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Showing posts with label help. Show all posts
Showing posts with label help. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

When You Need Help, God is With You

            Over the next few weeks, I will share a series of blogs based on lessons from the book of Daniel, which tells the story of Daniel and his Judean companions who were living in exile in Babylon.  (This will also be the theme of my church's vacation Bible school later this month.  If you have kids or grandkids and live near Dalton, GA, we'd love to have you bring them to our VBS.  They will have a great time and learn a lot.  Plus, we'll feed them dinner and it's all free!)
            Daniel was a bright young Judean noble who lived around 600 B.C.  Judea was the southern kingdom of Israel.  The northern kingdom fell about a century before Daniel lived because it was very wicked.  The southern kingdom was guilty of their own share of sin too.  For centuries, God had warned them through prophets that they were not living the way God told them to live in the Old Testament law.  They, lied, cheated, were sexually immoral, and they worshipped idols.  God warned them again and again to stop these things and follow God's laws for holy living, but they did not. 
            Finally, time to repent ran out and they had to face the consequences of their continued and grievous sin and rebellion against God.  The army of the great Babylonian empire, which was the most powerful in all the world at the time, came sweeping in to conquer Judea.  The Babylonians captured and destroyed the Judeans' capital, Jerusalem, and burned the Jewish temple to the ground.  All the people who were not killed or executed in the battle were taken away into exile in Babylon.  They were forced to change their names, speak a different language, and follow foreign customs.  The best and brightest among the Judeans, like a young man named Daniel, were forced to serve the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.  However, God did not forget His people.  It grieved Him to see the Jews suffering--even though it was their own sin that caused it--and God continued to be with His people and help them through their troubles.
            If you ever feel like your community doesn't reflect your values, your hopes and dreams, the story of Daniel is perfect for you.  If you are a conservative who mourns how society's values are slipping away until they no longer reflect your values, Daniel is for you.  If you are a progressive who feels society has not yet grown and changed and matured into the values you hold dear, the story of Daniel is for you.  Daniel is the story of a people forced to live as aliens among a foreign people, who had to learn to navigate the tricky world of getting along with a people who were not like them without compromising their own core beliefs.  I think Daniel is such a relevant story for 21st century America.
            It is important to say at this point (and for us always to remember) the suffering Daniel and his countrymen experience was not because of God; it was because of sin.  God did not cause them to suffer; they suffered because they behaved badly.  The same is true when we suffer.  God doesn't cause our pain; we suffer because of sin.   Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin.  Maybe we made a mistake or deliberately did something we knew we shouldn't and as a result, we experience the bad results of our bad choices.  We all can probably think of times in our life when this was the case.  As an example: maybe we were driving too fast, not paying careful attention, and we had an accident.  Then our car was totaled and we were injured.  Our actions led directly to our suffering.
            However, our personal suffering is not always caused by our own bad behavior.  We might not have done anything wrong at all, yet we still suffer.  To take the example I just mentioned:  maybe we were driving safely; maybe we were paying close attention, but someone else wasn't and they ran into us.  It was not our sin, but theirs that totaled our car and injured us.  Sometimes the suffering we face in this life is because of other peoples' sin, but it is always because of sin and not God.  The sins of humanity have led to a broken world.  Even nature is not as it should be.  Yes it is beautiful and good in many ways, but it is also corrupted and full of suffering and death.  The darkness we see is the result of the accumulated sin of all humanity--mine, yours, everyones.  However, it is not because of God.
            This is an important concept to know, because it means we can turn to God for help.  God does not want us to suffer.  God didn't cause the suffering.  He warns us and pleads with us to behave right so we won't suffer.  And He watches sadly when we ignore Him and thus feel the painful consequences of our misbehavior.  And He is always willing to help when we repent and turn to Him for help.  Psalm 46:1 says, "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble."
            Let me share a wonderful and intriguing story of a time God helped Daniel and his friends while they were in captivity in Babylon. 

Daniel 2:1-19 1One night during the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had such disturbing dreams that he couldn’t sleep. He called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed. As they stood before the king, he said, “I have had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means.”

Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic,[c] “Long live the king! Tell us the dream, and we will tell you what it means.”

