God reveals Himself through stories

I love stories. It doesn’t matter what kind of stories they are, though I do prefer stories with happy endings (some people may doubt that if they’ve read my latest novel, Namesake, but I promise it’s true!). Stories entertain us. They make us laugh. They help us dream. They allows us to imagine a different life or different worlds. But that’s not all they do.

The best stories, the ones that stick with us, always contain a morsel of truth. The stories that resonate in our hearts are the ones that God can use to speak to us in ways normal conversation can’t. So, in a way, it’s fitting to see the Bible and one big storybook.

1A0499C042Today’s verses are Romans 4:20-24.

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’d read the Bible more often if it were more relevant to their lives. On one hand, I can understand that the Bible can be confusing, especially if you’re reading a translation that requires a lot of study. But it’s not that the Bible isn’t relevant. It’s that we aren’t actively applying its lessons to our lives.

It’s the same way we apply the truth of stories in our lives, and that’s not a new thing. Remember Aesop’s Fables? People have been telling stories since language was invented, to entertain and to educate. Oral histories of people and culture are all we have left of some civilizations. And in every story, there’s a lesson.

Not much has changed throughout history, though. Our movies, our television shows, our books–they’re all stories. They’re all lessons.

What’s different about the Bible is that it was written by God for us. It’s His Word, the only truth, and it’s intended to show us the meaning of life, our purpose on earth, and to show us who God is and how much He loves us. What I love is how He does it.

God could have written: “Hey, humans. I made you. I made everything. You screwed me over, but because I love you, I’ve made a way for you to be saved. The End.” But He didn’t. Instead, He moved through dozens of authors over hundreds of years to write a collection of stories about how He shows up in our daily lives. God shows Himself through stories. Those moments where something impossible happens? Those moments where everything works out just perfectly? That’s not coincidence. That’s design. That’s God.

We can relate to stories. So that’s why God tells us stories.

So the next time you’re tempted to think that the Bible is confusing or irrelevant to your life, just stop. Take a moment to actually read one of the stories (use a translation you understand), and don’t see it as some ancient historical document. See it as a story that you’d tell around a campfire. See if the lesson doesn’t jump out at you. You might be surprised what you learn.

What’s great about God’s stories is that there’s always something to learn. And those lessons you learn grow and change with you as you get older, because God is always exactly what you need when you need Him. So a story may mean something to you today, but read it again in ten years, and you’ll get something new out of it. That’s real truth, and that’s who God is.

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We experience grace so we can extend it

Three years ago yesterday, I ran a red light at the intersection of Central and Broadway in downtown Wichita. It was not a happy day, although it was certainly much better than it could have been. No one was seriously injured, although several cars got pretty badly torn up. Even now, looking back on that day, I am overwhelmed with the grace God poured out on me.

It was my fault. I made a careless choice, and everyone had every right to throw it in my face. But nobody did. Instead, the police officer who showed up was kind. The guy who came to tow my wrecked car made me laugh. My local car dealership loaned me a vehicle off their lot for free so that I could drive around until I purchased a new car. Bountiful, abundant grace.

How on Earth could I hold anything against anyone else after I’ve experienced grace like that?

7D8934864C (1)Today’s verses are Romans 12:3-5.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Everyone steps into God’s story at a different point. Some of us have known Him longer. Others of us haven’t known Him long at all. But if we’re not careful, we can start seeing our experiences and our lives as the standard by which everyone around us should be judged.

Because we made a certain life decision and it worked out for us, that means we’re right, and everyone else is wrong if they don’t take our advice. Because I’ve found a way to use my skills in the church and it’s working for me, that means it’s the only way to do it. Or what if you meet someone who’s obviously living a lifestyle that goes against the Bible? They’re absolutely wrong, so that means you should steer clear of them and not have anything to do with them, right? I mean, they’ll only damage your relation with Jesus. Or, God forbid, you drink Starbucks coffee so you can keep up the conversation with the college kid you met in there the other day.

