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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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.