It is based on the gospel of Luke 24:36-49
Years ago there was a story about a judge in Yugoslavia who had an unfortunate accident. He was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. His wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. She called for help. Friends and neighbors, police, the whole shebang showed up. The judge was pronounced dead and taken to the funeral home. The local radio picked up the story and broadcast it all over the airwaves.
But—in the middle of the night, the judge woke up. He realized where he was, and rushed over to alert the night watchman, who promptly ran off, terrified. The judge’s first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her. But he got no further than, “Darling, it’s me,” when she screamed and fainted.
He tried calling a couple of the neighbors but they all thought it was some sort of sick prank and hung up on him.
Finally, he was able to call a friend in the next town who hadn’t heard of his death. This friend was able to convince his family and other friends that he really was alive.
(Bruce Larson, LIVING BEYOND OUR FEARS)
Some things are just very hard to believe – so it is with our story today —
In our Gospel lesson the risen Jesus finally appears in the midst of all eleven disciples, bidding them peace and demonstrating that he was not some sort of ghost but rather he had been restored to life by the power of God.
Jesus told them to touch him – That he was not a ghost –
He was real and he was alive!!
When Jesus first appeared, we are told the disciples were frightened. He startled them, they were unprepared for it. They just couldn’t believe that Jesus could be there so they were afraid. So he showed them his hands and feet. It was still too much, it seemed too good to be true – Jesus couldn’t win! But Jesus was determined that they would believe. It wasn’t until Thomas touched his scars that they came to realize the truth – Jesus took their unbelief, accepted them where they were, understood their hesitation and met it with sympathy and patience.
Jesus shows them his hands and feet and his scars told his story.
We take a look at our own scars and every one of them has a story, some are painful reminders of surgeries, illnesses or accidents – others are funny, some are significant while some are filled with grief, shame or guilt. I’m guessing everyone has one – if not several of them. I have a scar on my side from when I was a toddler, i grabbed a boiling pot of water off the stove and burned myself, I got an infection and was in a coma for three days nearly dying. I have another scar on my knuckle where my brother hit me with a mop after I pulled down some of the army guys he had duct taped to his bedroom ceiling. And there is a scar on my neck from the time my cat tried to jump over me while I slept and missed! Your scars tell the story of your life.
In today’s bible verse, we hear the story of Jesus and his scars. How he showed up at God’s door broken, bleeding and wounded. The nails on his hands and feet, the spear in his side – all left a mark! Scars that last forever, even now.
Thomas touched those scars and believed! Jesus wanted Thomas and the disciples to see those scars and to understand the hope that they represented. It is through those scars that we are saved. When Jesus said to Thomas, put your finger here, see my hands? Give me your hand, place it on my side – Jesus was telling his scar story. His scars preach a powerful sermon. The scars of Jesus told a story that Thomas and the disciples could not deny. They represent the fact that God loves us, no matter what – scars, wounds and all!
Our scars, our wounds, our brokenness all tell our own personal story. A story that is unique to us and sets us apart, yet in sharing our stories with others, brings us closer together. We discover that we are not alone, that others have suffered and overcame. That we have all been wounded and that we have all been healed.
We live in a world of perceived perfection – we try to pretend that we live in unmarked bodies. We see those on television and social media trying so hard to be seen as perfectly put together, hiding all their imperfections. But we soon come to realize that we are all wounded, every one of us! We are all dealing with messy emotions in this scary, sometimes uncertain world.
The thing is, Jesus didn’t die to take away our scars ~ our scars mark the place where a wound was healed. And because we are believers … our scars now tell a new story. A story that includes Jesus and reminds us that we are forgiven, we will be healed, and we are welcome at God’s table no matter what scars we have or what stories they tell.
Jesus still bears the wounds of his experience here on earth. The resurrection didn’t remove his wounds – they stand as a reminder that God is with us in all things, especially the painful, destructive, scary, troubling times. They show us the pain he and the disciples experienced at the time. The arrest and persecution, the fear and doubt, the tears and remorse, the abandoning of Jesus and watching him die. Their emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness – the disciples were all wounded and so are we. But our faith is restored when we acknowledge Jesus as the risen son of God.