But the king said to the astrologers, “I am serious about this. If you don’t tell me what my dream was and what it means, you will be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be turned into heaps of rubble! But if you tell me what I dreamed and what the dream means, I will give you many wonderful gifts and honors. Just tell me the dream and what it means!”

They said again, “Please, Your Majesty. Tell us the dream, and we will tell you what it means.”

The king replied, “I know what you are doing! You’re stalling for time because you know I am serious when I say, ‘If you don’t tell me the dream, you are doomed.’ So you have conspired to tell me lies, hoping I will change my mind. But tell me the dream, and then I’ll know that you can tell me what it means.” 

10 The astrologers replied to the king, “No one on earth can tell the king his dream! And no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician, enchanter, or astrologer! 11 The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.”

12 The king was furious when he heard this, and he ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be executed. 13 And because of the king’s decree, men were sent to find and kill Daniel and his friends.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. 15 He asked Arioch, “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” So Arioch told him all that had happened. 16 Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant.

17 Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. 18 He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon. 19 That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven.

Everyone Needs Help
            Everyone needs help from time to time.  There's no shame in asking for help.  Just make sure you ask the right person for help--someone who can actually help you.  Did you note that everyone in the story from Daniel needs help.  Even the mighty King, Nebuchadnezzar, needed help because he had a terrible nightmare.  Everyone has nightmares and you can usually just wake up, realize it was just a dream, and go back to sleep in peace.  But King Neb had a dream he felt was different.  It was like the very voice of God was speaking to him and he had to know why.  He could not sleep in peace until he did.  Unfortunately, King Neb turned to the wrong people for help.  We can't blame him.  He was not a follower of the One, True God--the God of the Judeans he conquered.  Neb and the Babylonians believed there were many gods.  Their spiritual beliefs were all mixed up.  So when Nebuchadnezzar needed help, he turned to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers for help.  And they couldn't really help, which meant...  
           Nebuchadnezzar's royal advisors were in big trouble too!  The desperately needed help because their lives were on the line!  The king asked the impossible.  If he'd just asked them to interpret the dream, they could have come up with some creative and plausible explanation. (That's what astrologists do.  They make a vague statement about your life based on irrelevant information and when you read it you think, "Oh, that sounds just like me.  It's probably true!)  Maybe that's why wise old king Neb decided not to tell them his dream.  He figured, if they really did have some special insight, they'd be able to tell him what he dreamed and what it meant.  Does your boss or teacher or parents or kids (or anyone) ever make absolutely unreasonable demands of you?  Something that's just seems impossible?  You have to respond or else face the consequences. You need help--supernatural help.  King Neb's advisors needed supernatural help.  Exasperated, they told the king, "No one but the gods can do what you're asking and the gods don't live here among the people.”
            Actually, yes He does.  That is the beauty and wonder of the Good News of God's story in the Bible.  God knew we desperately needed His help.  And so He came and lived among us as a human being in the man, Jesus.  He was born of a virgin named Mary.  He lived as one of us.  He experienced all that we experience.  He suffered torture at the hands of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.  Jesus was crucified on a cross and died and was buried.  On the third day after his death, he rose from the dead.  He ascended to heaven and now his Holy Spirit lives inside any person who puts their whole trust in Jesus Christ.  So yes, God does live among the people.  He hasn't forgotten us and He can and will help us if we ask Him.
            That was good news for Daniel, because he was one Nebuchadnezzar's royal advisors.  He was to be killed with all the rest if he couldn't tell the king what he dreamed and what it meant.  So Daniel also needed help.  Fortunately, Daniel knew the One True and Living God, the God of the Holy Bible, the God who created the whole universe, who controls world events, who sets up kingdoms and also tears them down, who gives wisdom to those who ask, and reveals hidden secrets like dreams and their meanings.  So Daniel asked God for help.
            Kings and kingdoms come in all forms. At the moment, they seem all powerful and everlasting, but they come and go. Only God and His Kingdom last forever. Our problems can also seem immense and overwhelming and unstoppable, but they come and they go.  God is bigger than any problem you are facing or ever will face.  And God was bigger than even the life threatening problem Daniel and his friends faced at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar.  When you have a problem, pray and ask God for help.  He can and will help you.

