My Story

This is the rough draft of part 1 of Pastor Steve’s message from the series, '“My Story” from March 24th, 2019. You can also watch the message. We hope you find this helpful as you pursue your next steps in Christ.

“If you think about it for just a moment, we have a lot of numbers associated with our names, don’t we?  We have social security numbers, employees numbers, and student id numbers. We have numbers attached to our address, our bank accounts and even on our license plates.  We are even expected to know our phone numbers, which a lot of us don’t. We just touch it on the screen. How about passwords? How many people have to reset their passwords all the time because they forget?  Yes, lots of you. It’s hard because you are expected to remember many passwords with letters, special characters, and numbers. So, we just hit reset password!

Then, how many of us have walked into a place and they refer to you not by your name, but by your number.  It happens at the deli. You grab a number from the number thingy. You are number 42. They call your number out, “number 42” and you go up and get your cheese.  How about at the DMV? Based on what you have to do at the DMV you are given a letter and a number. So, you sit and look at your ticket and the screens. Then that automated voice comes up.  “Now serving B-491. Please come to window 5.” Then if you didn’t hear your number, a frustrated employee shouts, “B-491. Is B-491 here?” And you realize that’s you.

If we are not careful, with all of these numbers in our lives, we can tend to forget who we are.  Our name and our story get lost a bit in all of the numbers. If we work in an industry where our job is numbers, it’s pretty easy to begin to look at people as numbers and clients rather than names and stories.  It’s pretty easy as a student to lose your identity in numbers too. The number that is on our jersey or the number that is your GPA. Those numbers can by us or by others, can overshadow our names. Our stories.  Our identity.

Today, we are starting a new series called, “My Story.”  And the idea behind this series is that every single one of us are more than a number.   No matter what culture throws at us. No matter the challenges we face. No matter the hurts we carry, we are far more than a number.  More than a statistic More than a pin # The primary idea beyond this series is this; “Every person has a name.  Every name has a story.”  You have a story that is important and that has purpose behind it.  In time, you story needs to be told. The challenge is that we cannot fully live out that story unless we invite Christ into every page and ever chapter.  We must recognize that Jesus Christ is the ultimate author of our story. .

So, what does that mean?  What is significant about my story? Let me give you 2-3 foundational ideas.  God personally knows me and my name.  I want to establish the fact today, that no matter what you feel about God or about yourself, that God personally knows you.  He knows your name. This is how Psalms paints that picture.

“‘God. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.  You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.  I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going.’” Psalms 139:2-5 (MSG)

Did we see how much God knows us?  God knows your thoughts. God knows when you come and go.  He knows what you are going to say even before the words reach the tip of your tongue.  That is very personal.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?  To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!   Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!  Psalms 139:7-11 (MSG)

There is nowhere we can go where God doesn't see us.  Where God doesn’t know us. Even when we attempt to hide in darkness or pull away from God, he knows.  He’s there in the middle of our life story.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. Body and soul, I am marvelously made! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;  You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you,  The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)

Before you were ever born, God knew your name.  God had a plan for your life. While you were in your mother's womb, God valued you. God valued your life.  God knew you and has a life story for you. Very, very, powerful!

Before we go any further today, this is something I believe is key for us to know.  It all starts with God.  Your name.  Your purpose.  Your plan. To truly move through this life as more than a number, you have to come to the realization that your identity is rooted in God.  So, if you are newer to faith in Christ, hear me on this. You are not a mistake. You are not a joke. You are not a waste. You have purpose.  You have direction. You are personally known by your creator. Knowing and embracing that truth is critical in your decisions and for your future.  

And today Jesus follower, this applies to you too.  Maybe you know this truth but it’s faded a bit in your soul?  Maybe you just need to hear it again? You have read that scripture and you believe it, but life lately has been tough on you.  It's beaten down that sense of purpose. It’s whittled away at your sense of value. So Christ follower, if you are stuck, hear this truth again.  “God has given you a great name.  God has given you a great story.”   Do you really believe that?   Before we move forward today, can we just personalize that?  Can we state it out loud together? Read it with me. “God has given me a great name.  God has given me a great story.”   Those are powerful and truthful words we need to hear.  Behind your name and your story is a great God!

A second thought for today.  My name and my story have been marred.   We know this.  We have all messed up our story.  That is the tension we all feel. We know that we have made choices that are not good.  Not wise. That have hurt others and hurt ourselves. It happened 22 years ago or 22 days ago.  And as a result, we have some messed up pages and chapters in our life story. Right? Let’s look at Jesus’ own words on this subject.  .

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world.”  John 3:19

That word “light” is a reference to Christ.  He is light. He is the standard for what is right.  He came and has made it clear how to live out our stories and purpose.  

...but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  John 3:19

People, that’s us.   And we people, on some level, prefer darkness.  My way over God’s way. My version of truth over God’s.  There is a darkness that lives in us. Scripture calls it sin.  Uncomfortable but true. That sin and that darkness marrs our story.  Jesus even calls it evil. Ouch! We don’t like that word certainly if it’s mentioned in the same sentence as our name.  Why? Because when we think of evil, we think of the Adolf Hitlers and the Jeffrey Dahmer’s. Their stories were dark and evil.  Not mine. But Jesus calls us that. Why? Evil lives in us.

