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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Steven's Studio beachhouse - Galveston, TX

Building on stilts

Let me introduce you to my temporary home for a few days: a beach house called Steven’s Studio. It’s one of three (www.3beachhouses.com) built by parents to support their children in college, and they’re all really cute, roomy enough for four people, close to the beach, and relatively inexpensive.

But let me tell you one of the interesting things about Steven’s Studio: it rocks. It’s fairly unsteady. When you’re up on the top floor, you can tell when someone is coming up the stairs outside. You can tell when people get out of bed downstairs. The whole house just moves. And I’m not sure if it was built to be that way or if beach houses with multiple stories always sway. I just know it’s a tad disconcerting.

Steven's Studio beachhouse - Galveston, TX

Steven’s Studio beach house – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 7:24-27.“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

This is a story Jesus told, and it’s one of the more famous ones so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard it before.

It’s a commonly held fact that if you don’t build a house on a solid foundation, your house isn’t going to be able to withstand the storms that blow through. That’s a fact we know in Kansas very well. But I have a sinking suspicion people on Galveston Island know it too. When Hurricane Ike blasted through Galveston in 2009, it did ridiculous amounts of damage to the coastal areas. And beach houses, though built to be sturdy, weren’t able to stand up to the winds.

Granted, beach houses aren’t really built to withstand immense winds. They’re houses on stilts after all. But how many times do we build our lives like a beach house?

When it comes to building a life, we really have two choices on where to break ground. We can either choose to live our lives based on Scripture and scriptural principles … or we can choose not to. It’s the difference between the rock and the sand. One is solid; one is shifting. One will allow a building to withstand a strong storm; the other won’t.

Yes, sand has its place and its uses, but it’s not good as a foundation because it doesn’t have any consistency. Foundations need to be solid, unmoving, unyielding as a rule.

The Bible tells us what is right and what is wrong. It tells us how to please God, how to live, how to treat others, how to look at ourselves. It offers an answer to every question, a hope for every despair, a promise for every day. In a world of shifting values and inconsistent people, the Bible is a rock.

It’s good to look into the future sometimes because storms are a part of life, and it’s good to be ready for them. So if you build a life knowing that storms are coming, you’ll build on a solid foundation.

But if you build your life on culture or on our world’s perspective of right and wrong or on socially acceptable values, when the difficult moments of life come at you, you won’t have anywhere to turn. Because all of those things, although they may have some virtue on their own, change with the tides. And you’ll end up like our beach house–swaying with the wind, shifting with the motion of its occupants, unsteady even on still days. And that’s no way to live