However sometimes things get in the way of our faith…
Fear is certainly one of them. There is a great deal of fear in the world. People are afraid of losing their health, their wealth, their loved one. Some people fear change, or rejection, or God. Fear can make it hard to develop a deeper level of faith.
Some people have a difficult time believing that God loves them just as they are. Some people look at their scars and wounds and weaknesses and think that there is no way God would consider them special. A loving relationship is just too hard to believe.
But God understands – he accepts us all right where we are at. Just as Jesus came to the disciples knowing exactly what they needed to believe, God continues to come to us through the works of others and power of the holy spirit.
Sometimes our faith is deepened, or we bring others to faith by sharing the story of times we were wounded, when we tell them how we got our scars. It can be hard to share, it’s hard to tell the truth about our lives and admit that we were hurt. I can be uncomfortable and risky and yet – there are times when we share our vulnerabilities that we experience transformative moments. Moving from fear to joy, just as the disciples did when exposed to the scars of Jesus. Instead of hiding our scars, we can say, look and see where God has healed me, where God redeemed me. In doing so we remember how Jesus took the fall for us, suffered on the cross, was crucified, died and rose again. He is the one who knows our pain and who accepts us for who we are.
Jesus has a beautiful scar story to tell – a story of hope for all of us.
Adapted from sermons by Christi Brown and Pastor Davis at tarsusdarkstar.
“Every hurt, every incident, every heartache, every pain has laid the groundwork for new levels of blessings coming your way. But we can’t receive God’s grace, if our hands are full holding onto yesterday’s hurts.”
It’s difficult to drive while constantly looking in your rearview mirror. We need to realize that everything we have experienced in life so far has prepared us for our future. Every hurt, every incident, every heartache, every pain has laid the groundwork for new levels of blessings coming your way. But we can’t receive God’s grace, if our hands are full holding onto yesterday’s hurts.
Negative things happen to us. People betray us, break our heart, we suffer from financial pitfalls or health issues – and we tend to carry it around with us – simmering in the back of our minds, taking time every now and again to grumble and complain about it. But holding onto yesterday’s garbage, keeps us from experiencing the new things that God wants us to do in our life.
Dwelling on our mistakes, living with guilt – doesn’t make anything better. It’s time to cut it loose, surrender your baggage and let it go. You may drop it today, but be tempted to pick it back up again later on. Letting it go doesn’t mean you are weak or that you don’t care. It means you trust God enough to take care of you.
We tend to be complainers, unsatisfied with what we have, quick to blame others, ourselves, our leaders or God– when we don’t get what we think we deserve.
Spiritually, we hunger and thirst for God, but so many times we look for him in all the wrong places. We fear that the things we have done wrong have created such a sinkhole – and that God could never love us or forgive us that much.
How many times have we started something and half way through questioned ourselves? We begin playing the what if game – what if I fail, what if people criticise me, what if I’m not smart enough, prepared enough, old enough, young enough … what if God doesn’t help me?
On our personal journey thru life – there are some attitudes and emotions that stand in our way of trusting God, one of them is control. Either we want to be in control or we allow others to control us. We hold on because we don’t believe God will provide for us. Another is Comfort. We become comfortable and set in our ways. It’s so much easier to watch tv or check our social media pages than it is to follow our dreams. And the last one is certainty. We want to know the outcome before starting or completing any journey.
So we hold onto our baggage because it’s what we know. We spend more time and effort hanging onto it because we either don’t want to let go, or we don’t know how to release it. So how do we let it go? To begin with, we stop talking about it, stop thinking about it, stop reliving it over and over again in our minds. When we spend our time telling everyone about our failures, our problems and our mistakes, people start avoiding us. Holding on to the past – pushes people and opportunities away.
Turn it over to God, say “God I don’t understand why this has happened, but i’m not going to keep holding on to this, I trust you Lord and I am going to focus on my future.” It’s time to quit looking back. God wants to give you something new but you have to let go of the old. Focus your energies on forgetting what happened yesterday and plan a better tomorrow for yourself.
