Understanding The Story

The Bible is the story of God and God’s people. It is not primarily a rule book telling us how we should live. Or a scientific textbook explaining how things work. Or a history book of heroes we should emulate.

It is a story. It is The Story.

It is The Story of Yawheh, a God who has existed since before the foundations of this earth, who reached into time and space to create, redeem, and love. It is The Story of a people who have sometimes understood, but more often than not, The Story of a people who have messed things up. And it is The Story of a God who keeps on loving them anyway.

I think the Israelites understood this better than we do. Their view on God and history is revealed in the way they tell their own story.

In Psalm 106, we see a people who share accounts of their blunders as easily as they share their victories.

“We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.” – Psalm 106:6

“He saved them from the and of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. Then they believed his promises And sang his praise.” – Psalm 106:10, 12

And we see a people who declare God’s goodness as the introduction to them both.

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 106:1

They seem to understand what The Story is really about: a God whose love for His people endures through everything.

The Story is not about Israel’s leaders. They had some great ones, but those leaders were human, right along with the rest of us. They made mistakes. And if we understand what The Story is really about, it shouldn’t make us uncomfortable to talk about them.

Though, in our humanness, it probably will make us uncomfortable. And that’s okay, too. We should still do it. Just like the Israelites did.

“By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” – Psalm 106:32-33

Isn’t it wonderfully human that they tell the story of Moses’ anger, but still blame it on the ever-annoying dessert wanderers? I can feel them telling that story through gritted teeth, knowing they need to share it all, but struggling to take one of their great heroes off his pedestal.

I have had the honor of studying the Old Testament with a brilliant and insightful rabbi. He describes the will of God as a deep and wide river. The will of God is not a point on a map that we have to find, but a vast and refreshing stream in which we are invited to wade.

We can step into it at anytime and walk around. Once we do, we stand in the movement of all that has come before us and all that will surge after us. To understand who God is and who we are, we have to look at how the river runs all around us, back in the past, around us in the present, and ahead into the future.

The Bible is one place that tells the story of what comes before us. And the way it tells the good and the bad together gives us a model of what looking back really means. It doesn’t mean glossing over or forgetting.

Looking back means seeing how humanity struggles and God continues to love. It means looking unanswered questions in the face and finding the ways that God can still be good even when we don’t understand. Looking back means remembering how Jesus lived and hearing what Jesus said when the things in our present tell us to abandon this crazy faith.

Psalm 106
Psalm 106

That was my reflection on Psalm 106. Link up with your own reflection below. Or stop back next week for a reflection on Psalm 107.

// <![CDATA[ document.write('<scr' + 'ipt type="text/javascript" src="http://www.inlinkz.com/cs.php?id=436537&' + new Date().getTime() + '"><\/script>'); // ]]</p></div>

you mean, that was meant for me?

The problem with writing a blog is that I have to read the words I write. A number of my posts are written because I have learned a lesson that has helped me, and I feel inspired to write about it. Other times, I write about something, and realize afterwards that it is a lesson I have not yet learned.  In actuality, even the posts that fall into the former category also fall into the later. I am a work in progress.

Such was the case with a post from a few weeks ago, titled Slow to Obey. In that post, I wondered in what areas of my life I was being slow to obey God, and missing out on the blessings He had for me on the other side. In the time since that post, I have realized a glaring area of pokiness in my life: baptism.

I have never been baptized as an adult. Depending on your theology, that may not be an area of disobedience for you, but because of my theology, it was for me. As I read the New Testament, I see people choosing baptism in response to hearing and accepting the Gospel message. I have come to believe that one should be baptized after believing in Jesus, in obedience to His command (Matt 28:19) and as a symbol of the new life available through Him (Col 2:9-15). *

The reason I haven’t been baptized is what really makes this point clear. I did not like how it would make me look. My theology of baptism came into focus after I was working at a church. It felt awkward to me to get baptized so late in the game, so I avoided it.

However, I am avoiding it no longer. This Sunday, November 6, 2011, I will be baptized. I’m excited to finally follow through on something I have been thinking about for a long time.

As part of the service, my story will be read: the story of how I came to faith, why I follow Jesus, and why I want to be baptized now. I invite you to be my digital witness by reading my story here. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of what a wonderful God we serve.

People who know me may be surprised that I am getting baptized today. Not because I do not follow Christ, but because I have followed Him for so long. Here is my story.

I grew up going to church, as much out of expectation and tradition as out of belief. While there, I did come to understand that I was a sinner, and that Christ died for me. However, much of what I learned seemed distant. I was taught the doctrine of our denomination, but not the life-giving potential of faith.

When I was ten, my parents divorced. The circumstances around their split left me feeling rejected. Throughout my adolescence, I tried to cope with this in different ways. At first, I was angry, becoming the detested person I thought I was. Then, I tried to earn love, either through achievement or through molding to what others wanted me to be. I realize now that I was looking for the love and worth that only God can provide.

My freshman year of college, I began attending a Christian campus group and a Bible-believing church. I was getting on the right path. Still, my search for worth was pointed at God’s community, not at God Himself.

The following summer, I was a counselor at a camp with no fellow believers. I made poor choices, and returned to school with doubts and regrets. Meanwhile, my Christian roommate returned to school on fire for God. I was faced with the choice of two paths. Did I want to be a church-goer or Christ-follower? What would bring the hope, love, and life change I had been searching for? At that time, I decided that if faith in Jesus meant anything, then it meant everything.

I gave Christ authority over my life, and many things changed. I joined a Bible study. I volunteered with the church youth group. I changed my major from engineering to social work. I began dating a wonderful Christian man who later became my husband. Eventually, God then took me from volunteering at church, to working at church, to going to seminary, and finally, to becoming a children’s pastor.

Throughout that time, I began to wrestle with my theology of baptism. I had been baptized as an infant, and at first, did not feel convicted to get “re-baptized” as an adult. But then I came to believe baptism is something people should choose to do after placing their faith in Jesus. I felt a nudge to be baptized again. Yet, the timing felt problematic. I was already a pastor. How would it look for me to say I want to be baptized now? Hadn’t my friends and family already seen my desire to follow Christ through my life choices? What more would baptism add?

For a long time, the awkwardness of the situation kept me from moving forward. But then Pastor Craig told the story of his own baptism, which happened after he became a pastor. He took away my last excuse. I realized that my slowness had become disobedience.

I want to be baptized to demonstrate that I love Jesus more than anything else: more than family traditions and more than outward appearances. My family has just gone through a major transition: a new community, a new job for my husband, and a new role for me as a stay at home mom. Through this baptism, I want demonstrate my desire to follow Christ with the next leg of my journey, just as I have with the last.

Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” I pray that today’s baptism will be a reminder to others and to me that my life is my living sacrifice to a loving God.

I pray that you, like me, will remember that it’s never too late to follow through on something God has placed on your heart.  

* For a great little resource on the theology and history of baptism, check out the booklet created by Blackhawk Church.