Stories…

It used to be that people who “told stories” were considered liars – folks who made up stories full of false facts to make them look better. Tall tales, folk lore, fishing stories about the one that got away…

Yet, more and more people are beginning to understand that we are all connected by stories. It is how we get to know people.

{Audio file of this sermon can be found here}

Think back to when you met someone new – say your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or maybe your best friend. What did you do? Did you sit next to each other and exchange resumes? Facts and figures about when they were born, where, what their skill set was, etc?

Boy, that would be a boring date!!

Most likely you sat there and told stories– stories about your favorite movie, the one you saw with your best friends who laughed so hard pop came out his nose… stories about that time when you were in high school and you played football….

Stories…they are the glue that hold us together as a community as a people.

When I first came to Sweet five years ago, I remember reading all the historical signs – looking at the pictures in the Syringa Hall – wandering through the cemeteries of Sweet and Ola looking at the epitaphs on the gravestones. I was trying to get a feel for this community – what was the history of this place? How did it come to be? How did it come to be the way it is? What was God doing in Sweet? And Where was He taking the people?

We live in a disconnected society where people are individuals without any roots. We don’t know where we come from or where we are going…  Yet, if you don’t know from where you’re going, then how would you know if you arrive? If you don’t know where you started – or were your parents, grandparents started – then you could accidentally stop short of the goal without knowing the sacrifices of those who went before you.

Today is a blessed day for I am honored to have my parents in the room. As many of you know, they recently moved here from Missouri at the leading of the Lord. They wanted to join with God in what He was doing in this valley – oh, and it helped that they had a cute grandson in the area. 🙂

I mention my father today because it is because of him that I am standing here today. He taught me to follow Jesus with my whole heart, soul, mind and spirit – he taught me to keep on walking with Jesus regardless of what the world or the evil one throws at you.

It is because of his encouragement that I went to college – shoot, the very college that I went to was because of a book he read by R.G. LeTourneau, a great man of God and an awesome engineer and dirt mover. I met Emily in college, got married – learned a TON about God and His mercy – moved to Idaho and then to Sweet…

Dad in turn stands on the shoulders of those who went before him. My grandfather who was unable to finish 5th grade due to economic reasons… my grandmother who learned how to burn the midnight oil in prayer from her mother, my great-grandmother, who served as a pastor for a small church in the Ozark Mountains…

It is because of these people that I am here – it is because of their faithfulness in following Jesus – their faithfulness in praying for their kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and great-great-grandkids.

Know this: God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. He keeps his covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe his commandments for a thousand generations. –Deut 7:7

I am blessed to have a long and rich history of God-followers… If I did not know that – if I did not know the stories of their sacrifices, of their hardships of raising a family in the rocky soil of the Ozarks – well, I would be a ship adrift without an anchor.

For example, when I get upset with all the home projects – with this or that breaking down – I stop and remember the small one-room log cabin my grandma was born and raised in.

Or there are the times when my physical body starts getting tired – like when I hiked across the Sawtooths a few years ago – or when I played football in high school – I would push on know that I am a Hopping. That my grandfather crawled back home after a tree fell on him in the back 40 – up and down a rocky hollow.

History. Stories.

We are all part of an ongoing story – the question is what story are we in? What story are you walking in? What story is motivating you – moving you forward when times are hard?  What story guides your choices?

God’s Story

God has a story.  As our “Experiencing God” study has been teaching us, God is always at work around us and He is inviting us to join Him in His work.
Imagine with me that someone discovered a lost Shakespeare play – it is wonderful, full of drama, passion and amazing insight into the human soul – this play is destined to be a classic on par with Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. There is only one problem… the last act is missing…

So what do you do?  You pull together the best Shakespearean actors and actress on the planet – the ones that know all of Shakespeare’s other plays – you give them all the acts that you have – the first four acts – you have them study them, to enter into the story – to learn and know the characters in the play – then you put on the play with the actors living out the last act within the theme and direction of the first four acts.

This is us – we are in the fifth act of God’s story.

We have the first four acts recorded in the Bible – shoot, we even have the first and last pages of Act 5! We just don’t have the pages in the middle… so what are we going to do? I way that we learn the first four acts with all our hearts, mind, soul, and spirit – let us enter into the God’s story with all that we are so that we can live out our part in the story in line with those who have gone before us – the cloud of witnesses as the author of the book of Hebrews says.