Our God is one who gives us talents and skills to tend gardens and bring plants and flowers to life. God leads us into situations and experiences that mold and change us . Like the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly – once we grow wings of faith, there is no going back into the cocoon. Real change always happens when something old or obsolete is cast off and let go – like the cocoon and something new and spectacular (Like wings) takes its place. Keep telling yourself, I’m moving forward, the past does not equal the future.
And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22
We all have baggage, things that could make us bitter, discouraged and negative. The difference between people who are contented and those who are not – is that joyful people have learned this principle – learning from the past mistakes and then letting it go, drop it, release it, leave it in God’s hands and keeping their eyes focused on the journey ahead.
With each achievement, recognize God’s gifts for what they are. Receive them withopen arms. The Lord will supply you with everything you need for your journey. Grumbling and complaining isn’t tolerated. Gratitude, gratefulness and thanksgiving are the way to receive God’s gifts and blessings.
God doesn’t force us to change, but sometimes he nudges us in that direction. We are called to let go of the old us and take hold of the new us. Each of us has a powerful choice – we can hold onto the heartache and grief of yesterday or we can create our own future with God leading the way. When we let go and let god – we wake up each morning with a blank sheet of paper and a heart filled with god’s grace. The choice is yours.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
by Sally Larkin Green
… There are times in each of our lives when God will call us out to do something unusual, to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable in order to make his kingdom great. You don’t have to preach sermons, or become involved in a church, all you need is a heart for God and a willingness to take action…
Do you live inside your comfort zone?
Your comfort zone is that invisible barrier that make you feel safe and secure.
All of us have comfort zones, some of us surround ourselves with them and stay there, some of us maneuver in and out of them, and sometimes we are forced out of them.
When we rest in our comfort zone we feel happy and secure, but we sometimes become afraid of what might happen if we try to do something different. When we get comfortable, or when we have done something in a particular way for a long period of time, we just don’t want things to change. But sometimes God doesn’t give us a choice.
Other times, we get that gut feeling. We realize that God is telling us that change needs to happen in our lives. When that happens, we may take up the challenge and change, but quite often we resist, procrastinate, and put off doing the things we should because it makes us uncomfortable.
You know what? life really stinks at times and so many times it’s not fair. We become familiar with disappointment and grief that making an effort to change becomes a struggle. There are some people who are so focused on their problems that fear, stress and worry becomes normal.
Life can knock you down hard and then sometimes, as soon as you get up, it can knock you down again. Your struggles can be used to keep you down or you can search for strength and continue to get up each time. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
It is said that God places many blessings outside our comfort zones and then challenges us to come get them.
So I encourage you today to ask yourself, what is God asking me to do? Am I willing step out in faith, push through the fear and dismiss the voices of naysayers in order to move outside my comfort zone?
It’s so easy to stay where you are. Maybe you’re thinking God just doesn’t perform miracles anymore. If you step up, you will say or do something wrong. Maybe You feel you don’t have enough faith or maybe you’re looking at your life and saying ….look at this situation I’m in! I’m really not sure God can fix it. So we stay inside our comfort zone and refuse to change.
There are times in each of our lives when God will call us out to do something unusual, to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable in order to make his kingdom great. You don’t have to preach sermons, or become involved in a church, all you need is a heart for God and a willingness to take action.
It may be as simple as walking across a room and talking to someone you would have normally ignored. Or inviting a neighbor over for a cup of coffee, or taking a co-worker out to lunch and asking them how they’re doing.
There will be times when your life spins out of control. When something happens that causes you worry and stress. It’s during those times that you have a choice. You can choose to hide and cower in the darkness or you can choose to keep your head up and deal with it. Because when you face your fears head on you realize that no matter how wounded you are and no matter how dark it gets, you can always find a burning star, a ray of hope, a golden beam of light to pull you up and lift you out of the darkness. But you will need to step outside your comfort zone and search for it first.
I wanted to repost this. It’s one of my favorite bible stories. For those going through hard times this story brings hope. Please read and share if it speaks to you.
