Have you ever wondered about the significance of Simon carrying Jesus’s cross to the place of his execution? As you think about Jesus’ and his sacrifice this Good Friday, take a few minutes to listen to these reflections from John Piper:
I always felt like something was wrong…
What’s your story? I always felt like something was wrong with church. I thought, maybe, it was the architecture or the music. It took me until I was almost 30 years old to realize it was much more fundamental than that.
How can I make God happy?
In the midst of all the love I had been shown and the Jesus I had come to know, I hadn’t really wrapped my head around what God did for us. I’m not sure what I had been taught, but what I had heard was a familiar message: God loves you, but he loves you a whole lot more when you obey him better. Sometime after I finished my master’s degree at
So, what has God really done for us? What little bit of good can I do to make God like me when I fall so short? And, if God loves me even when I mess up, who am I to judge others when they do?
I can’t feel superior anymore…
So, I guess I can’t feel superior anymore. But, what I can feel is loved because Jesus received all the punishment for all the sin of everyone who believes. When God looks at me, he doesn’t see my sin, he sees Jesus’ righteousness. And, the work was completed 2000 years ago when Jesus told us from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), so I am no less forgiven for the sin I will commit tomorrow than the sin I committed before I trusted in Christ. All the wrath of God was poured out for that sin on the day Jesus died, and it will never be held against me. Ever. And God freely gave me that forgiveness because there was nothing I could ever do to earn it. Just because decided to.
That’s what grace is. That’s what church used to be missing for me. Now, every time I read the Bible, I read about a God who loves people so much
To the ends of the earth… coming soon.
What about your story?
How has grace shaped your story?
Have you found grace, or are you still trying to make God like you?
How has grace changed the way you think about the way God thinks of you and the way you think of others?
I thought it would be a good idea to take a post here in the middle of my story to help you think about how to tell
Where to begin your story
You saw in my first “What’s your story?” post I started my story at the beginning. When in doubt, that’s a good place to start — at least that’s what Maria Von Trapp taught us, right? I started with the moment in mind when I trusted in Christ since that’s the heart of the first chapter of my story. It’s funny, though, because that’s not really the heart of my story. 35 years later, God has worked in huge ways since then to bring me to where I am today.
Let tension build
The second chapter of my story started with Junior High. That was where things got complicated for me. I learned about hurt, sin and brokenness. While eternity hangs on the moment we trusted in Jesus, most of us haven’t lived happily ever after since that day. Sometimes, Christians, we oversimplify our stories making it sound like it’s been smooth sailing since trusting in Christ. Like we haven’t struggled with addictions or sin or relationships or questions. That’s one of the things on the long list of frustrations most people have with us. We act like life’s been hunky-dory since salvation. It’s really been one mess after another. The difference for us, believers, is that we know the God who loves us has it all under control. When we find ourselves in the pit, he picks us up (Psalm 40 — the psalmist and Bono).
If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ve seen hope. In every challenge I’ve faced, God has provided a person or an insight to move me to the next place in my journey. That’s what hope is about: being able to move forward knowing this is not the end. In Christ, we always know there will be a next step. We have a place in God’s plan, and Jesus is our constant companion on this journey. We also know our destination. One day the story of our redemption that began at the cross and manifest itself in our faith will conclude with our arrival in the full expression of God’s kingdom. Forever. That, my friends, is what hope looks like.
Leave some questions unanswered
We know the story is not buttoned up yet. We all still have questions about what God is up to. It can be a struggle to understand how God can allow all the broken things in our world. There are moments when eternity seems so far away. When we give simple answers to the hard questions, our childlike trust in our Heavenly Father can be perceived as pollyannaish naivete. Life is just hard sometimes. While we know we can trust our God to care for us, we don’t know why he does all the things he does. We can be honest about that. People appreciate it when we acknowledge that our world is broken, and that breaks us sometimes.
But, please, tell your story
Over the next
I believe God has done every bit as great a work in your life as he has in mine. You have a great story to tell about finding hope in Christ through all of life’s challenges. And, people need to hear your story. Nope, your story won’t save anyone. Only Jesus’ story does that. But, your story is the 21st Century confession that Jesus’ story still works. So, please tell your story.
Because your story matters
And, if your story hasn’t found the hope of Christ yet, it still matters because you matter. As Matt Whitman pointed out a
The God of the universe doesn’t work in terms of “kind of.” He created all the universe to display all his glory. He sent his only Son to give all his life to show us he completely loves us. So, he demands all of your heart and my heart. That’s a lot to ask, but he will not disappoint.
If you have questions about telling your story or you want to share your story, send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to hear from you.