There’s always this big fuss about judging people, and that’s not the point of this post or this passage. It’s more important to always be ready to extend grace to people around you.

Do people know you as the Christian who’s against everything? Do people identify you as the Christian who criticizes or the Christian who puts guilt trips on other people? Or are you the opposite? Are you the Christian nobody can recognize as a Christian because you’re too busy doing all the same things non-Christians do? There has to be a balance.

Don’t look at someone’s life and decide they aren’t worth your time. You can’t make that call. You don’t know that person. That’s not judging. That’s having compassion on someone else.

Don’t hear someone’s story and instantly start talking about how they could have avoided trouble. Don’t throw it in their face if they’ve trusted you enough to open up to you. They already feel guilty. Laying a guilt trip on them will only make it worse. If what they’ve done is wrong, yes, that needs to be discussed but with the understanding that God can forgive any sin. And that we all need forgiveness. We all need God’s grace. Because we all sin. Each and every one of us.

The next time you see yourself in the mirror, just take a moment to remember that you have screwed up at least as many times as the guy tailgating you has. So let’s give each other a break, huh? I have done enough stuff in my life that I need every inch of grace God can give me, and I’m betting you probably have too.

 

Leader of "", a Kekchi Village that had never seen white people before we visited, Peten, Guatemala

What God can do with your story

When was the last time you told somebody about something God did for you? I know some people who are really good at sharing God’s work with others, whether they believe in God or not. I can certainly write about it all day long, but when it comes to talking about it, I don’t do so well. But when it comes to talking, I tend to clam up anyway.

Leader of El Chilar, a Kekchi Village that had never seen white people before we visited, Peten, Guatemala

Leader of El Chilar, a Kekchi Village that had never seen white people before we visited, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are 1 Chronicles 16:23-30.

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and joy fill his dwelling.
O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his presence.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

The Bible says over and over again that we need to talk about what God has done. We need to tell others. We need to tell the world. We need to shout it out at the top of our lungs. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons.

First off, how are people going to know what God has done if we don’t tell them? Yes, people can read the Bible. That’s one of the best ways to get to know who God is, but if all people know about God comes out of Scripture, will they believe He’s relevant today? I’m not saying Scripture isn’t relevant. Far from it. The Bible is the most relevant book in the world to modern times. But if my only knowledge and experience comes out of a book–living book or no–I’m not sure I would hold to it as dearly as I do. Because my experience with God, though its foundation is in Scripture, goes beyond what was written thousands of years ago and happens today.

I talked to God this morning. I asked Him for help for today. I asked Him to help me know what to write on this blog. And He answered. He’s not just the God of the Bible; He’s my God today, tomorrow, and far in the future. But if we don’t tell people that, they aren’t going to know. They’ll just assume all there is to God is in Scripture, but the testimony of God’s people is often what makes the difference.

Secondly, we need to tell others about what God is doing so we don’t forget.

We’re forgetful creatures. At least, I am. Maybe you’re better than me. I forget what God’s done all the time. He can answer a prayer of mine in the morning and by evening I’m wondering where He went and why He won’t talk to me.

I need to tell people about what God has done in my life, because the very act of telling means I won’t forget. Telling others helps me remember that God has never let me down, and He’s always been there for me. I’ve always been able to count on Him. I’ve always been able to trust Him. And if I’m not in the habit of telling people about Him, I run the risk that I will forget. And God doesn’t deserve that. Beyond that, if I get in the habit of forgetting God, I’ll be tempted to try to live my life without Him. And that’s not a life I want. That’s not a life that will make a difference or help people. That’s a life that will be about me and what I want.

So what if people don’t understand? So what if they look at you funny? And they will. But tell people about what God has done in your life. Share your story with them. You never know what God might do with your story. Sure, it’ll help you remember what He’s done for you, but it also might be just what the person you work with needs to hear to encourage them or to help them take that next step toward getting to know God better.