There’s a story about a lone survivor of a shipwreck who washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He cried out to God to save him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but he only got more and more depressed. He eventually was able to build a small hut for protection. But one day, after hunting for some food, he came back to his hut to find that it had gone up in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. He was devastated and cried out to God wondering why God had abandoned him. Early the next day a ship drew near the island and rescued him. He couldn’t believe it. When he came on board he said to the crew, “How did you know I was here?” To which they replied, “We saw your smoke signals.”
Sometimes, a tragedy in our life – ultimately becomes the event that saves us.
It’s real easy to go about your life, every day, feeling like everyone has it all together and that the things you struggle with are unique to you. But then, when you get down to it, it turns out that everyone, every single person you know, is dealing with a difficult or stressful situation. Sometimes its money, sometimes its health issues, sometimes its work or family or relationships.
When we open the bible to Ruth, in the first chapter we learn about this family, Elimalech and Naomi who raised 2 sons. There’s a famine and so the family moves away. The two sons get married to Orpah and Ruth. Then Elimalech, the father dies and within 10 years both sons die. The three women are left widows. The mom, Naomi, whose name means joy, tells everyone to call her “Mara” which means bitter.
So right there in the first chapter we find hard times falling upon these three women. No food, no husbands, no heirs because neither daughter-in-law had any children, and no joy anymore.
Then if we jump ahead to the last chapter, you see that Ruth has married a man named Boaz, the famine has ended – and we learn that Ruth has a child and that Naomi is once again filled with joy.
So how does Ruth go from nothing to everything?
How does Naomi go from being bitter to being overjoyed?
How does Ruth, this woman from Moab lead us to Jesus?
We read these stories written thousands and thousands of years ago and we wonder if they can have any influence our lives today. You know, I had never studied Ruth before writing today’s sermon and I’ve got to tell you, I love this story! Ruth was written to teach us about kindness about determination, about lifting ourselves out of difficult situations when tragedy strikes. About looking for signs of God’s grace when the clouds are so thick we can’t see the road ahead. Ruth faces challenges but keeps her faith. She takes risks, yet still believes that God will provide for her – and he does. I’m so glad that Pastor Jeff asked me to preach about her. Ruth shows us how following God can take us from despair to delight.
So after all the men have died, Naomi decides she is going back to Bethlehem because that’s where she was born. And she tells her two daughters in law that they should go back home – to their mothers and to their religion and gods. Orpah does just that and after she goes — we don’t hear from her again. Orpah takes the easy way path — but not Ruth. She sees something in Naomi’s God. And in verse 16 she tells Naomi “Your people shall be my people, and your god shall be my god.” Ruth has no idea where this journey is going to take her – but she wants to go. I believe that she sees that Naomi is really struggling and out of kindness and love for Naomi decides to go with her to Bethlehem. Ruth puts aside her own feelings and cares for someone else.
So think about your life right now, who do you know that is struggling? Who can you help? Because I can tell you something I know to be true, your despair and grief fades quicker — when you help someone else. It was Zig Ziglar who said “you will have everything in life you want – if you will just help enough other people get what they want”
Ruth and Naomi travel to Bethlehem, and things really aren’t that great. They have no income, so Ruth starts going to farms in the area to pick crops that the farmers leave behind. This was a sort of welfare system. Farmers were supposed to leave part of their crops in the fields for the orphans, widows and the poor. It was called ‘gleaning”. Ruth was not afraid of working hard or moving to a new land. She worked at a back-breaking, feet-hurting job outside in the heat. She did not consider it lowly to pick food with the poor and orphans or to depend on the good graces of others for assistance. One day Ruth came home she told Naomi she was in the field of a guy named Boaz and that he was really nice to her. Naomi realizes that Boaz is a distant relative of her late husband. So Naomi gets an idea — she tells Ruth to wait until Boaz has a little bit to drink and then go over there and flirt with him – and trick him into becoming your husband. Ruth does goes to Boaz, but she doesn’t try to deceive him – She talks to Boaz, she tells him that there’s another man who, according to Hebrew custom, has prior claim to marry her. So Boaz goes to the man and purchases Elimalech’s estate including Ruth from him.