Then, Junior High happened…
What’s your story? The second chapter of my story begins in Junior High. As loved and accepted as I felt in my early years, everything changed somewhere between 6th and 8th grade. I guess that’s probably the case for most of us.
What is it that changes as we enter the pre-teen and teenage years? In a word: PUBERTY. Some of us remember it well. Some of us lock Junior High memories deep in some dungeon of our psyche we hope never again sees the light of day. OK, that’s a little dramatic but, seriously, if there are two or three years of our lives we would never go back to for all the money in the world, they usually happened between about 11 and 14 years old.
Not only does puberty unleash hormones that make every day feel like the best and worst day of our lives. We also begin to traverse new needs and desires that expose us to dark places we never before knew existed. My dark place was, in a word: abandoned.
I don’t know why I felt abandoned, exactly. I think it’s just the way I interpreted the things that happen as my social world changed. Sure, my parents still loved me, but they had to, right? It didn’t help that I was big. Really big. That made me the target of something in the neighborhood of bullying. It didn’t help that if you put an “F” in front of my name it conveniently became “Fatwell.” Wow. That hurt just now as I typed it.
I felt alone. It broke me. I not only felt unloved. I also felt unloveable. Weird for a white kid in the suburbs with a solid family, right? Probably so, but that didn’t make it any less real.
Then, there was my youth pastor…
Then, there was my youth pastor. Every week when I showed up to church, he showed me he cared about me. He didn’t reject me. The nickname, “Fatwell,” never escaped his lips. I know that doesn’t sound like much thirty years later, but it changed me.
There was a day in eighth grade. I had run to sin to make me feel better. (Don’t ask. None of your business.) My abandonment was compounded by guilt. That day I realized my youth pastor’s love and acceptance for me must come from Jesus. I decided that day to quit feeling abandoned and guilty. It was time for my little-kid faith to grow up — to quit being victimized by the dark places inside myself and start following Jesus.
As I committed my life to Christ in an every-day kind of way, I realized he had become my constant companion. Prayer began to be a continual conversation between my Savior and me. I realized I would never be abandoned because he would never leave me, nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). I became hungry to read the Bible. Those were his words, and he meant them for me. He was the one who would deliver me from the dark places inside myself.
My whole life became about Jesus. I’m pretty sure my friends got tired of hearing how he tied into every part of life. It was like I had become some kind of philosopher-monk who saw every relationship and circumstance as a neon sign pointing to the incredible reality of a God who loves us and wants us to know him.
But, there was still tension…
But, there was still tension. There were some hurt, fears
GRACE. That’s the title of Chapter 3…
What about your story?
When did your story change? How did it begin to grow up when you faced adversity?
Did you find maturity? Who was there to guide you as you looked for more from your faith?
Did you find God in your dark places? Did faith in Jesus become following Jesus?
I would love to hear your story! Tell me about it in the comments, or send me an email at email@example.com. Or, better yet, make a video and post it to YouTube or Facebook to tell us your story.
Check out Part 1 of my story on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Or7UurZ4Tgc
Share your story in the comments, via email or with your own video!
Part 2 coming soon.
When it comes to God, your story matters.
My story begins…
My story begins at church. I remember crawling around a toddler Sunday School class in my cowboy boots in Columbus, Ohio. Those are good memories. They are about friends and adults who cared about me and about Bible stories. I learned about Noah and his boat full of animals, Moses parting the Red Sea, Joseph and his coat of many colors, King David and Elijah who prayed for God to send fire down from heaven. All of these stories were about God’s greatness, and I learned them in an environment of genuine love and compassion.
Then, there was sin. That’s the dark part of life. The brokenness of being human. When you grow up around church you don’t mind talking about it, though. It starts as something like a news headline: “King David disobeyed God.” Then, over the years it becomes more personal. I remember one Sunday in 1984 when as an eight-year-old it became real to me. As I sat next to my dad listening to our pastor teach, I realized that I had sinned. That day everything changed. I realized sin is a personal thing. I realized I would face God’s wrath for my sin unless I trusted in Jesus.
That’s when the rubber hit the road. All those stories I had been taught by all those caring adults converged
The following Sunday I decided it was time. At the end of the church service, I walked to the front of the church. One of the pastors led me in a prayer to tell God I was ready to trust in Jesus. And, everything changed for me.
Then, junior high happened, but that’s the next chapter…
What about your story?
Where did your story begin? Who started it with you?
How did you begin to think about God? Who was a part of that chapter of your life?
Where did your story intersect with God? Did you decide to trust in him? Why or why not?