So What Was the Dream?
            The full story of how God revealed Nebuchadnezzar's dream and it's meaning through Daniel is found in Daniel 2:29-46.  I'll summarize it.  King Neb dreamed about a giant statue made of many different types of material.  The statue and each section represented the empires that would rule the world in the future.  The statue had a golden head that represented Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire.  It seemed inconceivable that his empire would ever end, but it would end and be replaced by another, the Persian Empire represented by the statue's silver breast and arms.  Then would come the  Greek Empire, represented by the statue's brass belly and thighs.  Next would be the Roman Empire, represented by the statue's iron legs.  These great kingdoms would be succeeded by divided kingdoms, represented by the feet of the statue made from a weak mixture of clay and iron. 
            All of these kingdom were thought to be so great and powerful.  The people who lived in them never imagined they would not last forever, yet today, we can barely remember their names or where they were or who ruled them.  They came and went and were mostly forgotten, accept in dusty history books that few people read. 
            There was one more part of the dream and it's the important part that we need to know and remember most.  In the dream, there was a Rock (and not Dwayne Johnson).  This Rock represented Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.  Daniel 2:34-35 says:  "34 As you watched, a rock was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands. It struck the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits. 35 The whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth."
            The Rock was not made by human hands.  The Rock is Jesus and his Church (The Kingdom of God).  Remember, Jesus was not made by human hands.  He was born of the Virgin Mary and conceived through the Holy Spirit of God.  He is the Son of God.  You see: not made by human hands.  And Jesus alluded to this himself when he told the parable of the wise man who built his house upon the rock (Luke 6:48).  If you build your life upon Jesus (The Rock), when the storms come, you will stand firm.  But if you build your house upon sand--the things in this world that seem so big and important but which really aren't in the eternal scheme of things--then you will be washed away when the storms of life rage.
            And have you heard what Jesus said to his disciple Simon (Matthew 16:18)?  Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was and Simon answered Jesus was the Son of the living God.  Jesus replied, “Simon, from now on I will call your “Peter" (which means rock) and on this kind of faith I will build my Church and not even the gates of Hell will be able to stand against it!”  The Church, the Kingdom of God, is built on the rock of faith in Jesus.  And it has been growing ever since, becoming a mountain; today more people adhere to Christianity than any other world religion.  And the concepts of love and forgiveness and grace have already become infused into so much of what people believe today (even those who do not claim to be Christians).
            The Bible also says Jesus is the cornerstone of a new Temple, a new and different kind of Kingdom (Matthew 21:42).  The religious leaders and political leaders of his day rejected Jesus, but he became a stumbling block that tripped them up and brought their kingdoms down and crushed them to oblivion—not by the might of any kingdom’s army, but by the love and grace and forgiveness of Almighty God.
            And in King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the Rock smashes into the feet of the statue and it all comes crumbling down and is crushed to dust that the wind blows away.  Can you here the band Kansas singing the old song, "Dust in the wind!  All we are is dust in the wind!"  And the interpretation of the rock in Nebuchadnezzar's dream is this:  All the great empires of this world eventually fall and are blown away like dust in the wind, but God's Kingdom, founded on faith in Jesus Christ (The Rock) and not made by human hands, is eternal.

So What Does It Mean for Me?
            God wants to help you with your problems, but he wants to do more than give you a temporary fix.  The various problems of this life--both big and small--will come and go.  Jesus came to help us fix the core problem that's at the root of it all--sin.  Sin is doing things our way instead of God's way.  It is rebelling against the One who made us and gave us life and purpose.  Sin is the ultimate idolatry--always looking to things or people or kingdoms or even ourselves to provide what only God can provide.  Sin always disappoints and leads to trouble.
            Remember, the suffering we face in this life is not because of God; it is caused by sin--whether it is our own personal sin or the sins of others.  Jesus came to conquer sin and offer grace and forgiveness.  Jesus came to enable us to turn away from sin and come back to God--the source of abundant, hope-filled, satisfying, joyful, eternal life.
            Will you truly turn to the Lord and ask for help?  Because, when we need help, God is with us.  Ask Him for help with all your problems.  More importantly, ask Him to help you with the core problem--your sin.  How do you do it?  It's simple.  Do as Daniel and his friends did.  Ask the God of Heaven to show you mercy.  Close your eyes and talk to God in a prayer.  Say:

"God of Heaven, thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price for my sin.  Please forgive my sin and save me.  Help me to follow Jesus as my Lord from now on.  Help me to obey You and so avoid as much as possible the troubles caused by the sin in this world until the day I come Home to be with you in Heaven where there is no more sin or suffering or death.  Amen."