You know, All throughout the story, Ruth is doing what is in her heart and stepping up in faith. She doesn’t take the easy way out. Sometimes, stepping out in faith means taking risks. Ruth takes a risk by following Naomi on a grand adventure to Bethlehem, she accepts Naomi’s God as her own, and she works in the fields after hours to care for herself and Naomi. Is there something that God has been putting on your heart to do – and you haven’t done IT – because you feel it’s too much of a risk, or you’re afraid?Sometimes following God’s plan means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something we’ve never done before, OR going somewhere we’ve never been before and that may be scary. Maybe it’s time to trust God like Ruth did – and have faith that everything will work out okay.
Boaz marries Ruth but they face another challenge, Ruth had never able to have a child with Naomi’s son. However, Ruth soon discovers that she is pregnant and Naomi is overjoyed, after losing her husband and sons, after moving back to Bethlehem, after thinking that it was the end of their family name – we read about a grandmother filled with joy, holding a little child after a long hard life. – But that’s not the end of the story…
The bible tells us that this child, Obed was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of King David and we know from reading Matthew that David’s ancestry leads us straight to Jesus! This little story brings us hope in knowing that the road may be rocky and we may face difficulties along the way – but if we live a life of faith and trust God – he will reveal his glory. This story points us to David and David in turn points us to Jesus.
Throughout the story of Ruth – God is seen everywhere, weaving His purposes through events and circumstances. He uses a famine to bring a Jewish man and his family to Moab, where one of his sons marries Ruth. Then the unexpected widowhood of both Naomi and Ruth, they end up in the Promised Land because they hear that the famine has ended. Naomi teaches Ruth about the things of God and Ruth makes a life-changing commitment to follow God.
Then Ruth “just happened” to find herself in a field that belonged to Boaz. This was no coincidence! God orchestrated the events in order to accomplish His purposes. It was God’s invisible hand that steered her to that particular field on that particular day. Ruth had gone through such hard times, but every difficulty, every question, every uncertainty, every broken heart — became God’s way of doing something better than would not have happened otherwise. You see – We find the beginning of God’s grace when we come to the end of ourselves and we hit rock bottom.
Even when you’re completely unaware of what is happening, or even why something is happening, God is guiding your decisions and actions. He is working everything together for your good and His ultimate glory.
Do you trust that God has a purpose for your life, even when things look bleak?
Have you discovered the glories of “God’s movements” in your life?
The most important decision that Ruth ever made in her whole life when she made her commitment to accept Naomi’s God as her own. That decision changed the whole course of her life and consequently changed her destiny.
God doesn’t care about your past. It’s not a matter to Him if you are a Gentile or Jews, a sinner or saint, a winner or loser, a beggar or a rich man. What’s important to God is your decision to accept Him and trust him and let him take the lead.
God waits for your decision so He can do his part:
He can change your life!
He can erase your past!
He can restore your life!
He can rebuild your family!
He can make you a better person!
He can transform you.
It’s natural to be anxious while going through times of financial stress or health challenges. It’s natural, but it’s not necessary. The truth is, God gives every Christian everything they need — to do everything He expects them to do. Whatever it is you think you may lack, rest assured, you apparently don’t need it for your current mission.
So, the next time all of the evidence strongly suggests that you lack some really important talent or skill in order to fulful your purpose, remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Because when you have Jesus with you, you have all you need – to do all it is required – in what God calls you to do. AMEN
I have family and friends who are very passionate on both sides of this presidential election. After the election this week, I am feeling the emotions from both sides. The despair, stress and anguish over not knowing what the future will hold, and the joy and elation of having your candidate elected. So where do we go from here? I’ve been asked to speak this Sunday at church and my sermon is titled “Don’t fear, God reigns”. I’ll record it and post it here next week. In the meantime, we need to pray for wisdom in our leaders, for cool heads to prevail, and trust that if we put our worries and our praise in the hands of God, he will bring us peace.
The poem I’d like to share with you is titled, “Let’s talk about stress”