You know what one of the most frustrating things is as a parent?  It’s trying to sit down and watch a show with your kids where you don’t have to cringe.   Where you don’t have to fast forward it to get through an awkward scene that doesn't need to be in the show.  Fortunately today there are all kinds of high tech streaming filtering systems have helped us and that have cut some of those things out, but it’s still a challenge.  

I think one of the things that make it challenging in the movie rating system.  Do any of you fully understand it? I don’t. We can be watching a PG-13 movie and all of a sudden someone drops the F word.  Or two of them. Or three. What? And you think, come on. That’s cool for a 13-year-old to hear? That’s not needed in the story.   Or, you are watching a family PG movie and someone throws in a sexual innuendo in there. Come on, now I have to explain that. When that happens, you know what it does?  It marrs the movie. It messes up our family time. Even the slightest innuendo or expletives, it may not seem evil, but it impacts the story. Our family night.

I remember years and years ago when we first had a party at our church for the Superbowl.  Up to that point, the Super Bowl commercials and halftime shows were pretty family friendly.  Lots have changed. But this year, that was the year that Victoria’s Secret decided to do their new launch of the angles campaign.  Trust me, if you don’t know what that is, don’t go home and google it. Trust me. It’s not family friendly.

So, the room is with kids and teens and families.  All of a sudden, there was a timeout in the game and plastered on the big screen were women in their lingerie and of course, their angel wings.  If you wear angel wings I guess it makes it better? So, 2-3 of us start running towards the projector to put the cap on it. It seemed like we were all running there but it was slow motion as in one the movies.  “No!” We get there and grab the cap, and one of us drops it. Again in slow mo, “no!” Ah man! Embarrassing. Next year, we were much more alert let’s just say! It was a great Super Bowl but the commercials really tainted the night.

Here is the connection.  I have a name and I have a story.  You have a name and you have a story.  But too often, our stories and our names have been tainted by what?  By the darkness, we have allowed into our lives. I have never heard a person say they were proud of those moments no matter how small or big.  “Man, I nailed it when I was angry. Wow, I was so spot on with my lust today. It’s crazy, but I hit a homerun today with control.” We never say that.  We think, ‘ah man, why did I do that? Again? We know instinctively, whether that darkness was a commercial break or that darkness has dominated chapters of our story, it affects our name.  It doesn’t belong in our story but there it is on page 13. There it is in chapter 68. That darkness taints our story. Jesus continues.

Everyone who does evil hates the light...John 3:20

Seem like a strong statement Jesus.  “Come on! I don’t hate God. I don’t hate what is right.”  And maybe that is true? What Jesus is trying to show us is that  light and dark can’t coexist. They cannot occupy the same pages of our story.  They cannot occupy the same heart. Jesus is showing us that our sinful actions, whether we know it or not, it’s like hating what is right.  Our darkness is so dark next to God’s holiness, that it’s like hatred.

They will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  John 3:20

Jesus says the beginning of the redemption of our story starts when we own our deeds.  When we call darkness what it is. When we call an R rating an R rating. Honestly, if we go back to Psalm 139, God already knows.  He knows our name, our story and our darkness. There is no way we can hide it. So what is it that gets in the way of us exposing the darkness of our story?  The middle of the verse says it; FEAR!

In the movie Hunger Games, there was this annual battle between the different districts.  Each district would provide 2 warriors to battle in the Hunger Games. An no one wanted their name called.  Take a look.

No one wanted their name called.  No one wanted to be exposed in that moment.  Why? Fear! Because most people who had their names called and went into that game would die.  The games would expose their weaknesses. Now, it’s just a movie, but isn’t there a thread of truth in that for us?  We are not going into a death match, but one of the biggest reasons why we don’t step into the light is fear. Fear of  being exposed. Fear of others seeing the real us. Fear of others seeing our weaknesses. Fear impedes us on so many levels.  

Is it possible one of the things that holds us back from fully understanding God’s purpose for us is fear?  Fearful what people will think. Fearful that people will reject us. Fearful that there is no one else with my issues.  Jesus followers, I think this is one of the greatest reasons why unchurched people struggle with coming to church. Why they struggle with Christians sometimes, is fear of how we will respond.  There is a fear that if they are honest and authentic, that they will be thrown under the bus. And that’s not the way of Christ.

So, as they are afraid to step into what is right, we meet them with our pride.  How? Sometimes, there are pockets of Christians act like they have no issues. Like there is no darkness is us.  And in turn, that persona is worn like a badge of maturity. Can I just say it out loud? That is NOT a mark of spiritual maturity  In fact, that’s that’s a sign of spiritual immaturity. It’s arrogance. Even Jesus calls it hypocrisy. I want you to know that if you struggle with the darkness in your story, that we all do.  That is why we need the grace of Christ.