            If this is your earnest desire and prayer, God will save you through Jesus Christ.  He will forgive your sin.  You will begin to experience a release from much of the suffering caused by sin in this life.  And you will have eternal life with God in the next life where there will be no more sin and the suffering sin brings.  You are a Christian--one who follows Christ as Lord and Savior.  You may still face troubles in this world (because this world is not your true home), but do not fear because Jesus has already over come this world.  The problems and kingdoms of this world will soon fade away like dust in the wind.  However, the Rock of Jesus and his Kingdom will stand forever.  Rejoice that you are now part of His eternal Kingdom!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Come to Me

            God reveals Himself to His people through Jesus Christ.  When we look at Jesus, we see God, the Father.  Yet not everyone sees God in Jesus.  Even miracles cannot convince some people.  What truly helps us to see God in Jesus is humility.  When we humble ourselves and admit we are not as wise as we think, we begin to hear the voice of God calling us. 
Do you realize how much you need God?  Have the worries and burdens of this life weighed you down enough to see him yet?  Listen, oh people, for the voice of God to you today.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

An Invitation
            Jesus offers an invitation.  He does not invite just anyone.  In this passage, He invites only a particular kind of people—those who are weary and carry heavy burdens
We are an “inclusive” people and so we imagine Jesus would invite all people.  Jesus wants to save all people, but there are many people who do not want to be saved.  The frustrating Truth is there are many people who do not really believe they need to be saved.
In Jesus’ time, there were whole towns who rejected His ministry.  Jesus cursed the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because they saw Jesus perform miracles and yet still refused to turn to God.  It was primarily the cripple, poor, and outcast that saw Jesus as the Savior they desperately needed.  Very few of his early followers were the rich, influential, people of means.  The frustrating Truth is people who feel like they can handle life by themselves rarely come to Jesus.  It is those who are “weary” and carry heavy burdens that recognize their desperate need of a Savior and come to the Lord.

The Weary
            Are you weary this morning?  There are many things that can make us weary.  Sometimes health problems can make you weary.  We saw this in Jesus time; that is why healing stories were so much a part of Jesus’ ministry.  It is frustrating and scary when your body breakdowns.  It reminds you so quickly how fragile life is and that you are not really in control of very much.  We pray for healing, but sickness can be a blessing because it can brings us closer to Jesus.
            Some people are weary because they are too busy.  We live in a world where we must go, go, go!  We try to pack so much into our lives and into our family’s lives that we are run ragged.  We are tired physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  We are stressed by our fear of failing.  We never feel like we have enough time, money, or fulfillment in life.  The only hope is that all this business finally brings a weary person to their knees so they can hear Jesus' voice calling them to surrender it all to Him.
            Some people are weary because the world is such a dark place these days.  We fear our children and grandchildren’s will not know the world we grew up in—the prosperity, the kindness, the freedom, the values, the communities we have come to cherish.  We don’t want our world to fall apart and we don’t want our children to suffer in a dark future we cannot fend off or control.  Some are weary with worry about the future.  Perhaps in our weariness we will turn to Jesus.
            Some are weary because they keep making the same mistakes over and over again.  Like an alcoholic who keeps drinking even though he knows it is destroying him and those he cares about, we keep making the same mistakes again and again—disappointing our friends and family.  At first, we thought we could change on our own, but experience has worn us down to admit we are trapped in our bad behavior.  We are ashamed of our mistakes and tired of our failures.  Praise the Lord!  We are better off than most because Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary…"
            What about you?  Are you weary?  Perhaps you are weary for another reason.  There are a thousand ways this world can make you weary.  I could never name them all, but you know your heart.  You know why you are weary.  Rejoice, then, for Jesus invites you to come to him!