The sad thing is that a lot of us don’t really know the first four acts… we don’t know the grand story of what God is doing throughout the Bible.  We may know Bible stories – Noah and the ark, Moses and the Red Sea, David and Goliath, Jesus and the cross, Paul’s missionaries journeys – yet, do we know how they are connected? Do we know the theme and the focus of them all?

If we don’t know the metanarrative – the grand story of God, of the Bible – then it is easy to take these individual stories out of context – something we would not dream of doing for a single verse, yet something we do all the time with certain stories.

The Metanarrative Of The Bible

A month or so ago we talked about the worldview through which we see the Bible – the Kingship of Jesus who is establishing His rule and reign here on earth.  Otherwise known as the Kingdom of God – which was the primary message of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels.

This Kingdom Theology of Jesus is throughout the Bible – from Genesis to Revelations.  Everything in the Bible gives testimony to the fact that God is king and He is on a mission to redeem all of creation and all of humanity to Himself.

Furthermore, the Story of God – the grand story of God includes this simple statement:

I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.  -Leviticus 26:11-12

This to me is the primary mission or focus of God Almighty.  He seeks to put His dwelling place among us – so that He will be our God and we will be His people.

My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.  -Ezekiel 37:27

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  – Revelation 21:3

Beginning to end, God’s grand story is to be with us and to be our God – our King – as we are His people.

Other Stories

Only we don’t always join into this story….we buy into the lies of the evil one and to the culture around us….now that we know a little bit about God’s Story, I want to look at some of the other stories in our lives… I know this will be challenging…yet I believe that God wants to challenge us – He is pursuing us and inviting us to join Him in His story… only it will take a crisis of belief and some major adjustments in the way we live…yet it is worth every second! It is worth every tear and every breath as we get to be WITH the creator of Heaven and Earth!!

The primary story of the USA is the “American Dream”….the story prosperity and success…In 1999, Ted Ownby, a historian at the Univ. of Mississippi, defined the American Dream according to four sub-dreams :

  1. “Dream of Abundance,” offering a cornucopia of material goods to all Americans, making them proud to be the richest society on earth.
    1. This is the story that a lot of baby-boomers live in as they saw the results of their parents going through the great depression.
    2. They were not to be like their parents saving every little thing – they were going to make sure their kids were blessed and had a great childhood.
  2. “Dream of a Democracy of Goods,” whereby everyone had access to the same products regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, thereby challenging the aristocratic norms of the rest of the world whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury.
    1. Some folks are living in a story that has its roots in the 1960-70’s civil rights movement…
    2. Social justice for people of color, gender, social standing, access to economic wealth – rallies, the passion, the joy of changing the way the government works…
    3. Good things, but ones that can take the place of God
  3. “Dream of Freedom of Choice,” with its ever expanding variety of good allowed people to fashion their own particular life style.
    1. This is my generation’s story – it is all about me, I, forget anybody or anything else.
    2. As Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana said in his landmark song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”:
      1. “….here we are now entertain us”
  4. “Dream of Novelty, in which ever-changing fashions, new models, and unexpected new products broadened the consumer experience in terms of purchasing skills and awareness of the market, and challenged the conservatism of traditional society and culture, and even politics.
    1. He with the most toys win… bigger car, nicer house, more kitchen gadgets

Are you living the “America Dream”? Is your life controled and motivated by these dreams?

Or perhaps you are living in the “White Picket Fence” dream? The dream to have a nice house with a family, children, large house and peaceful living…

How about the “John Wayne Story”? The self-sufficient-me-against-the-world story….show no emotions, fight everyone and everything that gets into the way of being a success…. nothing else matters except your career, power, money – forget the family, the kids, church, community….

Here is a hard one…one that may get me into trouble….but it is one that must be stated.  “The Retirement Story”… you know the one, the one that motivates you to work hard while young so that you can retire, stop working and live a relaxing life full of time, fishing…time with one’s family is ignored during those young working days with the thought that one can be with them in retirement…

The sad thing about this story is that the concept of retirement was developed in the early 1900’s as way for the average person to live like royalty – it was a marketing ploy to get people to buy stocks, insurance and other financial projects… no other culture or civilization in the history of the world has their wiser, more skilled and experienced workers stop when they still have so much to give to the community.

God’s story, on the other hand, tells us that He uses people of all ages – Moses was 80, Abraham was 75 when he first heard from God and moved to Canaan – 100 years old when Isaac was born.