There is another layer to pride.  Pride says my darkness isn’t as bad as your darkness.  I’m living my PG-13 life and they are wow, way beyond that.  That’s pride! We think, I only drink when I need it. When I need to take the edge off.  They, they are a stupid drunk.” Or maybe we say this. “I don’t lie that much. I’m mostly truthful.  I only bend the truth to get out of a tough situation. My deception is not like hers. Did you see what she did to her husband?”   Pride compares shades of darkness instead of calling darkness, darkness. God doesn’t look at shades. God looks at our lives being filled with darkness or being filled with light.

So, where does that leave us?  What do we do? Here is some hope.  My story and my name can be redeemed.  No matter what you’ve done or where you been, your story’s best chapters are still ahead of you.  I believe that with all of my heart! Whether you are a student or semi-retired, God’s plans for you are still very big.  God’s purpose for you is still being written. He can take what you and I have jacked up and he can work good out of it.

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, John 3:21  

We can experience the greatest chapters of our stories when we walk out of the shadows and into the light of Christ.  By knowing his truth. By living by his truth. What truth? That truth that admits that I live in and I have tendencies towards darkness.   The truth that admits that my best chapter lie in a daily relationship with Christ.

“My name and my story finds redemption when I walk in the light of Christ.”  

This is going to seem like a weird question coming out of that passage, but I’m going to ask it anyways.  How many of you hate cockroaches? Looks like lots of people. Everyone in my family hates them. So, I take advantage of that.  I think they are gross, but they don’t freak me out. When we find a cockroach and it gets killed, I’ve been known to pick up that cockroach and taunt my family.  Oh yeah. I have seen them all freak out. But, the best reaction of all is my daughter Ellie. She will run! I can literally pick up that dead cockroach and chase after her.  I have never seen that girl run so fast. One day I grabbed one and she was out of the house, down the driveway and at the stop sign a half a block away before I could get close.  It’s hilarious.

Next question.  Where do cockroaches tend to live?  In the darkness. How do you get rid of them?  Yes, you kill them! But beyond that, if you want to find them, what do you do?  You turn on a light. When they are dragged into the light, they scatter. On my first missions trip ever I was in Moscow.  We checked into this big, what looked like a relatively clean hotel. OK, not as bad as I thought it would be. We start getting ready for bed and no one is going for the light.  Everyone is settling in. They are wearing these eye cover things. My logical question is why are they wearing those? And then my next question was, ‘why won’t anyone turn off the lights?’

So, I ask.  ‘Guys, what’s with not turning off the lights?’  To which they responded, ‘go ahead and turn them off yourself, but we think it’s a bad idea.’  What? ‘Go ahead. Turn them off for a minute or two then turn them back on.’ I thought they were messing with me because I was the newbie.  I turned off the light. I don’t remember how long it was. Then I flicked it back on. Guess what I saw? Real. Life. Cockroaches. All over the floor.  But the longer the light was on, they disappeared. They scattered. Let’s just say that I found a way to cover my eyes and keep the lights on during that entire, wonderful missions trip experience!  

The way to see our stories redeemed it to allow the light of Christ to live in our hearts.   It’s walking in his truth. It’s flipping on the light of his truth and not allowing parts of our lives to live in darkness.  It’s his standards. It’s his holiness that exposes the critters that live in our life. I’ll say it this way. I must choose what will define my name and my story.  I must choose daily what will define my name and my story.  The key is you get to choose.  

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:21  

What does that mean?  People need to see that the changes in us.  In our story. The dots of that life change need to be connected to the power of Jesus Christ.  How? Let others hear your story! “Hey man, this was my life before Christ, and this is what is is now.  What a difference?” People need to hear the hope of what you have gone through. “Wow, our marriage was so close to gone.  Our family was imploding too. And now that we have recommitted our focus to Christ, the changes are happening. We aren’t perfect.  We are still hurting, but it’s God is doing something in our story.” We couldn’t have done it on our own. It was done through Christ.  

Jesus calls us to live out our stories so that others can see the hope in Christ.  Sometimes people see our story in the way we live. They see it in how I interact of FB.  They hear it when I share it. They see the contrast of darkness and a new life. “I was an addict but now I’m free.  I was suicidal but now I have of hope. I was insecure but I discovered my security in Christ. I was so full of myself that I couldn’t see it.  Now, Christ fills my life and I think more of others. I was depressed but now I have peace. I had everything you can imagine but I was empty. Now I have Christ, I feel fuller for the first time in my life.  

Over the next few weeks you are going to hear some amazing stories of life change.  I’m going to teach each week but we are going to integrate in some real life stories.  You are going to hear first hand the stories of what the lives of people looked like before Christ and after they followed Christ.  You are going to hear about some very real battles of tragedy, addiction, and insecurity and how they found their purpose in Christ.

But that takes me to a critical question.  What about you and your story? Will you story be filled with chapters of redemption and power and life change?  It can, but it starts with Christ. So another question, do you know Christ? Not about him. Not about what he did.  But do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Because, from what we learned today, that is the game changer. We must admit that we have messed up some of the chapters of our lives. That we have sinned.  And in order to experience a full life, Christ must be invited into the pages of our story. He must be invited to the leader of our lives. But how does that work? Let’s take a few moments to talk and pray about how that works.”