The Heavy Laden
            Are you carrying a heavy burden?  There are many heavy burdens we must carry in this life.  It is a heavy burden to be a parent in this world.  Just the typical responsibilities are heavy enough: assuring your kids’ basic needs are provided—food, shelter, clothing, education,  extracurricular activity—sports, band, social life (parents in America today are some of the busiest people on the planet.  We have so many worries for our kids.  We worry about their physical and mental well-being.  We worry about their future (will they be prepared for life and will the world they inherit be worth living in).
            Caring for children is not the only heavy burden.  Being responsibility for any other human being is a heavy burden.  Often children grow up to take on the burden of carrying for their parents (and the parents are burdened because they have become a burden to their children).
            In the business world, we can be responsible for the welfare of employees under our leadership.  We feel the burden of caring for them and enabling them to provide for their families.  We carry an especially heavy weight when we must fire an employee for one reason or another.
            Being a leader in the church can be a heavy burden.  Think about our HR committee.  They must oversee the staff of our church—people they love and consider brothers or sisters in Christ.  Yet they must also relate to our staff as “employees.”
            I think of Andy Andrews, the chairman of our Trustees Committee, who has the responsibility of overseeing our church facilities (and dealing with the dreams and expectations of hundreds of church members who care deeply about this property and the ministries of our church).
            Another heavy burden so many Americans carry is debt.  The average American household has $132,086 of debt—$15,310 of it in credit cards![i]  Debt piles up.  In the beginning, it is only a small payment.  However, as debt rises, it consumes more and more of a family’s income until it can seem impossible to bear.
            Perhaps the heaviest burden to carry is guilt and shame.  There is nothing worse for a person than to bear the guilt and shame of having wronged another person (or worse) having wronged God.  It is a terrible burden to feel unforgiven.
            What about you?  Do you carry heavy burdens?  Rejoice, then, for Jesus invites you to come to him!

The Yoke of Christ
            Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.  It is an image of the Christian life.  It might seem an odd image—the idea that we are like animals wearing a yoke and pulling a cart.  You might think, “Forget that!  Who wants to have a yoke around their neck?”  Well, as you have seen, you already do.  Life is heavy load to pull and we are not free of the weight of it as long as we take breath.  If you are breathing, you have yoke around your neck.  The only choice you have is which yoke you wear and who is pulling with you.
            Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear…”  A yoke is made of wood.  An especially good yoke is customized to fit a particular animal.  First the yoke is made to the general size and shape to fit any animal (say an ox).  Then, a yoke can be made more comfortable by a carpenter who carves the lines and curves of the yoke to fit exactly over an individual ox’s neck and shoulders.  In this way, the yoke is now customized for that individual animal and will not fit on any other animal as comfortably as it fits the particular animal for which it was made.
            Remember, Jesus was a carpenter.  It is quite likely that some of his work as a carpenter was to customize yokes for oxen in his day.  I could imagine this saying in our scripture would have made a nice slogan for the sign over his carpenter shop.  Can you imagine it?  "My yoke is easy to bear..."
            When it comes to the yoke of life, Jesus has one that is custom made just for you.  We go through life trying to fit ourselves into all the roles this world tells us we are supposed to be.  We try to be like the people we admire (or that the world tells us we should admire).  We try to keep up with the Joneses, but we our last name is not Jones.  However, Jesus has a life that's custom made just for you.  If you are weary, if the heavy burdens of your yoke is chaffing you, go to Jesus and exchange it for the yoke he made just for you.  It is light and easy to bear.
            There is another thing about a yoke.  It is made for two.  In life, you don’t pull the weight all by yourself.  You pull it with someone else.  Who are you pulling with in this life?  It may be that you've been yoked with the wrong people.  
            Our church secretary's daughter was visiting the church office this week and we were talking about this sermon.  She thought a yoke was just something inside an egg!  When I showed her a picture of the yoke and said how Jesus said we were yoked, she said, “You better like who you are yoked with.  What if you're yoke to someone ugly!” Haha!  That'll preach!
            Some of us are yoked with the wrong things or people.  And the things or people we're yoked with are pulling in the wrong direction or not pulling at all.  That's not good.  You better make sure you're yoked to the right person.
            Some might think the right person to yoked with is your wife or husband.  That's would be better than being yoked to the world, but it's still not the answer.  Your should be on the team with your spouse, but your spouse is just a person and sometimes they fall.  If your primary reliance is on your spouse, they're going to let you down.  Sometimes they don't pull their weight and sometimes they fall--and when they do, they could drag you down with them.  Don't rely on them to do what only Jesus can do.  
            Jesus said, “…the burden I give you is light.”  He should know.  He is pulling it with you.  People will let you down, but Jesus won't.  Jesus never stumbles and falls.  Jesus always pulls his weight.  Jesus can help you pull any load or carry any burden because he's doing it with you and he has the strength to carry anything--even a cross.

