Don’t forget who the story is really about

When I’m writing a story, sometimes I get lost in it. I’m not sure how other people do it, but when I write, I’m really just watching a story unfold and committing the events and dialog to paper. Sometimes I don’t even know how it’s going to end. There are stories I’ve written where all my attention has been focused on what a character looks like or what a character says or what happens next in the story, and those are all important things to know. But it’s in those moments when I get so caught up in the details that I forget the point.

Some people will say that character is the most important part of a story. Others believe it’s plot–the chain of events that unfolds in a book. But I disagree with both of those. They’re important, yes, but not the most important. The most important part of a story is the message. Every story has a message, a lesson to learn, a point to communicate. And if you get so tied up in the characters and the voices and the settings and all the million little picky details, you run the risk of letting the message slip through your fingers.

Today’s verses are Matthew 17:1-8.

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

Put yourself in the shoes of Jesus’ inner circle–Peter, James, and John. The original three amigos. Can you even begin to imagine what they saw that night? In the blink of an eye, the veil covering Jesus’ earthly form pulled back, allowing them to see a piece of who He is. And if that weren’t enough, two legends from Jewish history decided to stop by for a visit.

Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah! My gosh, you don’t even have to know the Bible very well to know who Moses is. And Elijah may not be as familiar to you as Moses, but he’s the guy who called down fire on Mt. Caramel. These guys are heavy hitters. And their bodies had long since returned to dust.

So you can’t exactly blame Peter. I would have been excited too. Moses and Elijah! But Peter missed the point. Just like we do so often.

We take Jesus for granted because He’s always around. His name is everywhere, and we get used to Him, sort of like Peter did. Yeah, Jesus is a big deal, but He was always with them. Seeing two Old Testament prophets wandering around like they hadn’t been “dead” for a thousand years? Now that was something to write home about.

But God set Peter straight. The story isn’t about Moses. And it’s not about Elijah. The story is about Jesus, and it always has been. From before time began and long after time runs out, the story will forever and always be about Jesus. He’s the message. He’s the point.

Have you started to take Jesus for granted in your life? Are you more excited about something God is doing rather than the fact God is the one doing it? Take a step back. Take a moment to think about what actually matters.

It’s great to celebrate the details. It’s wonderful to focus on specific aspects of a job or a relationship or, like in my case, a novel. But don’t let those details get so big that they overshadow what really matters. Don’t forget who the story is really about.

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Waves crashing on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Stand firm … on what?

There’s a lot of really bad stuff going on in our world right now. I don’t need to go into detail; most likely, you can come up with a dozen really bad things just off the top of your head without checking the news. Now more than ever is the time when followers of Christ need to stand firm in what we believe. But what truly has me concerned is that the more believers I meet, the more I’m beginning to realize that believers don’t really know what to believe.

I’ve spoken with many people who have chosen to follow Christ, and that’s awesome. That simple choice is the most important, and if it’s a true choice, a real decision, that’s what matters. But making that choice is the easy part; living it afterward is what’s difficult. And I’m not sure if people understand that. No, living it isn’t required, but if you aren’t, you’ll be miserable.

And when I talk to people who say they believe, they don’t seem to understand where to go to find what they’re supposed to believe. That’s because we’ve all grown up in a world that tells us the Bible isn’t relevant. We live in a culture that glorifies everything God says is wrong. So no wonder people are confused. I’ve talked to so many Christians who don’t read the Bible because they don’t understand it or because they think it’s boring.

But here’s the deal, believers, the Bible is where we get our answers. If you say you follow Christ but don’t believe the Bible, what exactly do you believe in?

 

Waves crashing on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Waves crashing on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 10:11-12.

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

It amazes me that Christians can claim Christ in one breath and in the next state a belief that completely contradicts Scripture. I fully believe that someone can be a Christian without understanding what the Bible says. The Bible itself talks about the difference between new believers and mature believers. New believers aren’t expected to know everything all at once; living like a Christ is a process that won’t be complete until we get home.

But many of these people who say they follow Christ and then live exactly opposite have been professing Christians for years. Years upon years. And I can’t say whether their profession is true or not. That’s not my place, and that’s not my purpose. That’s between them and God. I have nothing to say about it.

But I can remark on the lifestyles they choose and the philosophies they accept based on what Scripture says a Christians’s life should look like. And all I can say is that it’s no wonder our culture is rotting from the inside out. Because if Christians refuse to stand for what the Bible says is right, where is the light going to come from?

The trouble is, Christians don’t know what the Bible says. They are swayed by popular opinion and near-sighted, humanist philosophy. Why not? Without Scripture, everything sounds reasonable. Doesn’t it?

Today’s verses were written to the Church at Corinth. You think your church has issues? You should study the Corinthians. What a mess!

Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had harsh, true things to say to them. Reading through it this morning, it sounds like something the Church of America needs to hear:

1 Corinthians 10:1-12

I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.

Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snake bites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

All Scripture is relevant to our culture, even the stories out of the Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi). It just has truth in it that people (especially Christians) don’t want to hear.

We aren’t the first believers. We aren’t the first people to follow God. Other people groups have chosen to follow Christ, but there were people among them who didn’t take it seriously, who wanted their own way in spite of what God said was right. And those people paid for it, along with the rest of their countrymen.

So today, in our shifting, uncertain culture where everyone just does what feels good, be sure you know what you believe. And if you’re sure you know what you believe, test it. Find out where it came from. Know the source. Don’t just accept it because the news told you so or because your pastor told you so or because your teachers told you so. And if the source is true, stand on it.

The Bible was never intended to be a showpiece, gathering dust on the living room coffee table. But somehow we put it there, and many of us haven’t picked it up again. Well, it’s time. Start reading. And if you don’t get it, if you don’t understand, pray about it. You’ll be shocked what God will show you if you just ask.