You see, if we don’t know the grand story of what God is doing throughout the Bible – what He is doing right now – then we can miss our part in the story and fall prey to one of the false stories.

Application:

We must change our perspective – we must come to a crisis of belief and make adjustments in the way we are living. Are we going to join God’s story – join with Him according to the first four acts of the Bible and live out the fifth act? Are we are going to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us? Or are we going to stop just short of the goal?

Starting today, we are going to start a seven month series of learning God’s Story and how we can be a part of it. We’ll be learning about ways that God has worked in and through people over millennia and this will increase our ability to see him working around us in similar ways.

  • May 22-July 17 – Genesis – creation & Patriarchs
  • July 24-Aug 21 – Exodus-Deuteronomy – Journey to Promised Land
  • Aug 28 – Job – Interlude
  • Sep 4-Oct 16 – Joshua-Chronicles – Nation of Israel
  • Oct 23-Dec 18 – Ezra-Malachi – Prophets, Exile, & Return
  • Dec 25-Jan 8 – Jesus’ Birth, Life, Death & Resurrection
  • Jan 15-29 – The church & our part in the story

Parents, please note that the children will be going through this story with us. There will be times when Emily and I are slightly off – but for the most part, the kids will be learning the same thing we will be learning in here. So please, I implore you, talk to your children after church about this story and how your whole family can join into God’s Story.

Speaking of which, if any of you have any questions about the Bible – why this book is in the Bible…the meaning of this passage, etc. – I invite you to write it down and drop it into the offering box – or give it to me.  I will try to respond to them as we walk through the Bible together…

I would like to highlight some resources that will help all of us as we walk this path.

  • The Drama of the Scriptures: Finding our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen – this book is a great introductory to God’s Story. Written in prose, it is an easy read that allows anyone to get the big picture. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it felt a tad weak in the Old Testament…but the inter-testament period and the New Testament changes were amazing. Defiantly a great read – and at $15.00, it is fairly affordable.
  • God’s Epic Adventure: Changing Our Culture by the Story We Live and Tell by Winn Griffin – This is the book that I am drawing off of the most. Winn Griffin is a double doctorate in biblical studies and leadership in the emerging culture – a very sharp gentlemen and a longtime member of the Vineyard movement.  This book is designed as a workbook with plenty of spaces in the margins to write notes – he also defines all the theological words and terms  – gives the background and history of each book of the Bible… It is PACKED with information! However, at $30 it is a tad more expensive…but then again, you pay for what you get.
  • NothinsGonnaStopIt! The Storyline of the Bible: One God, One Plan, One Story by Bill Jackson – Bill is also a Vineyard leader and pastor. This book comes out of a workshop/seminar that he has been doing around the country and the world for the past 18-years. I just got this book two week ago while I was in Phoenix at the National Conference, so I have not had a chance to completely read it…but I can tell you from that part I have read it is another information packed book. And at $20 it is a good buy.
    • The cool part about this book is that Bill has recorded everything on four DVDs. It is a seven hour journey through the entire Bible… so if you want to get a head start on us, you are welcome to borrow this copy of the DVDs and watch them…
  • The Mission of God by Christopher Wright – this is for you scholars out there.  Wright traces the mission of God – to redeem all of creation and humanity to Himself – throughout the Bible.  This one book connected more pieces of the puzzle for me than any other book – shoot, it made me WANT to go back and read Leviticus!! Only be warned, this book can get tough….but if you already have a good biblical foundation and you want to go deeper, this would be your book. Besides, it is currently on sale at Amazon – $26.00 instead of $40.00.
Conclusion

I am very, very excited about this new series! I know that God is going to do something amazing as we all learn how to join into God’s Story.

I am praying that our eyes and ears will be open – that we will see God in a new light – that we will see His hand at work around us like we have never seen before.

We GET to join with God – it is like my little boy, Jadon, no matter what I am doing – whether it is typing on a computer, putting my shoes on, getting a drink of water – no matter what it is, he wants to be there with me – helping me with what I’m doing.

This is how we need to be – we need to have that same joy at getting the chance to BE with God and to work WITH Him as He redeems all of creation to Himself. We get to help bring Heaven down to Earth – we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

How cool it that?

You can’t get a better story – a better life than to live with – to live side by side with the Person who made heaven and earth!

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