            “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  I invite you to come to Jesus and find rest.  Go him, take off your burdens and lay them down before Jesus.  Bow your head in prayer right now.  Tell him your troubles.  Give them to him and let them go.  Put on His yoke and go forth in peace.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Living Christian in a Gay World, part 4 - Coming Out of the Closet

Part 4 – Coming Out of the Closet
Galatians 6:1-3

            Four Sundays is not nearly enough time to say all that could be said on the subject of homosexuality.  If you would like more, I recommend the book by Sam Alberry, Is God anti-gay? Allberry is an Anglican pastor who struggles with same-sex attraction and has chosen to remain single and celibate in obedience to the Gospel.  Allberry’s book is written from a unique perspective.  The book is easy to read and offers an easy to understand examination of homosexuality from a Christian perspective.  I highly recommend it and have a few free copies if you are interested.
The goal of this blog is to encourage everyone to break the silence about their personal struggles.  Whether it is homosexuality or divorce or substance abuse or anything else, we are called to love, pray for, and support one another in our struggles instead of hiding them and pretending we are perfect. 

Galatians 6:1-3
1Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 

Coming Out of the Closet
Most people who struggle with homosexuality keep their struggle secret.  They don’t tell anyone for fear of how they will react.  In this secretive stage, they are said to be “in the closet.”  In other words, they are keeping their struggle secret as if hiding in a closet.  Once a gay person finally decides to reveal their homosexual feelings to others, they are said have “come out of the closet.” 
Coming out of the closet can be very scary.  One doesn’t know how their family and friends will react to the revelation about their sexuality.  Will they be angry or disappointed?  Will they reject?  Will they be understanding, kind, or supportive?  It takes great courage for someone struggling with something as sensitive as homosexuality to make their struggle known to others.
You may not know this, but there is a strong parallel between homosexuals who “come out of the closet” and the journey of the Christian faith.  For the Christian is also called to “come out of the closet” (i.e. reveal to others the secrets about that with which they struggle).  1 John 1:9 says “confess our sins to [Jesus]” and James 5:16 says “confess your sins to each other”.  Galatians 6:2 says we should “share one another’s burdens,” meaning we should share our most difficult struggles with each other.  Homosexual temptations might be one of those struggles, but it is not the only one or even the toughest one.  We are all burdened with sin and temptation and we usually want to keep our secret struggles locked away in the closet.  Christ calls us to “come out of the closet” in order to let the light of His love heal and help us.  

We’re Not Perfect
Somewhere along the way, many people got it into their heads that Christians are always supposed to live happy, perfect little lives and never struggle.  Christians often try very hard to keep up this fa├žade.  We smile, hide our struggles, and pretend to be the perfect people we’re expected to be.  This is not the reality the Bible teaches.  And in all honesty, it hinders our witness.  People need to know Christians are real people with real struggles.  We are not perfect, but we serve a perfect Savior who promised to help us through our struggles.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We should expect that Christians will struggle with many kinds of temptation, sin, illnesses, tragedies, and other problems.  We should expect that some Christians will struggle with homosexuality.  Struggling does not mean one is not a Christian or is somehow weak or lacking in faith.  It simply means you are human. 
When we “come out of the closet” about our struggles—whatever they may be—we open ourselves up to healing and other Christians are able to help us.  Furthermore, our lives become a powerful witness—not that we are perfect people (we never are), but—that Christ took our brokenness and didn’t give up on us.  People cannot see the power of Christ overcoming your brokenness if you always wear a mask pretending to be just fine. 
Advice for Coming Out
In his book Is God anti-gay, Sam Allberry offers some helpful advice to those struggling with same-sex attraction.  This is good advice for dealing with any kind of problem, not just homosexuality.  I offer the following suggestions for everyone, regardless of the secret problem with which you struggle. 

