In an effort to convey truth to me it appears that that God often uses several books, venues and persons simultaneously to impart one reality. Maybe I’m a little slow…or stubborn.
For instance, in January my favorite pastor 😉 began a series of messages utilizing The Story by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee. The primary theme that runs through it is God’s Upper story versus our Lower story or God’s grand story that utilizes our smaller stories in mysterious and loving ways ultimately for His renown.
I’m also reading the book and leading a study with some friends using How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp. This book addresses what it means to be progressively changed, first in our heart and second in our behavior to be more Christlike to the glory of God. It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it.
Now while I’m hearing, reading and studying all this excellent material daily life is still happening. In the meantime, the “Gospel gap” as a Lane and Tripp call it, the distance between what we believe the Bible teaches and how we live our lives is becoming more obvious to me. After-all, there’s a difference between enlightenment (Oh, I understand) and execution (Yes, that is my practice.)
Let me remind you that I live in one of the top ten wealthiest nations in the world, complete with personal and religious freedom. I was brought up in a Christian family, I have gone to church all my life and have been exposed to the best in theology and Biblical exposition at one time or another. Serious advantage. I have never suffered for my faith, never been asked to renounce my faith or deny Jesus. My Jewish boss allows me to hold a Christian based Bible study at our orthodontic office after hours. I have it MADE as a Christian. So, what is the problem?
The problem is ME. Instead of allowing Jesus to quickly transform me into this living loving example of God’s grace that draws others to Him, I have this tendency to get sucked into my itty bitty story. God has a grand and glorious story that He is telling. It is called REDEMPTION and GLORY. In the beginning He created the Heavens and the Earth….you know what follows. Adam and that woman Eve who instead of obeying God, thought she’d rather be a “know it all”, except she didn’t realize that knowing it all would not be a good thing and it definitely turned out to be a devastating thing. God in His grace and goodness had already planned a rescue though, enter Jesus. He made a way through His own suffering and death to redeem us and transform us to be like Him and bring God glory.
Here is the disconnect. I want to be a part of God’s grand story and still be safe and comfortable. I don’t mind reflecting Christ’s love as long as I can plan who, what, when and where. There are some loving acts that would make me feel uncomfortable, like stopping to help a homeless person. I’ve helped the homeless on occasion with a group of friends, but not by myself. That’s uncomfortable. Or walking into a strip club like several godly women I know do to take gifts and share the love of Jesus with the ladies who dance. These places are seedy and more than a little creepy. I don’t know if I can go creepy for Jesus. I don’t mind giving as long as it doesn’t infringe on my lifestyle too much, like not being able to go out to eat for an entire month. I want to give and eat out. Or moving out of my house into something smaller or into an undesirable neighborhood…or country. Before I tackle any big ways I could dare to be a part of God’s grander story of rescue and redemption, how about the little ones?
There are characteristics that should naturally grow as a result of my relationship with the one true living God…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Once again, I can be kind…if I have enough time, but if I’m running late and I’ve already been waiting in line at the grocery store for 10 minutes and you come up behind me with four items, I’m probably not going to be kind enough to let you go first. After all, I’ve been standing there f o r e v e r! Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! Or if I’m on my way out to grab lunch and run an errand for work and two other employees ask as I’m heading out the door to pick them up something and I don’t even know yet where I’m going to get my food. My itty bitty storyline today is relax and enjoy your lunch, don’t worry about those other people they can fend for themselves. I have limited time for lunch, please do not bother me. My small story only has room for me getting my itty bitty lunch.😁
This happens even on the home front with the people I say I love most in the world. You want dinner, ok …but you better be appropriately grateful I cooked. To be on the safe side, make sure you offer to help clean up. My itty bitty story has great expectations of others. I could give hundreds of illustrations from kids not picking up their stuff and the resulting impatience to a poor pitiful me attitude when a special occasion is overlooked.
These occurrences seem so petty in print because they are. They are all about me. It is a dead end, because sin and selfishness doesn’t bring us the life God created us for. The storyline is too small.
In any great storyline, such as Lord of the Rings, you have good and evil battling it out. The stakes are always high, but often it is the smaller decisions, that lead up to the the grand finale where all is won or lost. You watch and hope that Frodo Baggins presses on despite great fear and danger. You are grateful he has Samwise as his true and loyal friend. And every character that choses the high road of faithfulness and bravery in the fight against evil you cheer on praying they won’t succumb to their own individual smaller story. You want them to see how everything counts. You want them to understand how their smaller story, no matter how good could never compare to this epic story.
I want to understand that. No, I understand it. I want to live it!
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in a Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (Revelation 6:1-2 NIV)
Jesus, give me eyes to see and a heart that desires to be a part of your grand story.