Pray about your struggles.
            You can talk to Jesus about any struggle you face—whether it is homosexuality or anything else.  There is nothing off limits with Him.  Jesus said in John 3:17, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”  You can talk to Jesus about anything and know that He will love you unconditionally.  Furthermore, there is no one who can keep a confidence better than Jesus!
            When you pray, you don’t have to use fancy language.  Just be honest and authentic.  Talk to Jesus about your confusions.  Share with Him your distress.  Ask him to help you with your temptations.  Seek forgiveness for times you feel you failed.  Jesus “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9).  Jesus “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).  Talk to Jesus in prayer and tap into the unlimited power of God to deal with your struggles.

Think about your struggles in the right way.
            Sometimes we struggle with something so hard it starts to look like an insurmountable problem.  Some people here might be thinking, “You know, I’ve struggled with this for so long and failed so many time, God has probably given up on me.  I’m just too far gone.” Or you might think, “My temptation, my sin is just too big, too dark, too unspeakable, to despicable, God would never want to have anything to do with me.” 
Sin has a way of twisting our perspective that way, but don’t you believe the Devil’s lies.  God loves you no matter what and He will never give up on you.  You are never too far gone, out of reach, too dirty, too lost, or too wicked to be saved by God through Jesus.  God would save the Devil himself if only he would turn from his sins and turn to God through Jesus Christ.  Surely, you are not that far gone.
Regardless of whether you struggle with homosexuality or something else, something big or something small, keep it in perspective.  Your struggles don’t disqualify you and they define you.  You are not a homosexual.  You are not a pervert or a thief or a drunk or a liar.  You are a child of God and Jesus would go to the ends of the earth to seek and save you.  In fact, he went all the way to the cross for you.  So when your problem seems too big, you just remember how much bigger God is and you let Him define you instead. 

Seek support from others.
            Galatians 6:2 says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”  A burden is something you were not meant to carry all by yourself.  Everyone has to carry their own load, but a burden is heavier than one person can safely carry by themselves.  So we should share our burdens. 
            In our context today, this means we should share our struggles with each other.  Now, you might not want to run around telling your deepest, darkest secrets to every person you meet—not even within the church.  But you should find a trusted, Christian friend—someone who will listen and not judge you and not go around talking behind your back.  If you don’t have someone like that, you can come talk to me.  That’s my job as a pastor.
            Galatians 6:2 also says that when we share each other’s burdens, we “obey the law of Christ.”  So it would seem that sharing our struggles with each other—both opening up to others and helping others with their struggles—is the law of Christ (which is love).
            Sharing our struggles with others and seeking support can yield tremendous results.  Sometimes, just talking about our problems brings marvelous relief.  It relieves built up pressure and anxiety and helps put our troubles in proper perspective.
            I have seen amazing results and personal growth when people “came out of the closet” about their secret battles.  I am bound to keep names and specific details confidential, but I can tell you that right here in this church, I have seen racism overcome and family bonds healed.  I have seen drug and alcohol addictions conquered.  I have witnessed broken marriages made whole.  I have watched out of control tempers brought under control.  I have seen friendships restored, shame and guilt released, and lives put back on track.  And in each case, it was possible because people courageously opened up about their struggles and sought the support of others. 

It takes courage and faith to “come out of the closet” about our problems with each other in the church because it seems like everyone else is perfectly happy.  What we don’t realize is that everyone struggles with something and often the smiles we see are only the masks people wear.  We all need to remove our masks and live more authentically.  It is the only way we can grow in Christ.  And who knows, when you are honest and come out of the closet, it might not only help you.  It might just help someone else who is secretly struggling too.  So what are you waiting for?